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The Myth Of The GOP Base Vote

PoliticsWaPo carries an op-ed today on the GOP strategy of appealing to the base and ignoring the middle.

The article highlights some statistics that should be very alarming to the GOP – including the fact that Independent/Swing voters are very clearly showing a preference for the Dems right now (at a 46/21 split). The article goes on to mention that in 1994, when Republicans retook the House and Senate for the first time in 40 years, our preference among independents stood at 56 percent – a full 25 points higher than where we stand today.

In August of 1998, the GOP held a 6 point lead among independents in the generic ballot question. By September, that trend had reversed and the GOP faced a 7 point deficit. The party went on to lose seats in the general. Given that our deficit with independents now is at 25 points, and our base vote has remained unchanged (87-8 now versus 86-8 in both 1998 polls), relying solely on the base may be a terrible mistake. If anything, we need to be making inroads with the middle.

However, given the GOP Congress has chosen to focus on issues like flag burning and gay marriage at a time when those issues are as far from the mind of average voters as the Earth is from Alpha Centauri, it’s clear that the middle is not in the equation for the GOP’s electoral math.

The WaPo piece makes casual mention of why that may be the worst news for moderates who support the GOP, and the GOP at-large:

In what may be the cruelest of ironies, if Republicans are punished by independent voters in the midterms, it will be the centrist, independent Republicans from the Northeast who will be the most likely victims. For Democratic strategists and left-wing interest groups hoping for a Speaker Pelosi, a Republican legislative agenda that plays only to the conservative base this year is a dream come true.

Written by Michael Turk