Third Way Perspectives

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Archive for March, 2012

Super PACs are ruining Republicans

March 6th, 2012

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This piece originally appeared in Politico.

Today is not Super Tuesday. It’s Super PAC Tuesday. Super PACs are the real contenders in the 2012 Republican race. And they’re destroying the Republican Party.

Conservatives are inclined to support the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in the Citizens United case, which allows donors to give unlimited amounts of money to Super PACs. As a result, Super PACs are funding an intensely negative primary campaign. Why? It’s safer.

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The Obama Independents

March 1st, 2012

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What do Senators Bernie Sanders and Joe Lieberman have in common?

Aside from graduating from college in 1964 with a Bachelor of Arts in political science, not much. Sanders and Lieberman, the only elected Independents in Congress, couldn’t be further apart—Sanders is a self-described democratic socialist and Lieberman was a surrogate for Republican Presidential nominee Sen. John McCain in 2008. Sanders opposes the Keystone pipeline; Lieberman supports it. If you averaged their views, you wouldn’t know anything about their positions on that issue, nor many others.

But that’s how the media and political world assess the key Independent voter bloc today. They lump the Bernie Sanders, Joe Lieberman, and even Ron Paul Independents together and try to make heads or tails out of them. Talking about Independents as a unified group masks internal diversity, making it nearly impossible to draw coherent conclusions about their policy preferences, and offering little insight for how to appeal to these voters.

Instead, prognosticators and strategists should turn their attention to the true swing voters for 2012: the Obama Independents—those Independents who voted for the President in 2008. As it turns out, Obama Independents are a different breed than those who voted for McCain. They are much more ideologically moderate, vastly more ethnically diverse, and most importantly the swingiest of swing voters. In 2008, Obama won 52% of self-described Independents, a level of support that he has not matched in public polling since. To win in 2012 he doesn’t need to win all of those 52%, but he’ll need most of them. And it’s unlikely, based on our study, that he has much upside with McCain Independents.

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