The percentage of eligible citizens casting ballots in the 2008 presidential election stayed at virtually the same relatively high level as it reached in the polarized election of 2004.With respect to reduced turnout among Republicans, it concludes:
A downturn in the number and percentage of Republican voters going to the polls seemed to be the primary explanation for the lower than predicted turnout.Karl Rove's strategy of energizing the base wasn't so bad after all. Clearly Rove ran a better campaign for Bush than McCain's minions did for him. The McCain candidacy did nothing for the voters motivated by illegal immigration, and his platform wasn't truly a small government platform.
We have three 'schools' of conservatism in the U.S.: social, fiscal and defense conservatives. Social conservatives weren't entirely convinced McCain was on their side, nor were fiscal conservatives. Only defense conservatives could wholeheartedly support McCain without reservations.
Given the untimely meltdown of the economy right before the election, I don't know that a candidate who more energized the Republican base would have beaten Barack Obama. Such a candidate could have run a closer race and, by raising turnout, might have cut the GOP losses in the Senate and House.