Despite efforts to polarize our politics into ideological base camps, in presidential elections the deciding vote still belongs to the middle. These voters have been drowned out lately by the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street, but they are the main prize in 2012. Bruce Gyory, who is a consultant and teaches voting trends at the State University of New York at Albany, calls them the “40 within 40” — 40 percent of the electorate self-identify as independent, and 40 percent of those independents describe themselves as moderate. That means about one in six voters are up for grabs. Obama won them in 2008. The Democrats lost them badly in 2010.
Lost them badly? Uh, in 2010, moderate independents split fairly evenly between Republicans and Democrats: 48 percent of them voted for Republicans while 47 percent voted for Democrats. And keep in mind that these numbers come from a sub-sample of a sub-sample of a poll, so there is some margin for error. If it were a pre-election survey, most people would consider those numbers too close to call. And in assessing them after the fact, nobody can fairly describe these numbers as showing as showing that Democrats lost moderate independents "badly."
Keller should issue a correction, if not withdraw the full column. His entire argument is built around the belief that 2012 will be determined by a group of moderate independent swing voters who delivered the election to Democrats in 2008 and to Republicans in 2010. That may sound reasonable and logical in the abstract, but absent evidence to back up his claim, Keller's analysis becomes a statement of faith rather than facts. It tells us more about how Keller wishes the world worked than it does about how the world actually works.