It just don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing

At the same time, Democrats seem finally to have taken on board something political scientists have been telling us for years: adopting “centrist” positions in an attempt to attract swing voters is a mug’s game, because such voters don’t exist. Most supposed independents are in fact strongly aligned with one party or the other, and the handful who aren’t are mainly just confused. So you might as well take a stand for what you believe in.

Paul Krugman in the New York Times

I have a great deal of respect for Paul Krugman, even as annoyingly self-righteous as he can be at times. But my respect for him is as an economist, not a political analyst. And it does seem he is drifting further and further into the latter category.

As I like contrarian views, I still can’t quite fathom just how Krugman came to the conclusion quoted above that there are no swing voters. Not only do they exist, they decide every presidential election. Roughly 80% of the vote in presidential elections is etched in stone as each party can count on 40% no matter who the candidate is. Think Walter Mondale’s 41% to Ronald Reagan’s 58% in 1984. This means that 20% of the voters are on the fence going into the campaign.

I would grant some portion of this 20% is leaning, to varying degrees, toward a party. But someone leaning in a certain direction does not guarantee that’s where she or he will end up on election day. And so where does everyone look to determine the winner? The swing states. Ohio would be at the top of this list and it’s about as centrist as a state can be. Big cities, agriculture, blue collar, small towns, unions, a full mix of ethnic diversity.

Beyond Ohio there’s a state called Florida. Only New York and Texas have greater populations and Florida is always in play in presidential elections. Likewise, Pennsylvania and Virginia can never be taken for granted as a blue or red state. As it’s sad all states aren’t in play every presidential election, the fact is our president is determined by the centrist swing voters.

Recent history shows that George W. Bush was the last Republican voted in before the far right Tea Party pushed what were once viable candidates to obscure positions on immigration, government shutdowns and social issues. The swing voters rejected the stiff liberals of Gore and Kerry. They also rejected the idea of Sarah Palin being one heartbeat away from the presidency and Mitt Romney who stood, at one time, for everything and thus stood for nothing.



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