Independent Voters for Kerry
It's been a general tendency throughout this election campaign, but it is quite striking how well Kerry is doing among independent voters in the various pre-election polls that have been recently released. If Kerry's lead among independents holds up, it will be very, very difficult for George Bush to win this election.
Here's why. Averaging the last eight national polls for which I can obtain relevant data, Bush is running about a 7 point higher margin among Republicans than Kerry is getting among Democrats. That's actually worse than Bush did in 2000, when he ran an 8 point higher margin among Republicans than Gore did among Democrats.
Then bring in our independent voters. Right now, Bush is averaging about a 7 point deficit among independent voters, compared to the 2 point advantage among these voters he had in 2000, a 9 point swing against him among independents.
So Bush seems likely to do slightly worse than 2000 in terms of receiving higher margins, relative to the Democrats, from his own partisans and very likely to do much worse among independent voters than 2000. Given that he actually lost the popular vote in 2000 by half a percentage point, he therefore has no chance of carrying the popular vote, or even coming close, unless he can change something else in his favor to counter these negative trends.
That can only be accomplished by erasing the Democrats' traditional turnout advantage in Presidential election years (Democrats generally run 3-5 points higher as a proportion of voters). In fact, these data suggest that, given the deficit Bush is likely to run among independents, simply erasing the Democrats' turnout advantage would likely not be enough; Republicans would actually need a turnout advantage of their own--perhaps a point or two--to prevail.
How likely is this? Not particularly. Such a radical shift in turnout patterns is only possible with a high mobilization of Republicans that is not counterbalanced at all by mobilization of Democrats. Does that sound to you like a description of this year? Not to me either; on the contrary, Democrats and Democratic institutions are exceptionally mobilized this year and it seems likely they, not the Republicans, will win the turnout wars.
And, if that's true, there is no way the Republicans can recover from the way independent voters are swinging against them--not only on the national, but also in key states like Ohio and Florida.
Ohio: In 2000, Bush carried Ohio independents by 16 points (!); this year, he is dead-even with John Kerry among this sector of the Ohio electorate (Gallup Ohio poll, October 29-31)
Florida: In 2000, Bush and Gore were about even among Florida indpendents; this year, Kerry leads Bush by 5 among these voters (Gallup Florida poll, October 28-30).
Election day seems likely to be independents' day--to Bush's bitter regret.