The Big Swing Voters Are The Poor, Not Independents
If you look at the polls that appear regularly these days, it looks like a very close election. Obama or Romney tend to lead by a point of two in these polls. Even when the lead is greater it tends to be within the margin of error in these voter preference counts.
But look a little closer and you’ll see something interesting. These aren’t polls of all potential voters, nor even all registered voters. They are polls of voters likely to vote.
USA Today recently did a survey of unlikely voters, the 90 million Americans who could vote if they chose to do so but likely won’t. It found that two-thirds of these people were actually registered. And among these registered who are unlikely to vote anyway, Obama was favored by a two-to-one-margin. Another finding of this survey was that the overwhelming majority of all these people receive government assistance of some kind.
What does this tell us? You don’t need to be a genius political analyst to know the answer. If Obama and Democrats generally could get the registered-and-could-vote-but-likely-won’t crowd to actually vote, they would win the coming election in a landslide.
Political pros, of course, understand this. It’s the reasoning behind all those Republican voter ID laws. These laws aren’t largely directed against registered voters who would likely turn out. Most of these people will take the extra trouble to comply with these totally unnecessary and obviously politically motivated laws. The laws are primarily designed to give the registered but probably won’t vote crowd another reason not to show up on election day.
Democratic pros understand the same thing. Which is why they not only oppose these voter ID laws, but are making a big get-out-all-the-vote push in states across the country.
Except that isn’t enough.
Here’s what the Democrats should also be doing but aren’t. Putting this huge, potential, pro-Democratic bloc on the front burner of their advertising and campaigning generally — something they have failed to do in any noticeable way.
Have Mr. Obama make well-publicized stops in poor neighborhoods, not just middle-class ones. Have TV commercials focused on food stamps, how Democrats will protect and possibly increase their size, while Republicans aim to cut this program in the name of “tough love.” For most registered poor voters who are not likely to vote, the size of our national debt is an abstraction, but feeding themselves and their kids is a daily struggle.
Will this “we care for the poor as well as the middle class” approach cost Democrats much support among middle class voters, especially those of a politically independent persuasion? I can’t imagine this would be the case. This is because anyone who currently buys into tough love thinking is very unlikely to vote Democratic in this election year.
Democrats are big on arithmetic these days. They are pummeling Romney-Ryan with claims that these Republicans’ economic and tax numbers don’t compute. So here’s some arithmetic based on that survey done by USA Today: Two-thirds of 90 million potential American voters are already registered, that’s 60 million registered voters unlikely to vote. Those unlikely to vote voters nonetheless favor Obama over Romney by 2 to 1, or 40 million to 20 million.
Obama and the Democrats won big in 2008 pretty much because enough of this bloc was motivated to vote for them. So in this election, Democrats would be wise to stop obsessing about sucking up to the rich for contributions, and also stop just focusing on the middle class. Almost all the rich and middle class have already made up their minds how to vote.
A better strategy? Concentrate on showing the poor that Democrats really care and will really do right by them. Pay visits to their neighborhoods. Make them the focus of your ads.
The poor could decide this election. If they do, Democrats will win. The registered unlikely to vote poor are this country’s major potential swing voting bloc. Is it going to take another beating on election day for Democratic Party planners to figure this out?