Karl Rove's analysis of the election in today's Wall Street Journal needs to be read by every GOP operative and every candidate dreaming of 2012.
Not only does Rove give an overview of Obama's advantages, but his take on the winning strategy should animate GOP candidates next election.
First, the overview:
So how did Barack Obama win? Some of it was fortune: He was a fresh, gifted, charismatic leader who emerged at just the moment that people yearned for something entirely new.
Some of it was circumstance: The October Surprise arrived a month early and framed the election in the best possible way for Mr. Obama (and the worst possible way for John McCain).
Some of it was thoughtful positioning: His themes of bipartisanship and a readiness to tackle the country's pressing challenges were enormously attractive, especially when delivered with hope and optimism.
And some of it was planning and execution: The Obama campaign, led by the two Davids -- Plouffe, the manager, and Axelrod, the strategist -- carefully built a powerful army of persuasion...
Their task was twofold: getting their own people to the polls and targeting "persuadables" to vote for Obama. That latter proved critical in red states that had previously gone Republican.
Specifically, Rove points to some circumstances that worked in Obama's favor:
But we do know President-elect Obama ran better among frequent churchgoers (perhaps getting 10 points more than John Kerry did), independents (perhaps five points more than Kerry and eight points more than Al Gore), Hispanics and white men. He even made special appeals to gun owners and sent his wife to cultivate military families. This allowed him to carry previously red states like Florida, New Mexico and Iowa.
This combination helped Senator Obama run four points better nationally than John Kerry did in 2004 and 2.5 points better than Al Gore did in 2000. These small changes on the margin meant all the difference between winning and losing.
It is a tribute to his skills that Mr. Obama, the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate, won in a country that remains center-right. Most pre-election polls and the wiggly exits indicate America remains ideologically stable, with 34% of voters saying they are conservative -- unchanged from 2004. Moderates went to 44% from 45% of the electorate, while liberals went to 22% from 21%.
Think about it. Obama ran against the idea of a huge government health care program, downplaying retreat from Iraq and highlighting getting tough in Afghanistan, while constantly pushing his "tax cut" for 95% of Americans. Of course, his agenda has a lot of other items that he only mentioned when speaking before interest groups. The card check for organized labor, out of Iraq to anti-war groups, and relaxed immigration standards to Hispanics.
In the end, it worked well enough to give Obama a comfortable electoral victory.