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Opinion: Columnists

Sunday Reflection: The ground-glass election

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Glenn Harlan Reynolds,Columnists

Last week, I noticed this blog comment: "Romney was not my first, second, or third choice, but I will crawl over ground glass to vote for him."

A lot of Republicans -- and, judging from polls, a lot of independents -- feel this way. If there are enough of them, Romney will win, and win big.

Are there? Well, there are some signs. I've written here before that politics is all about showing up. And in recent months, people on the Right have been doing a lot of showing up. They've showed up at Romney-Ryan events in unprecedented numbers. They made Dinesh D'Souza's "2016: Obama's America" a huge hit despite a virtual blackout from traditional media. They stood in line for hours at Chick-fil-A restaurants to buy chicken sandwiches in response to politicians' bullying. They packed houses at the "Hating Breitbart" premiere.

Will they now pack the voting booths and vote for Romney, and against Obama, in similarly unprecedented numbers? If they do, Romney will win in a landslide.

It's hard to judge from the polls and the pundits. Last year, we were told that Romney couldn't win unless he could appeal to independents. Now that he's got a double-digit lead among independents in most polls, we're told that it doesn't matter.

Political junkies look to last-minute revelations and scandals, to shifts in the news narratives, and to ad buys and travel schedules. And all those things matter. But in the end, it always comes down to who shows up to vote.

Four years ago, Republicans were dispirited, and yet somehow also complacent. After eight years of GOP rule, many had forgotten what the Democratic Party was all about. Some actually believed Obama's pretense to be a nonideological moderate. And many were unenthusiastic about the lackluster candidacy of establishment Republican John McCain.

So they didn't show up. They didn't vote. They didn't donate. They didn't recruit friends and relatives and acquaintances to show up and vote. And it showed.

Democrats, on the other hand, were fired up. After eight years out of the White House, they wanted it more. Many Democrats (and quite a few independents, and even a lot of Republicans) liked the idea of America electing its first black president.

They had the enthusiasm. They showed up in unusually large numbers, and they won.

In 2008, there were a lot of Democrats who would have crawled across broken glass to vote for Barack Obama. This time around, there probably aren't as many.

Electing our first black president isn't a big deal this time around; we've already done it. And it's not as though Obama has lived up to his promises. Guantanamo Bay is still open, we're at war across the Middle East (waging it less competently, perhaps, but still at war, and in new places), the promised economic recovery has never materialized, and, heck, Obama's even cracking down on marijuana users. Where's the hope and change in that?

For the anti-Obama vote, on the other hand, there's no disappointment. Getting rid of Obama, as the quote at the beginning of this column illustrates, is goal enough. Even for those who weren't big Romney supporters in the primaries, a vote for Romney is a vote to get rid of Obama, and that's sufficient. Those who thought that staying home in 2008 would teach the GOP a lesson have mostly either reconsidered, or decided that the lesson was learned, or that further lessons would be too costly for America.

For a lot of people, the thought is that four years of Obama might be damaging but survivable, while eight years of Obama might -- in the president's own words -- "fundamentally transform America" in a way that they don't like.

Ultimately, the question is whether "a lot of people" will be enough people to overcome Obama's own showing-up mechanisms, which include unions' formidable get-out-the-vote operations and the still-extant remnants of organizations like ACORN.

There's no way to know the answer to that until next week. But if the answer is important to you, I have one suggestion: Show up.

Examiner Sunday Reflections Contributor Glenn Harlan Reynolds is a University of Tennessee law professor and author of the Instapundit blog.

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