Veteran jounalist Tom Brokaw reminisced on Wednesday about President Bush's unexpected reelection victory in 2004 and how Karl Rove had confidently explained to him the preceding weekend just where they would pull it out.
Brokaw told the Daily Show's Jon Stewart that both the Obama and the McCain campaigns are currently well aware that Obama holds a substantial lead. "But I remember," Brokaw cautioned, "four years ago, John Kerry on a Wednesday night before the election said to me, 'Tom, no incumbent president who is under 50% at this stage has ever been re-elected.'"
"And on Friday, Osama bin Laden came out with a tape," continued Brokaw. "On the weekend I went down to interview the president, and Karl Rove and company took me through the map, how they were going to win in the southeastern corner of Ohio and how they were going to be competitive in other areas. And I came back and I, uh, 'I think they're going to pull this one off.'"
Southeastern Ohio is the section bordering West Virginia that has recently drawn unfavorable attention for the overt racism of its Palin supporters. It was these rural areas of Ohio that were crucial to Bush's 2004 victory in that state, and thus in the nation as a whole.
As described by the National Journal, "On Election Night 2004, as returns from Ohio began pouring in, Democrats turned giddy. ... The Democrats' euphoria was prompted by reports that their Ohio strategy of maximizing voter turnout in their urban strongholds had swamped President Bush and would enable Democratic challenger John Kerry to win the state's 20 electoral votes. ... But the Democrats' glee proved short-lived. Bush's re-election campaign, using sophisticated voter identification and turnout techniques in suburban and exurban Ohio, had greatly boosted the GOP's own numbers at the polls. ... Bush went on to carry Ohio by fewer than 120,000 votes out of more than 5.6 million cast."
Voting activist Bob Fitrakis has described the events in Ohio more skeptically, writing, "In investigating the 2004 election in Ohio – examining pollbooks, talking to pollworkers and election officials, as well as reading local newspaper accounts – we could find no data of a late surge to the polls by born-again Christians. What we did find is certified voting totals in areas favoring Bush that didn’t match the number of voters who officially signed-in on the poll sign-in sheets."
It is clear that Brokaw's offhand remark will give election activists like Fitrakis much to ponder.
This video is from Comedy Central's The Daily Show, broadcast October 22, 2008.