Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review, in Outlook last week: The United States "is indeed, as conservatives have been insisting in recent days, a center-right country." On election night, former Bush guru Karl Rove opined on Fox News, "Barack Obama understands this is a center-right country, and he smartly and wisely ran a campaign that emphasized it." And it’s not just conservative pundits and operatives singing this song. Take Newsweek editor Jon Meacham, who wrote an Oct. 27 cover essay entitled "America the Conservative," which argued that Obama will have to "govern a center-right nation" that "is more instinctively conservative than it is liberal." The only problem: It isn’t true. Or at least, not anymore.
Here’s the stark reality: It is now harder for the Republican presidential candidate to get to 50.1 percent than for the Democrat. My Hoover Institution colleague David Brady and Douglas Rivers of the research firm YouGovPolimetrix have been analyzing data from online interviews with 12,000 people in both 2004 and 2008. It shows an overall shift to the Democrats of six percentage points. As they write in the forthcoming edition of Policy Review, "The decline of Republican strength occurs by having strong Republicans become weak Republicans, weak Republicans becoming independents, and independents leaning more Democratic or even becoming Democrats." This is a portrait of an electorate moving from center-right to center-left.