WASHINGTON, DC — President George W. Bush has become the first son of a former President to be re-elected. In what had the makings of a nail biter, President Bush captured 53% of the popular vote and just over 300 Electoral College Votes against John F. Kerry, who received 45% of the vote.
Following consistently with a Washington Post tracking poll exit polls showed that the two greatest issues in the election were Iraq with 26% and Terrorism with 24%. In a close third, at 21%, was the economy.
Based on those three issues, voters clearly preferred the ideas of the incumbent versus the sometimes hard to understand plans of Senator John Kerry. In an October 8, 2004, debate, Senator Kerry references various plans twenty-nine times, but failed to offer material evidence that such plans existed, beyond duplicate plans of what the Bush administration is already doing.
Voters in exit polls said they thought President Bush would handle the situation in Iraq better than the Senator (52% to 41%) and would handle the campaign against terrorism better (54% to 38%). Surprisingly, voters also thought the President would be better equipped to handle relations with other countries (48% to 46%). One Kerry advisor said, “I think the Senator realizes he should have never said the coalition in Iraq was a coalition of the ‘bribed and coerced.'” With unemployment at a historic low of 5.4%, better than even the 5.6% that ushered in President Clinton’s re-election in 1996, Senator Kerry had no where to go on that third issue.
51% of voters believe President Bush has a clear plan for Iraq versus only 42% for John Kerry. Likewise, 58% believe President Bush has a clear plan to deal with terrorists compared with only 40% for Senator Kerry. In an era when most people are concerned about the safety and security of their families, exit polls suggest voters wanted a strong leader who would level with them. 58% of voters said President Bush would continue to be a strong leader and 52% said he would make the country safer. Only 40% of voters believed Senator kerry could make the country safer and more secure. Interestingly, 50% of voters said they believe President Bush is “honest and trustworthy” versus only 39% for Senator Kerry.
During the final days of the campaign, Senator Kerry tried getting voters to separate the issues of Iraq and terrorism. That effort, based on exit polling, probably would not have helped Senator Kerry if successful, but exit polling shows the effort by the Kerry campaign was unsuccessful. 60% of voters surveyed said they believe that the war in Iraq is part of the larger war on terrorism.
In the end, President Bush’s consistent message on the war and a growing economy helped him overcome large scale attacks by Senator Kerry on a plethora of issues relating to the administration’s handling of the war. Said one prominent consultant to Senator Kerry, “Maybe the Democrats will finally learn that you don’t nominate a man whose career was built on anti-war activities to be a war president.”
Senator Kerry is expected to resume his Senate career, where he has not been seen in several months. His running mate, Senator John Edwards, is expected to enter a lobbying practice in Washington, D.C. after taking time off in North Carolina.
In related news, Republicans made gains in both the United States Senate and House of Representatives. Lastly, police are investigating the death of Democratic National Committee Chairman, Terry McAuliffe. Eyewitnesses to his death describe a man who looked very much like former South Dakota Senator Tom Daschle pushing Mr. McAuliffe in front of a bus. Mr. McAuliffe was the first Chairman of the DNC to have his party lose ground in every election of his tenure.
Uh, for those coming over from Rusty’s Place, I just wanted to use this format to highlight the latest WaPo poll that, if it holds steady, will give the reason for Bush’s re-election.