It's beginning to look very much like independent voters will determine the outcome of the 2012 election, just like they did in 2008 and 2010.
This is not good news for President Barack Obama or for the Democrats who, despite the fact that the GOP controls the U.S. House of Representatives, are perceived by most voters as being the party in power. Which, to be blunt, has made a hash of just about everything.
Unemployment is up. The economic recovery is the slowest and longest in post-war history. If the 1992 election—the last time an incumbent president was tossed out by the voters—was about "the economy, stupid," then 2012 will be, even more to the point, about "jobs, jobs, jobs." This is already showing up in the polls, which show independents still fleeing the country's top Democrat in droves—an early "tell" about how 2010 was going to turn out—and Obama running behind, in some cases decidedly so, against his potential opponents and against "generic Republican" in the critical swing states that will decide the election.
How these independents are thinking is the subject of a new survey by Resurgent Republic, the polling operation founded by former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie. To put it plainly, Resurgent Republic says, "Conservatives have the upper hand with these voters for now, and the party best able to appeal to Independents in 2012 will win the White House and may well claim both chambers of Congress."
The greatest potential for the GOP to "grow the vote" comes, the group says, from its ability to appeal to independent women.
Independent women are less conservative (34 percent) than Independent men (44 percent), and currently favor Republicans by smaller margins than men on the presidential ballot (42 to 35 percent versus 44 to 29 percent) and the generic congressional ballot (34 to 32 percent versus 38 to 26 percent among men).
By expanding its appeal to this critical cohort, the Republican Party may be able to sweep into office a new generation of leaders that will control the country's public policy machinery for some time to come.
It will not, however, be easy, no matter how friendly the terrain may be going into the election season. The issues will have be chosen carefully and presented in such a way that target audience will embrace rather than feel alienated by them.
When making that case, they advise, the GOP should do a few things like keeping the discussion of entitlement reform focused on the future, emphasize heathcare reforms like allowing people to buy health insurance across state lines while continuing to pound on the unfairness of the individual mandate, and talk up an expansion of offshore drilling as the way toward energy independence rather than nuclear power,
"Conservatives can win among independent women by making the case that their approach to the economy and government spending will be more successful than President Obama's approach," RR reports, "considering these women overwhelmingly say things are worse now than when the President took office."
- Check out 2011: The Year in Cartoons
- See a collection of political cartoons on healthcare.
- Check out our editorial cartoons on President Obama.