The importance of independents

This is an updated version of a post I made on December 17th on my previous blog.

I live in the 8th Congressional District of Illinois, in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. For 35 years, the 8th District was represented by Phil Crane, one of the original conservatives. The district voted for George W. Bush by 56% to 42% in 2000 and by 56% to 44% in 2004. That made it the most Republican district in the northern half of Illinois. But in 2004, Crane was defeated by Melissa Bean, a moderate Democrat who appealed to independent voters. She beat Crane 52% to 48%, which means that 8% of the voters split their tickets. She was reelected in 2006 with a 7% victory margin.

This year, Melissa Bean was reelected with an amazing 61% of the vote. Barack Obama won the district by 57% to 42%. That’s a 27-point swing from 2004 to 2008. You won’t find too many districts that have changed that much in 4 years.

Melissa Bean’s success in a traditionally Republican district signifies the importance of appealing to independent voters. Many people don’t vote for one party consistently. A Democrat who appeals to independents can win even in hostile territory.

The flip side is that a Republican who appeals to independents can win in a Democratic district. In the adjacent 10th District, Republican Mark Kirk was reelected by 54% to 46% even though Obama beat McCain by 61% to 38%. That means that 15% of voters split their tickets, voting for Obama and Kirk. Democrat Dan Seals ran a strong campaign, but Kirk has assiduously courted independent voters.

Elections aren’t won and lost by the votes of people who always vote for one party. They’re won by the votes of independent voters. Any candidate who ignores that fact is likely to lose.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>