Saturday, January 17, 2004

Swing Voters and Nonvoters

One of the issues floating around is whether a candidate should try and appeal to swing voters or try to appeal to new or previous nonvoters. See Calpundit and Big Media Matt. Without parsing the particulars of the comments posted there let me just give my thoughts.

First, I think there's a tendency to equate "nonvoters" with the extremes of either party - the sense that the "base" will only come out to vote if they're inspired, otherwise they get petulant and vote for Nader or Buchanan or don't vote at all. I really don't buy this at all. My guess is that if we, under threat of imprisonment, forced people to vote on election day that it would favor Democrats. But, I don't think that this is because nonvoters tend to be "on the left." Given my conversations with people, it's the mushy apolitical middle people which aren't very likely to vote (anecdotal, sure, but I don't think there's any way to really get the true answer to this question). So, getting out the vote isn't just about appealing to the fringes, it's probably more about inspiring the mushy middle not just to make a choice but to actually express it.

As for what this means for which Dem candidate should be nominated - I think all such conversations are silly. The positions of the candidates on the "left/right" spectrum as portrayed by the media have little to do with their actual policy goals. Perception matters, of course, but there are many months to deal with that (every Dem candidate will be a Stalinist by November you can be sure). In the end, it's going to be charisma, organization, and an ability to deal with the media hostility which will matter.

... and read Zizka who inspired this whole discussion.