Scoop American Coup II presents...Election 2004: The Urban Legend
See also companion article… "Sludge Report #177 – Bigger Than Watergate II"
IMPORTANT NOTE: Publication of this story marks a watershed in American political history. It is offered freely for publication in full or part on any and all internet forums, blogs and noticeboards. All other media are also encouraged to utilise material. Readers are encouraged to forward this to friends and acquaintances in the United States and elsewhere.
The night of November 2, 2004, was exhilarating or devastating, depending on how you voted and where you were. If you were a rural conservative who voted based on your religious affinity to Bush, you were elated. You were also relieved, because your peers had not turned out with the same enthusiasm that they had shown in 2000. If you were in the suburbs and had campaigned hard for Kerry, you were probably devastated. After all that work in your first campaign ever, the big crowds and the optimistic polls, your man lost. But if you were white, living in a large city, and probably a returning voter after missing several elections, you were positively exuberant. You and your like-minded peers continued George W. Bush’s reign as the 43rd President of the United States. It was a miracle.
This election was a sight to see. Few in the country had the vantage point of network news commentators. Throughout the day these experts received a stream of information from the exit polls of the National Election Pool (NEP). Sponsored by a media consortium consisting of the four major television networks plus CNN and the Associated Press, the NEP provided the most sophisticated polling data ever.
The pundits had the national Exit Poll of 13,660 respondents  and parallel State Exit Polls of over 77,000 respondents. The NEP was the only source on “who voted for each candidate; why the voters in each area made critical choices; and where geographical differences on candidates and issues were a factor.”
If you paid attention and knew your craft, you were on fire. Election 2004 was the best thing to happen since Truman beat Dewey and you probably weren’t around for that. It was a unique moment. Just a day or two after the election, experienced analyst Charles Cook practically gushed after he studied the exit polls saying the Bush effort was “…unquestionably …the best planned, best executed presidential campaign ever.”
Based on what he knew at the time, this made sense. Cook reflected that, “Perhaps the most interesting, and maybe puzzling, exit poll finding is that (compared to 2000) Kerry lost 11 points among the 13 percent of Americans who live in cities with populations over 500,000, while President Bush jumped up 13 points (since 2000).” He concluded that the surprising urban performance, required for a Bush win, was a result of defections from the Kerry camp by black, Latinos, and Jewish voters. This is the stuff of legends.
Cook’s analysis pinpointed the actual location the Bush victory: urban voters. His mistake was to think that the normal Democratic constituencies in the cities did anything different from what they had always done. Cook himself was one of a few who actually saw and understood the critical role large cities played in providing the Bush victory margin.
The Conventional Wisdom
On election eve, a different story prevailed. While they had access to the same exit polls that Cook had, the news people did not notice the same trends and numbers that Cook noticed. Network anchors and others talked about the red-versus-blue battle. There were the very red rural evangelicals, almost all white. The media rolled out the newly minted “security moms” in the purple suburbs plus the true blue Democrats in our largest cities, a predictable group if there ever was one. Unlike Cook, who studied the exit polls, the popular news casters assumed that the Rove strategy had materialized.