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I shouldn't say "the end", I'm sure the faithful practicioneers of " turn out the base" campaign strategies will faithfully repeat the same campaign mistakes for a few more election cycles. In fact, they'll probably try to work that declining base a little harder, following the usual "if it don't move, get a bigger hammer" logic.

That's the link to a meta-poll (polling results from several polls combined) of party ID (identification). If you look back to election day 2008, Democrats led with about 37%, Independents at around 33%, and Republicans around 27%... About what you expect would produce a democratic landslide. On election day in 2010, Independents had taken over the lead at around 37%, Democrats at 33%, and Republicans at 26%. The handwriting was on the wall even then, and since then Independent's numbers are skyrocketing to 41%, with Democrats trailing at 31% and Republicans at 24%.

About now somebody in the back row will snidely ask "If republicans were in 3rd place, how'd they win back the Congress and a bunch a senate seats?" May I refer you to our next graph from the same source, voter ID among registered and likely voters:

Clearly, the Republicans do a better job of getting themselves to the polls, lotsa Independents stayed home on election day, and the Democratic turnout was somewhere in between. But that was then, when Independent's were 37% of  "all adults" . Today they've passed 40% and the meteoric rise of the Independent voter continues. I suspect that 40% was the tipping point, the point at which campaign resources are better spent wooing Independents rather than trying to drive the base to the polls (sometimes literally). The old base strategies may work for the Republicans- in the typical election where less than half the eligible voters bother to vote, a reliable base of a quarter of the eligible voters is a (barely) winning combination for the Republicans. For the Democrats, the ol' base strategy didn't work in 2010 and may never work again. For years I did GOTV in places like the 58th and 61st districts in Minneapolis' inner city, districts that voted 70% or better democratic if you could get them out to vote. We had Democratic turnout in those districts in 2008 like we hadn't seen in years. In 2010 in those districts and similar ones around the country Democratic turnout was half what it was in 2008.

So the "turnout the base" strategy is probably no longer a path to victory for Democrats. I loved it while it lasted, but it's time for Democrats to play to the "mushy middle"... The old strategies simply no longer work. And work the "middle" is what Democrats need to do, here's Obama's popularity among Independents:

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Comment Preferences

  •  All well and good, but the relevant question (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ... is, "What plays to the 'mushy middle?'"

  •  Though the surge in (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sebastianguy99, Kimball Cross

    indies is definitely interesting, it's impossible to understand its true magnitude -- and its implications for electoral strategy -- without dividing them into true indies and leaners.

    With every goddess a let down, every idol a bring down, it gets you down / but the search for perfection, your own predilection, goes on and on and on. . .

    by cardinal on Tue Sep 20, 2011 at 01:26:51 PM PDT

  •  Some of the Inpendents (maybe many) (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Kimball Cross

    are really republicans running from their party name and its unpopularity. We don't want to lose the ones who are with us, but i think the populism track is a lot safer than trying to appeal to the mushy anything. Didn't we just come from that strategy?

  •  The secret to liberal governance is to appeal (0+ / 0-)

    to centrist opinion without letting conservatives define for you what the center is.

    We can do this now. Polls show most americans are more concerned about jobs than about deficit reduction, and that they favor higher taxes on the rich. Those numbers would be impossible if many independents opposed them. Let's seize this opportunity. The middle, however "mushy it may look," is pre-sold.

    For relevant sci-fi and fantasy, go to

    by Kimball Cross on Tue Sep 20, 2011 at 01:53:45 PM PDT

  •  An assumption that Independent means (0+ / 0-)

    ideologically moderate isn't justified. Also, Independents aren't really independent.

    Independent voters are actually closet partisans, by brooklynbadboy, looking at Pew survey and American National Election Study results:

    It is highly unlikely that folks who lean toward either party, and remember the vast majority of independents lean, are going to swing their votes to and fro between the parties. What is likely, however, is that many independents may not be as motivated to vote as strong or weak partisans. To solve this problem, the parties need to motivate them to vote. Since the matrix of issues that motivate independents will more or less coincide with those issues that motivate party partisans, political strategists should do something counter-intuitive to the conventional wisdom: To win independents, motivate your base.
  •  In states where there are less clear lines (0+ / 0-)

    GOTV is defined a little differently.  It was never about just sending people to areas known to be likely base voters.

    At its core, the method of identifying voters to contact in order to get them out to vote, is a process that is mostly based on a strictly crass evaluation.

    When one votes, one's voter registration number is marked as having voted.  There is not record of which way.  

    Computer operations that are added afterwards create categories in which probabilities begin to emerge.  

    If you want to buy a list of voters, you can.  The cost per voter, however, creates a further distinction in terms of budget.  Do
    you want to buy the really big list or would you be more able to afford a more precisely targeted list?

    Perhaps if you want to be assured that you are targeting Dems, you would ask for a print out of voters who voted in the last several Democratic primary elections.  There is, however, no way to know if they really are Democrats or will support your candidacy.

    There is only one way to find out!  Have the phone numbers ready to be called by volunteers.  Then, when they indicate something, you divide them into base voters, high swing (likely), low swing (somewhat unlikely) and enemy.

    When you print out a list of base voters for the walkers to go out and give doorhangers to, all you are doing is reminding these people that there is an election and you are hoping they will remember to vote for your cause.

    This system reaches people who are registered to vote.  It does not discriminate based on actual party affiliation, but only on the basis of statistical probability.

    Those people who have recently moved into an area or who have not been voting, may be missed by this system.  If you live in an area of high growth, perhaps a different approach should be used to discover voters.  If you live in an area that has not had a lot of new people move in, then the system will probably identify most of the voters.  

    People identify themselves by voting in the primaries.  If they don't vote in the primaries, the next database sort might for those who voted in a precinct where the margin was very distinctive, thus increasing the probability that one could infer who they voted for.  A bit more risky, but then those phone calls can help decide which category the voter belongs into.  

    hope that the idiots who have no constructive and creative solutions but only look to tear down will not win the day.

    by Stuart Heady on Tue Sep 20, 2011 at 03:47:39 PM PDT

  •  Its the enthusiasm gap (0+ / 0-)

    Its best to think of this in shades of gray.  You have true blue Dems and true Red thugs. These people always vote and always in their party.

    Its the sky blue dems and the rose republicans that become independent when their enthusiasm wanes.  Teabagger crazy on full display has probably pushed the more sane conservative voters into the Indy category while Obama's... gentle methods... have sapped the energy of the cynical Dem voter he coaxed into volunteering in 08.

    I would bet that both of these groups come home barring a catastrophe.  Say, like a Bachmann / Palin ticket in the Repugs case.  Turning out the base may still be a viable organizing strategy, its just that you'll have to have more faith on election day.  This is why I think a Ron Paul candidacy is so dangerous to Obama.  He will bring in the entire red vote and could poach the weakest blues from Obama.  Remember in 08, Obama poached more than a few weak reds in addition to having an EPIC  GOTV operation.

    I think the base vote is still the way you win smaller local elections.  Party ID is half the battle there.

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