This election season I’ve been told by Republican friends more times than I can count that the Independent vote isn’t really important in the 2012 presidential election. They argue that, sure, Republicans would like to have their votes, but they don’t need them to beat Obama in November.
A new poll from Gallup indicates that these Republican folks may be wrong:
What caught my eye in this is the similarities between the Republicans and Democrats polled. Exactly 90% supported their party’s candidate while 6% supported the opponent and 3% fell into the Neither/Unsure/Refused category. The only difference is the “Other” column where the difference is only about a half of a percent. Republicans and Democrats are literally split 50/50 on the coming presidential election.
The important thing to pull from these results is that it’s another group of people who will determine who wins the election in November. It’s the Independent voter that makes the difference in the end; in this poll, the Independent vote gives the edge to Romney.
But who are these people?
Tea Party people. Since the surge of the Tea Party, more and more people have started identifying as “Independent” when asked their political affiliation. They’ll still vote Republican on a lesser-of-two-evils argument, but calling themselves Independent makes them feel good.
Ron Paul supporters. Granted, Paul attracts some Republicans and some Democrats, but he also pulls actual Independent voters.
Libertarians. If you’re not an “R” and you’re not a “D,” then you must be an “I.” In reality, there are more than the two dominant parties, but in surveys like this one, the “other” voters will fall into the Independents’ column.
True Independents. These are people who go with the Democrats some of the time and with the Republicans some of the time. They’re actually some of the most people to talk with about politics because they are usually willing to think through both sides of an argument where a lot of definite R/D voters are a little more stuck in their ways.
It’s important to realize that Republicans have a good chance to win these voters in November. Consider this:
- Tea Party people – Like I said, they’ll vote Republican no matter what they call themselves in polls. Put any candidate whose last name isn’t Obama on the ballot, and you’ll get their support.
- Ron Paul supporters – They want to like the Republican, and a good number of them are willing to sit down and listen if Romney wants to get serious about getting fiscal policy under control.
- Libertarians – Let’s be honest. Neither Romney nor Obama will take this crowd. Gary Johnson is their man.
- True Independents. I could be wrong on this because it’s a hunch, but I’d bet that the bulk of the truly independent voters went for Obama over Bush in 2008 and now see that he hasn’t offered much hope or change. I expect them to be willing to vote for Romney in November.
In the end, Republicans have the ability to win this group of people, but they’ve got to get serious if that’s going to happen. Most of these folks are actually looking at the economy and watching recovery statistics. They know what’s going on; they see what’s working (and what’s not working).
If the Republicans hope to occupy the White House in 2013, they need to start offering real solutions that will convince these Independent voters that they are serious about fixing our nation’s problems.
But Republicans first need to come to their senses and realize that they actually need the Independent voters’ support to avoid four more years of an Obama White House.