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The youth did not let the Democrats down

The math shows that the youth vote is why Kerry was even in the game. But why did he still lose? Well, the Democratic Party needs to reflect on that.
Students are voted on Nov. 2, at the University of Alaska, Anchorage. Half the people in line were first-time voters.
Students are voted on Nov. 2, at the University of Alaska, Anchorage. Half the people in line were first-time voters. Citizen Journalist

Not-so-much-fun with numbers if you are a Democrat:

In the 2000 presidential election, George Bush received just over 50 million votes. At this writing, in 2004, he has received just about 59 million votes— 9 million more votes than he received in 2000.  

What is stunning about this number is the simple fact that in the 2000 election, 105 million Americans went to the polls, and at this writing, 114 million votes have been cast in 2004 for President— a 9 million vote increase.

Simple math:  A turn out increase of 9 million voters has translated into a 9 million vote increase in the number of votes for President Bush.

But here is the real rub: As I was watching Brian Williams from my own election night perch at MSNBC’s Bloggers Café late last night, I gobbled up the information he was giving us on voter turn out by age group, digested it on two hours sleep, and then woke up and went to my calculator.  His report paints a very disturbing picture when it comes to the effectiveness of the Democratic Party’s organized efforts to get its vote out. Remember I said the Democratic Party’s organized efforts.

Where did that increase of 9 million votes in 2004 come from?

Well, it turns out that young voters between the ages of 18 and 29 actually did increase their numbers by at least 1.5 million in yesterday’s election over turnout in 2000. But beyond just the increase in turnout, they also voted more Democratic this year than last. In 2000, this age group was split evenly between casting votes for Al Gore or George Bush— but this year went decisively for John Kerry.  

The problem starts with voters between the ages of 30 to 44 which is the only group to actually decline in numbers between the 2000 and 2004 elections— a whopping drop of nearly 3 million in yesterday’s election.

So where did that 9 million vote increase come from? Two groups— 45 to 59 years olds grew by 4.8 million this time around, and those over 60 grew by 4.2 million.  It may just be one of those artifacts in a spreadsheet loaded with statistics, but those over 45 years of age increased their turnout by exactly 9 million in 2004.

So here is what really happened on the Democratic side of all this yesterday:

Gore received nearly 51 million votes in 2000, and Ralph Nader received nearly 3 million votes that year.   Looking at Nader’s abysmal showing last night, it's pretty clear that the bulk of Nader’s 2000 vote went with John Kerry yesterday, giving the Kerry campaign a base of 54 million to work from.  Kerry, at this writing, has received 55 million votes in 2004— just one million votes over the combined vote of Gore and Nader four years ago.

So here is the stunning fact that Brian Williams' report pointed me to last night: Because young voters increased their numbers by 1.5 million voters this year (over 19 million of them voted yesterday), and because they sided with Kerry by at least a 10 point margin this year instead of splitting evenly between Gore and Bush as they did in 2000, they on their own added 1.7 million votes to John Kerry’s column last night. 

Simple math again:  51 million Gore voters + 3 million Nader voters + 1.7 additional votes from young voters = 55.7 million votes for Kerry. 

But Kerry (at this writing) only has 55 million votes. Which means there had to be a 700,000 voter fall off in either Nader or Gore 2000 voters for which the young voters of 2004 more that made up.

No, like everything else this year including money— young voters didn’t let Kerry and the Democrats down— they were the only reason we were even in the game.

Which gets to the really stunning thing about all this: It turns out that throughout the 2004 there were three forces at work. The organized Republican Party, the organized Democratic Party, and the unofficial unorganized Democratic Party fueled in the main by the passion of youth.

The organized Republican Party did exactly what it said it was going to do  and pulled off a victory with an unorthodox strategy that they stuck to with discipline.

The unofficial, unorganized Democratic Party gave John Kerry 1.7 million votes yesterday over what they delivered to Al Gore in 2000, and fueled his campaign and the organized Democratic Party with the money and energy that kept it competitive with the Republicans.

No if we really want to find out what went wrong yesterday, it is time once for all for the organized Democratic Party to stare into a mirror and point at itself.

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Joe Trippi, Howard Dean's former campaign manager, is an MSNBC contributor and a political analyst for "Hardball with Chris Matthews."