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Saturday, November 15, 2008


McCain's economic adviser says it's all in your mind

McCain says he disagrees, although he's said the same thing many times (vid)

Obama responds (vid)

An important point:
independents do not have fixed political preferences in the way partisans do. For more than 40 years, surveys have consistently shown that self-identified independents are less interested, less informed, and less active in American political life than partisans are. They cannot even be counted on to turn out in many elections, much less express a coherent set of political beliefs upon casting a vote.

Their political commitments are shallow because their interest in politics is thin. When they do decide on a candidate, they usually make up their minds very late in the campaign, often in the last week. Voting research trends have also shown that independents are very susceptible to social influence, often turning to others in their local environment for advice on political matters. This makes perfect sense – if you do not have a fervent interest in the technology of high-definition televisions, you may turn to a family or neighborhood "expert" for advice on which one you should buy. After all, no one can be an expert on every subject.

As a result, independents' decisionmaking can be predicted from knowing the viewpoints of those who live close to them. Independents living in neighborhoods and households full of Democrats will be inclined to vote Democratic, and those interacting with Republicans will most often support the Republican. There are, of course, exceptions, but this pattern holds up in highly competitive elections.

In fact, there are very few truly independent voters because they are forced to choose one of the two parties' candidates inside the voting booth. Their pattern of actual vote choices shows that these "independents" are really partisans but are unwilling to admit it to survey researchers. This is why the number of independents drastically shrinks when pollsters follow up the standard party ID question by pushing the independent respondents for their party "leaning." Leaners, it turns out, vote nearly as solidly for their party as those who confess their party loyalty. The number of true independents, once leaners are removed, commonly shrinks to 10 percent of the electorate or less, down from 30 percent when leaners are ignored.

Independents are not only socially embedded among partisans in counties, cities, and neighborhoods - most of them live with partisans! An examination of party registrants on the voter files of several battleground states reveals that there are few completely independent households. In places where there is an option to register as "unaffiliated," or "no party," these registrants are usually living alongside Democrats or Republicans. There are many straight Republican and straight Democratic households, but a majority of independents do not find themselves living with other independents.

The upshot is that a successful strategy aimed at independents must take into account the partisans who reside near them. Campaigns cannot target independents in isolation because they don't live that way. We may find lopsidedly Democratic and Republican states, cities, and neighborhoods, but we almost never find a neighborhood (much less a state or city) in which independents are a majority.

In this sense, "base" and "independent" strategies complement one another and are not mutually exclusive. When independents begin to pay attention to the campaign, they'll typically turn to the partisans they live among for guidance. By playing to the base, a campaign is also likely to reach independent voters situated in the midst of that base. Given that independents may not show up at the polls if someone nearby doesn't encourage them to, getting base voters excited about party candidates is an ideal means for ensuring that a party takes its share of independent supporters.

Democrats Take Obama Shift in Stride

An Acccidental Sister Souljah Moment?:

Barack Obama leads a charmed life. He finally had his Sister Souljah moment and didn't even have to show up. Jesse Jackson did it for him solo.

Sixteen years ago, Bill Clinton used a Jackson-sponsored forum to rebuke the rap singer for suggesting that black people "have a week and kill white people" rather than each other. Jackson fumed as Clinton made the comments and denounced them later. Politically, Clinton came out such a winner that "Sister Souljah moment" now has its own entry in Wikipedia.

Roll forward to this week and the controversy that is attracting so much attention. Obama did not have to rebuke an important constituency himself to define himself as different from the Jackson-Sharpton wing of the Democratic Party. Being attacked by Jackson was more than enough to get across the point. Whatever people may know or think they know about Obama, they can no longer mistake him as a direct descendant of old-style black politics.

Arab opinion leaders wary of Obama

Giuliani: Obama Capturing 'an Anti-American Feeling'

Watch McCain squirm. (vid)

Abbreviated Pundit Round-Up

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