When Stan Greenberg and fellow Democratic researchers launched a study of the conservative Republican world's reaction to President Obama, he figured they'd find ample evidence of racism.
They didn't. Not at all.
"Race just wasn't brought up," said a surprised Greenberg on a conference call with reporters Friday. He said that the focus groups were given as much time to talk about race as they could possibly need.
"If there was any kind of a racial element, we thought we'd pick it up. We didn't," said James Carville, who also worked on the report.
And when asked who spoke for the Republican Party, the answer was overwhelmingly: Fox News.
The study was done by Democracy Corps and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and was also authored by Karl Agne and Jim Gerstein.
What drives the GOP base, rather than race, was a genuine belief that Obama has a "secret agenda" to drive the country in a socialist direction, said the authors. These voters want more opposition, not more cooperation.
"They want more opposition," said Carville. "If you don't wanna get primary-ed, there's nothing in this [report] that tells [a GOP member of Congress] to go compromise on anything. Quite the contrary."
While the GOP base was feverishly opposed to Obama, it wasn't happy with its own party either. "Their negative opinions of the Republican Party were really startling," said Agne. "They're very dispirited about their own party."
The report concludes that the extreme GOP voters are not simply at the far end of a standard political continuum that runs left-center-right, but rather they stand fully apart.
The basic belief is that Obama -- a former community organizer who seemingly came from nowhere -- must have been propelled by some secret forces. This is no small segment of the population and represents almost one-in-five voters and nearly two-of-three self identified Republicans.
"Instead of focusing on these intense ideological divisions, the press and elites continue to look for a racial element that drives these voters' beliefs -- but they need to get over it," the authors write. "Conducted on the heels of Joe Wilson's incendiary comments at the president's joint session address, we gave these groups of older, white Republican base voters in Georgia the full opportunity to bring race into their discussion -- but it did not ever become a central element, and indeed, was almost beside the point."
The authors did say, however, that while Obama wasn't seen through a racial lens, the voters did view and speak of illegal immigration in a racial way.
The researchers also spoke with swing-voters and independents and found a crucial difference: The independents wanted Obama to succeed, while the GOP base wanted him to fail. That's a logical extension of their belief: If they really do think Obama has a secret agenda to destroy the nation, it's patently patriotic to want him to fail. One author referred to it as an "ethical imperative" given what they think the agenda is.
"While these voters are disdainful of a Republican Party they view to have failed in its mission, they overwhelmingly view a successful Obama presidency as the destruction of this country's founding principles and are committed to seeing the president fail," reads the report.
The full report is here.