Did "The Middle" Decide The Election?
First, the middle asserted itself. This was not a base election. Independents broke decisively for Obama, favoring him by a 52%-to-44% margin over John McCain.
I do not even know what that is supposed to mean but it worth reviewing these same numbers from 2004:
Dem (37%) 11% 89%
Rep (37%) 93% 6%
Ind (26%) 48% 49%
So the difference in the makeup of the electorate was this - a 2% increase in the percentage of the electorate identifying as Democrat, a 5% decrease in the electorate identifying as Republican, a 3% increase in the electorate identifying as Independent - assuming we buy into these exit polls.
Obama did 3 points better than Kerry did with Independents, the same as Kerry among Democrats and 3 points better with Republicans. That proves Pew's point no? Uh no.Let's do the math - Obama improved by 1.8% among Dems over Kerry (due to the 2% percentage increase) as a percentage of his total vote. And Republican? Obama's percentage of Republican votes improved by 0.06% as a percentage of his total votes. Obama improved his Independent total of his percentage of his total vote 2.3%.
Let's put this another way - Kerry lost by 2.4%. Obama won by 6.8%. Kerry's vote was comprised of 33% Democrats, 2% GOP, 13% Independents (for a total of roughly 48% of the vote.) Obama's vote was comprised of 35% Democrat, 3% GOP, and 15% Independents (for a total of roughly 53% of the vote.)
Obama won by 6.8%. Kerry lost by 2.4% How do we account for this 9.2% swing? Was it really "the middle" moving from the GOP candidate to the Dem candidate? Well, of course that happened somewhat. If you go by this "Independents" metric, they moved by 3% to Obama over Kerry's number. And their numbers increased by 3% (Did 3% more Independents come out to vote?) And 3% more Republicans voted for Obama than voted for Kerry. But their numbers DECREASED as a part of the electorate.
So did "the middle" decide the election? No. The COUNTRY, all segments of it, decided the election. They all moved towards Democrats. More Democrats came out to vote. More "Independents" became Democrats. More Republicans became "Independents."
I have a theory about elections - it is not very sexy - they are referendums on the party perceived to be in power. The question presented to the electorate is do we fire the government? do we "throw the bums out?"
About 10% of the electorate generally decides that question. About 45% will vote for the Dem no matter what and about 45% will vote for the Republican no matter what. So what are the other 10% voting on? Whether to throw the bums out.
So should elections, governance and pols only focus on appealing to these 10%? Yes and no. Yes because these 10% will vote on results (their measure of results may be, scratch that, undoubtedly is flawed in one respect or other.) So elections, pols and governance must focus on results.
But the base matters too. Remember, Democratic turnout increased in the last election. You need to motivate the base (turn that 45% into 47%).
Trite phrases like "the middle asserted itself" is the specialty of political punditry. It tells us nothing. Why did "the middle" assert itself? Pew will not tell you. I will. Because Republican policies were disastrous for the country. What was this election about? It was about Republican ideology. The country rejected it. By process of elimination, "the middle" is now Democratic.
What will Obama and the Democrats be judged on in the coming elections? The efficacy of Obama's (and by extension now, the Democratic) policies of governance. "The 'middle' will assert itself" again in those elections - based on the efficacy of Democratic governance.
No one votes for "the middle." "The middle" is not on the ballot. Democrats and Republicans are. That is what people vote for - or more properly, against.
Speaking for me only
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