Those on the right and the left hate hearing about the middle. Whether we are talking about issues or candidates, it is inevitable the question comes up. Who really determines the outcome of elections? Many will say the middle does and we need to run moderate candidates. But they often leave the grassroots without a candidate.
I’ve worked in numerous campaigns for conservatives and everyday Republicans. I’ve seen the phone banks filled with young and old but I’ve never seen them filled with moderates. From my conversations with our friends on the left, the same can be said for Democrats. But with campaigns, the grassroots is only one piece of the puzzle.
The ability to fundraise is crucial to winning any campaign. Without it, your message is left to free media that often isn’t kind and never is enough. For some reason, folks believe conservatives have a harder time fundraising than moderates. It sure doesn’t look like King is struggling. He raised over one million dollars last year in a “safe” seat. I don’t think Nussle was considered a moderate and he raised record amounts. To me, those who struggle fundraising are just doing it wrong. It has nothing to do with being too conservative. If it did, shouldn’t Marionette Miller-Meeks have raised more? You’re right, that doesn’t make much sense, but neither does saying a conservative can’t raise money. So, the fundraising thing is out.
What about marketing your message? What do conservatives believe in that those in the middle don’t? Abortion, maybe, but it is still a 50/50 issue. Gay marriage? Nope. That one goes heavily to conservatives. Spending and taxes? Nope. That one is our bread and butter (especially if the voters believe the candidate). So what does a conservative offer that turns off the middle? Is it just the way we say things? Is the middle so against confrontation they are turned off by those on the left and right who stand on principle and will not waiver? Or does it have more to do with the media’s portrayal of our candidates than the actual candidates themselves? And if you think the middle doesn’t vote for conservative candidates because of any of the above, the same can be said for the candidates on the left. But for some reason, they’ve had no problem winning elections in the past few years. They are not running to the middle at all but still winning.
Each election we hear stories about the last 10 percent who haven’t made up their minds within days of the election. That 10 percent is determining most elections in this country and almost all are registered independents. By that time, the issues are out there for them to make a decision based on those issues. So what is keeping them from making up their minds? Are they just stupid? Are they waiting for a sign from God? Or have they made up their mind numerous times but get swayed so easily by the media and/or candidates that they find themselves switching back and forth constantly?
So let’s say the middle does determine the outcome. How do you persuade them? We had McCain as the most moderate candidate we’ve put up in years…maybe ever. And he got trounced. The middle voted overwhelmingly for the most liberal nominee ever for president. The same can be said for Ganske v. Harkin. He got crushed and Harkin is one of the most liberal members of the Senate. So for those of you who believe the middle determines the outcome, how are you going to win them over? They obviously base their vote on anything but the issues.
I don’t think the middle really determines elections. I think if the left has a candidate they believe in more than the right, they’ll almost always win. The opposite is also true. With Bush, the right believed he was best for the war on terror and we worked hard for him because of Alito and Roberts. Even though the left hated Bush, they didn’t love John Kerry. You can also look at the 2008 election. The right wasn’t sold at all on John McCain but the left was deeply attached to Obama. When that happens, the middle follows along. I think the middle basically gets swept up in the momentum from the side that has the most support.
Obama isn’t a moderate. He’s the most liberal president ever. Why would the middle not be turned off by him – especially when they had a moderate alternative in McCain? I do realize it sounds like good strategy to offer Republican light. My problem with that is there is no evidence that says that is the best strategy year in and year out. And as always, if you stand in the middle of the road, chances are you are going to get run over.
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