Highlights of Election Night 2004 (Featuring Historians’ Commentary)

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HNN, 11-05-04

Highlights of Election Night (Featuring Historians’ Commentary)

By Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is a graduate student at Concordia University and an HNN intern

The Electoral College

• George W. Bush: 286, Number of States: 31
• John F. Kerry: 252, Number of States: 20

The Popular Vote

• George W. Bush: 59,459,765 (51% total) with 3.5 million more votes than his opponent.
• John F. Kerry: 55,949,407 (48% total)

The Congressional Results

The Senate:

• Republican: 55, a gain of 4
• Democrat: 44, a loss of 4
• Independent: 1

The House of Representatives (218 needed for House majority, 435 at stake, 3 undecided)

• Republican: 231, a gain of 4
• Democrat: 200, a loss of 3
• Indepdendant: 1

Governors (11 at stake, 1 undecided)

• Republican: 28; 23 seats not up
• Democrat: 21; 16 seats not up

The Historians

Douglas Brinkley (Director of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies, University of New Orleans, NBC)

• “I think it will be decided by midnight on Election Night. I think there’ll be a lot of court cases and a lot of rumbling about ballot boxes that didn’t work properly, and chads that were dangling, but I think by and large there will be a clear victor. I don’t think it will be like four years ago.”
• “There are three big swing states: Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Whoever gets two out of three will win. I think Kerry will win Pennsylvania, Bush will win Florida, and whoever wins Ohio gets to be president.”
• “It’s because he used to be a heavy drinker and he still gives the impression that he’s a pickup-truck-driving Texas rancher/ZZ Top-listening kind of dude, which plays very well in the red states of the South. And it’s amazing if you look at the electoral map right now, you can see that the Republicans control the entire South. Every state that had slavery is for George W. Bush.”

Arthur Schlesinger Jr.

• “There is more skepticism about votes counting than in past presidential elections, because I think it is a belated reaction to the last presidential election. I don’t think the question of vote counting was raised in a massive way until 2000.”

Allan Lichtman (Presidential historian at American University)

• “Any election is a referendum on the party in power, and indeed the majority of Americans judge the record of the party in power…. including this president’s success in keeping America safe from terrorism over the last three years.”
• “This is the deepest cultural divide in the history of the country, with the exception of the Civil War.”
• “They (Democrats) need to rethink liberalism for the 21st century. They haven’t yet made the transition from Franklin Roosevelt. They’ve run from liberalism into empty space.”

Richard Norton Smith (Director of the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum on PBS)

• “It’s a long standing tradition, in the nineteenth century, Ohio was called the mother of presidents. They were mostly forgettable presidents but they were presidents never the less. More recently Ohio is a microcosm of America, it’s agricultural, it’s industrial, it’s old ethnic, it’s new ethnic, it’s a remarkable snapshot, and it’s right in the middle of the country. In 1976 Gerald Ford lost the presidency by a whisker, he lost it in Ohio by 11,000 votes to Jimmy Carter, who did well for a Democratic in conservative rural Ohio that is the pattern that the Kerry people hope to repeat tonight.”
• “We’ve heard it over and over again no Republican has ever won without Ohio.”
• “This is a latter-day Wilson presidency,” invoking Woodrow Wilson’s impassioned intervention in World War I to make the world “safe for democracy. It’s going to matter, it’s going to be pointed to – pro and con – for a long time.”

Roger Wilkins (Clarence J. Robinson Professor of History and American Culture, George Mason University, Virginia, on PBS)

• “You got Cleveland in the North, you got Columbus in the central part of the state, and then you got Cincinnati in the southern part of the state. Cincinnati is the home of the Tafts, the really royal dynasty of the state, President William Howard Taft, then the great Senator Robert Taft. The conservative part of the state is in the south where as the formally industrial parts of the state where you had a union stronghold, and Democrats did well, is much weaker now. Cleveland is not the industrial heart it was, but the state is big, its got lots of people, and the mix makes a very interesting kinda neutral test.”

Ellen Fitzpatrick (Professor of history at the University of New Hampshire, on PBS)

• “It is interesting because Ohio has always been a tough one for the Democrats in many ways. When you think about the fate of Ohioans during theGreat Depression where you had unemployment rates of 80 percent in some cities in Ohio, terrible suffering, and the industrial workers of Ohio were reliable for the Democratic Party, but those days are long behind us, and part of it really reflects changes in the economy in the United States over the last thirty years. The Democratic Party cannot sincerely relay anymore on those kinds of votes in a place like Ohio, and we’ll see tonight.”

Michael Beschloss (Presidential historian, on ABC)

• “Well, you know the most fascinating thing in the ABC News exit polls I thought, was the number of people who voted for President Bush because of moral issues. I think the other thing is that when you have a president who is fighting a war that often times trumps everything else.”

Gil Troy (Presidential historian, professor of history, McGill University, on CTV)

• “The big headline from the 2004 election is that the essential dynamic from 2000 re-emerged. Once again, we have a near-deadlock. Once again, the future of the presidency hangs on a closely divided state, in a closely divided nation. Once again, we have a red-blue electoral equilibrium – the chardonnay sipping, quiche eating, New York Times-reading ‘blue states’ – and as the numbers suggest ‘blue people’ — balanced out by nearly equal numbers of the country-western listening, gun-toting, Bible-thumping ‘red states’ and red people – the colors have no inherent significance they just happened to have been used by the TV network mapmakers to signify Democratic and Republican states.”
•”The 2004 exit polls – which did a terrible job predicting state-by-state totals but do a good job reflecting attitudes – confirm this impression for today. Kerry proved most popular with women, the unmarried, Northeasterners, African-American,18 to 29 year-olds, gays and lesbians, first-time voters, and citizens most concerned with education, health care, and the economy. Bush proved most popular with men, married couples, Southerners, whites, the over-60-set, military veterans, evangelicals, gun-owners, and citizens most concerned with strong leadership and the fight against terror. Remarkably, this polarized nation produced a nasty campaign but a peaceful election day – a testament to a political maturity and a civic grandeur for which Americans rarely get credit these days.”
• “God bless America’s beautiful slogan, it’s not a real honeymoon, and I think the danger is that yes, he has 51 percent of the vote, which is relatively strong. Bill Clinton never broke 50 percent, he has the house, the Congress, he has a concentration of power, but not necessarily a broad mandate. He still has that electoral map of blue America and red America.”
• “Second term presidencies always promise a clean slate, a new start. The problem with second term presidencies is they often have emerged what I call the ‘the second term curse.’ Ronald Reagan ran into Iran-contra, Bill Clinton ran into Monica Lewinsky problems, Richard Nixon had Watergate. So what Bush wants to do is to a certain extant stay afloat, he has to watch the problem of becoming a lame duck.”

Stephen Hess (Brookings Institutution, interview with the Associated Press)

• “He may face a somewhat less contentious international community. They’re practical people. They may not like him, but if he’s the president, they have to figure out how to deal with him.”

Larry Sabato (Presidential historian, head of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia on CBS)

• “Just in recent times, I would say the 1964 Johnson/Goldwater race was one of the most negative presidential battles in all of American history, we’ve had a lot of negative races. We’re able to recover and go along a lot better and faster than we think.”
• “For one thing, every president in American history who had lost the popular vote had not been elected to a second term. The only other presidential father-son ticket, the Adams, both had one term.”

Eric Foner (DeWitt Clinton Professor of History, Columbia University)

• “People who have power want to exercise it. He can do pretty much what he wants.”(On President Bush’s self-proclaimed mandate.)

Richard Reeves (Historian, on CBS)

• “Close to half the people in the country, maybe more, if you ask them what they are, they’re not gonna say either a truck driver, they’re gonna tell you ‘I’m a Christian. The Democratic Party has got to come to grips with that. It’s an important part of being an American, for at least half the country.”
• “I think that the country is divided, I think that the president is being given a chance to make good on his promise four years ago to be a uniter, not a divider. I think it’s a real tough job.”

President George W. Bush: Victory Address

• “We had a long night — and a great night. The voters turned out in record numbers and delivered an historic victory.”
• “Earlier today, Senator Kerry called with his congratulations. We had a really good phone call. He was very gracious. Senator Kerry waged a spirited campaign, and he and his supporters can be proud of their efforts. America has spoken, and I’m humbled by the trust and the confidence of my fellow citizens.”
• “With that trust comes a duty to serve all Americans, and I will do my best to fulfill that duty every day as your president. There’s an old saying, “Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers, pray for powers equal to your tasks.” In four historic years, America has been given great tasks and faced them with strength and courage. Our people have restored the vigor of this economy and shown resolve and patience in a new kind of war. Our military has brought justice to the enemy and honor to America. Our nation — our nation has defended itself and served the freedom of all mankind. I’m proud to lead such an amazing country, and I am proud to lead it forward.”
• “Reaching these goals will require the broad support of Americans, so today I want to speak to every person who voted for my opponent. To make this nation stronger and better, I will need your support and I will work to earn it. I will do all I can do to deserve your trust. A new term is a new opportunity to reach out to the whole nation. We have one country, one Constitution, and one future that binds us. And when we come together and work together, there is no limit to the greatness of America.”
• “A campaign has ended, and the United States of America goes forward with confidence and faith. I see a great day coming for our country, and I am eager for the work ahead.”

Senator John F. Kerry: Concession

• “In America, it is vital that every vote count and that every vote be counted. But the outcome should be decided by voters and not by a protracted legal process. I would not give up this fight if there was a chance that we would prevail. But it is now clear that when all the provisional ballots are counted — which they will be — there won’t be enough outstanding votes for us to win Ohio. And therefore we cannot win this election. I want to especially say to the American people you have given me an honour and gift, I will never forget you and I will never stop fighting for you.”
• “I did my best to express my vision and my hopes for America. We worked hard and we fought hard, and I wish that things had turned out a little differently. But in an American election, there are no losers, because whether or not our candidates are successful, the next morning we all wake up as Americans. That is the greatest privilege and the most remarkable good fortune that can come to us on Earth. With that gift also comes obligation. We are required now to work together for the good of our country. In the days ahead, we must find common cause. We must join in common effort, without remorse or recrimination, without anger or rancor. America is in need of unity and longing for a larger measure of compassion. I hope President Bush will advance those values in the coming years.
I pledge to do my part to try to bridge the partisan divide.”

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