Media types like to talk about independents in elections as if it’s a simple, well-established fact that they decide elections.
That would be true, except for it isn’t always.
Karl Rove helped George W. Bush get elected by galvanizing his base, not moving the needle with independents. That doesn’t mean just mobilizing voters, it means inciting action.
You want the people who support your candidate to support him to the point that they want to get other people to support your candidate as well.
That’s how Obama won in 2008.
Millions of first-time voters registered just to vote for Obama. These weren’t registered Democrats or Republicans. Technically, they were independent voters.
Really, they were just non-voters before and Obama voters in 2008.
Recent indications are first-time voters for Obama in 2008 are now less likely than regular Obama supporters to vote for him again in 2012.
The reason is obvious: they understand he sold them a bill of goods. They were duped.
But remember, these aren’t independent voters.
Independent voters are people who don’t want to be put in boxes. The problem with that is independent voters who say they “lean” Democrat or Republican are actually more reliable than registered partisans.
Most independents already know who they’re voting for, they just have to be inclined to vote. I know plenty of 2008 Obama supporters who will vote for Romney in 2012 and others who, driven by apathy, will stay home.
To them, Romney isn’t a solid alternative, so their way to both not vote for Obama and not vote for Romney is to simply not vote at all.
It’s why Ron Paul’s candidacy in this race may be a double-edged sword. Paul could offer young, libertarian voters who supported Obama in 2008 a viable option.
They’re essentially doing the same thing non-voters are because Paul has less than no chance to get elected.
If he does run third party though, he could siphon young, apathetic voters from Obama. Romney doesn’t need those votes to win, he just needs those votes not to go to the president.
There’s another force at play here though.
Mitt Romney has clearly and obviously not been treated fairly by the mainstream media. It’s become increasingly clear that Obama, despite being antagonistic and cantankerous with the media, will be defended relentlessly by the New York Times and the like.
Romney will get ripped for saying, for example, that London may not be up to the task of security for the Olympics, a conversation that had already been going on for weeks in England.
But because British media members are so enthralled with Obama, it was attack Mitt time.
We know what Obama and the media will say about Mitt: he ultra-rich. He’s out of touch. He’s kind of a goof.
This could, perhaps more than even the ObamaCare ruling, galvanize not only the conservative base, but the independent voters as well.
Conservatives, even if they didn’t like Mitt Romney much to start, will now have had to spend nearly six months defending him. They’ll have convinced themselves of his worth and likely do their darnedest to get him elected. This is exactly what Karl Rove would want.
Independent voters, I mean truly independent voters, fancy themselves as smart. Above the fray. They see what is happening, the way Obama has gotten a free pass. They see that this country is not better off thanks to the policies of Obama, even if parts of health care reform make sense.
They see the narrative forming around this election and because it is in their nature to be contrarians, will want to buck that narrative.
They see Mitt Romney and they’ll say, “Hey, this guy isn’t a bad guy. Why are people acting like he is? Who cares if he’s rich. I’d like to be rich too.”
Independent voters are often slightly more objective about these things and when you look at the facts objectively, it’s hard to ignore the utter failure of leadership from Obama.
That, in an of itself ought to be enough.