Monday, May 07, 2007

Women And The Base

Today, Atrios points to a Tom Schaller article in the Baltimore Sun from last week. Schaller confirms a lot of what I have been saying on this blog for the last couple of years. First, that the actual number of swing voters is very small. Second, that single women are the greatest number of unmined voters for the Democratic party. However, I do think that he gets one part of his message wrong. That is, how to get your soft support to show up. Schaller writes:

For starters, the major parties' appeals to centrist voters will become less effective and efficient, and should be de-emphasized in favor of a strategy that favors identifying and mobilizing base voters.

Republicans figured this out years ago. Before the 2000 recount had concluded, Bush campaign pollster Matt Dowd wrote Karl Rove a game-changing memo in which Mr. Dowd marveled that the center of the American electorate had disappeared. They had expected split-ticket voters to account for about one-quarter of the electorate, but the figure was closer to 6 percent.

Mr. Rove promptly announced he would target for mobilization millions of evangelicals who did not turn out to vote in 2000.

After the 2006 elections, one might expect Democrats to respond in kind. Their victories were fueled by votes from their base: union families and households, women, nonwhite voters and younger voters.

Indeed, if Democrats are looking for their counterpart to the evangelical vote, they should turn to unmarried women: They are a majority of American women, they will soon be a majority of female voters, and when they vote, they vote overwhelmingly Democratic. But millions remain unregistered.

Schaller says the number of swing voters is six percent, I've been saying seven, but I'm not going to split hairs about that. He is right about single women, but there are not many institutions out there that they participate in to get our message out to them and mobilize them, so another route must be taken.

One way to do that is through television, and there are two ways to reach them. One, is through Oprah. With her guy, Barack Obama running in this coming presidential election, I expect her to push voting on her show to help in registering women voters. She may or may not openly campaign for Obama, but she knows that in the general election these women will vote for him if he is chosen the nominee.

An overlooked way to reach women voters is through advertising on the Lifetime network and its sister networks. If I was a Democratic contender I would run ads there right now. Specifically, if I were Obama, who has the lowest name ID, I would be running one minute introduction ads right now. You get hits nationally, and as far as advertising goes, it's relatively cheap.

Where I think Schaller gets it wrong though, is when he talks about mobilizing the vote. A look at the last three even numbered year elections here in Ohio can be very instructive when thinking about this. In 2002, the Democratic Party gave the republicans a gift in the name of Tim Hagan. It was a blowout. If you look at the number of votes Hagan got, it gives us a fairly good idea of how many Democratic base voters there are. That number is 1,236,924. We will bump that number up a little bit to 1,400,000 because the Ohio Democratic Party is far more engaged today than it was then.

Now, in 2006, the republican party returned the favor in the name of Ken Blackwell. Blackwell received 1,474,285 votes. That is an accurate reflection of the republican base.

In 2008, it will take around 2,900,000 votes to win Ohio's delegates for the presidential election. That means both sides will have to come up with another 1,500,000 voters to win. Granted, because it is a presidential election, probably 70% of the number needed will show up for the fact that they always vote in presidential, but getting that last 30% is the trick to winning. We will call them tier II voters. The problem with Schaller's logic is that while most of the remaining voter to tend to stay on one side of the aisle or the other, they are not motivated by the same things that the actual base is motivated by.

These people tend to be motivated by what we call kitchen table issues such as the how the economy is treating them. If you want to win you need to craft a message that gets them off their seats and into the voting booths. Luckily, in 2008, the kitchen table issues appear to be on our side. They are ripe for the plucking, you just need to adjust you message to get them. The base will always vote, the tier II voters are the ones you need to work on.

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