“Voter suppression” was one of the biggest fear buzz-words in the weeks leading up the election. First it was the Republicans claiming sneaky Democrats were trying to get Democrat-loving illegal aliens and dead people on the voting rolls to hijack the election, and then Democrats freaked out about Republican led voter-ID efforts that tried to make voters show a driver’s license to vote, a move that would shut out some Democrat-loving legitimate voters.
But last night Karl Rove threw out a different theory: It was actually the Obama campaign itself that won the election by suppressing the fragile white-person vote. How did he do it? By showing them negative ads. He “succeeded in suppressing the vote” Rove said on Fox News, by running ads “”that turned off” Romney voters and kept them from voting.
The capital-letter irony here is that Rove was basically the architect of the modern-day political take-down as Bush’s adviser in torpedoing Gore and Kerry. The “Swift Boat” ads that attacked Kerry’s Vietnam record were downright scary in their effectiveness. Gore and Kerry were both bashed for being unwilling or unable to fight dirty against the GOP attack machine. Not Obama. This August CNN even ran a report about “Both sides using Rove’s campaign strategy this year.”
It’s true that Obama started going negative on Romney with ads before the Republican primary. Because he knew what was coming. He beat Rove’s playbook by simply playing better. But showing ads is not voter suppression.
The other crazy irony here is that Rove transitioned this year from playing the part of campaign adviser to SuperPAC Pied Piper. American crossroads, the SuperPAC Rove heads, spent $178.5 million this year on—you guessed it—negative ads. And if Donald Trump is to be believed it sounds like Rove was involved in even more fundraising—one of Donald Trump’s petulant tweets after the election: “Congrats to @KarlRove on blowing $400 million. What a waste of money.”
And as far as actual voter suppression goes, one of this election’s biggest stories was the epic lines that voters waited in around the country. Seeing a negative ad doesn’t qualify for voter suppression, but confronting a 7-hour line to vote at your polling station might. And a poll from the AFL-CIO shows that only 9% the Republican party’s prized white voters waited over 30 minutes to vote, whereas 24% of Hispanics and 22% of African-Americans did.
In the end 9 out of the 10 candidates American Crossroads backed lost. Whoops.