Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Indiana Republicans' Turnout Problem; Why Governor Daniels' Unorthodox Political Strategy Could Hurt Other Republicans

Previously I've written about how the Hoosier Republicans were foolish to laugh at the Democrats last May for having a highly contested presidential primary in the state. The reward for the Democrats was the registration of hundreds of thousands of new voters and an energized Democrat electorate. So much for the theory that contested primaries are always bad.

This post though is about the Republicans' turnout problem. Turnout is always critical to the success or failure of candidates. Some years, like 1980 and 1994, Republicans come to the polls while Democrats stay home. In other years, like 1974, Democrats vote heavily while Republicans, turned off by Watergate, stayed home.

As a candidate for state legislature in 2000, one thing I learned was that no matter how hard I worked or how much people liked me as a candidate, people weren't going to come to the polls for the purpose of voting for me. If they were going anyway, I could convince them to vote for me. But as a down ballot candidate, I didn't drive the voters to the polls. Turnout is driven by the top races on the ballot. Period. The rest of the candidates are at their mercy of the candidates in those top races to get out the party's voters.

This year there are two major races in Indiana that have the potential to drive turnout: President and Governor. On the President side, Obama has a huge advantage over McCain in terms of energy and enthusiasm. Obama's get out the vote and vote early strategy has been the most impressive I have ever seen.

That leaves the Governor's race as a turnout vehicle. A lot of Republicans like Mitch Daniels and would turn out to make sure he stays in office another four years. But the Daniels' campaign has taken a great effort to promote the fact that the Governor has a big lead and is in no danger of losing. The Governor's people emphasize the polls showing Daniels with a large lead while ridiculing those that show a close race.

Politics 101 is that you always emphasize how close the race is and that you could lose. That encourages people to come to the polls to vote for you and your people to work harder. While Daniels will almost certainly survive the unorthodox strategy given the strength of his opponent, the question becomes whether he is doing a disservice to the other Republicans on the ticket. If Republicans aren't worried about coming to the polls to vote for the Governor's re-election, what happens to the Republican state representative in a close district? (There are plenty of those.) What about the other state-wide races, Attorney General and Superintendent of Public Instruction? If Republicans who like Mitch Daniels stay home because they think he has it in the bag, that could spell doom for Republicans Greg Zoeller and Tony Bennett. That's not to mention the effect Republicans staying home could have on numerous other races.

The anectdotal reports from the early voting sites suggest that the Republicans' turnout problem is a reality. They have about 5 days to solve it. If not, Republicans are going to be shocked by the races they end up losing on November 4th.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I suggest that they will turn out on the day to try to defeat the Marxist B.O.