Watch for this trend to spread:
With much fanfare and hullabaloo, President Obama’s former campaign, Organizing for Action, recently launched a 10-year effort to turn red Texas into a true swing state. The plan, officially unveiled in a meeting in Austin on February 26 by Obama operative Jeremy Bird, hails the onset of Battleground Texas. Texas is not a swing state, at least not yet, but Battleground Texas intends to treat it like one in a sustained and systematic way so that it becomes one…
Bird’s team has developed a five-point contact plan for identifying and courting low-information, low-frequency voters. These voters are average folks who pay little attention to politics and current events and have left no trail allowing either party to identify which party they’re more likely to vote for. Bird’s volunteers call these prospects and use a script to ascertain whether they are persuadable to the Democrats’ point of view. Volunteers perform a “gut check” on the prospective voter, and these gut checks have proven to be accurate nearly 95% of the time. If the prospect is not identified as persuadable, then the volunteer files them away and does not call them again. But if the prospect appears to be persuadable, then the five-point plan comes into play. Volunteers will call the voter again, based on current events, to deliver information crafted to shape the prospect’s beliefs. For instance, if a volunteer has identified a suburban Fort Worth mom as a persuadable Democratic voter based on social issues, Todd Akin’s remarks on rape would have generated a second phone call. Richard Mourdock’s comments would have generated a third. A fourth call may have focused on the ObamaCare birth control mandate, casting it as a service to women and casting opposition to it as a “war on women.” The fifth call would have simply given the prospect information on where to vote. Job done. Someone who probably would not have voted at all has been processed over a few weeks into a likely Democratic voter. At the very least, they have become far less likely to vote for the party of Akin and Mourdock, who have been cast along with their party as villains. Obviously, none of the recent Democrats’ remarks on rape that aired during Colorado’s gun control debate would get any play at all in these calls. They are one-sided information streams, intended to create velocity on the way to creating a vote.
I have a couple of questions. The first is: why can’t conservatives counter with a campaign of their own? Is it that conservative arguments don’t have the intrinsic appeal to low-information voters that liberal ones do?
The second is: why wouldn’t the approach described in the above quote annoy people more than it would influence them? How do the phone-bankers ingratiate themselves with people?
In his article, Preston observes that:
[Bird’s approach] succeeded in defying the polls that in 2012 showed 2008 Obama voters less likely to turn out for him a second time, by minting entirely new voters through fear and disinformation.
But 2008 Obama voters did stay home—or perhaps even voted for Romney (who got a million more votes in 2012 than McCain did in 2008, whereas Obama got three and a half million fewer in 2012 than in 2008). And although many new voters most definitely voted for Obama, if they were young people (and we can assume the vast majority were), they would have been natural Obama voters anyway, since that was by far his strongest demographic. So how do we know what Bird’s approach did or didn’t do?
In fact, even though Obama continued to do very well with young voters in 2012, he did not do better with them than he had in 2008. It’s instructive to revisit the age breakdown of 2012 Obama voters:
In winning reelection, Barack Obama won 60% of the vote among those younger than 30. That was down somewhat from 2008, when Obama won nearly two-thirds (66%) of the votes of young people.
So he lost support among the young—many of whom of course were different people than in 2008, since anyone 26 or over in 2008 was over 30 in 2012, replaced by those who had been between 17 and 21 in 2008 and unable to vote at the time. And he lost support among all other age groups as well:
He also maintained a slimmer advantage among voters 30 to 44 (52% Obama, 45% Romney), while losing ground among those 45 to 64 and those 65 and older.
And it was not even all the young with whom Obama did so very well in 2012—it was the non-white young:
Obama’s support among young voters declined among many of the same subgroups in the overall electorate in which he lost ground, particularly whites, men and independents. Obama won a majority of white non-Hispanics under 30 in 2008, but lost this group to Romney this year. In contrast, Obama won young African Americans and Hispanics by margins that were about as large as in 2008.
His losses among young voters since 2008 might have been even greater, but for the fact that the under 30s are by far the most racially and ethnically diverse age group. Just 58% are white non-Hispanic, compared with 76% of voters older than 30.
So the reason Obama won seems to boil down to the fact that the demographic of under-30 voters has become much less white than the rest of the population, and they carried the day. I am fairly certain that some people would say it’s racist to point out that fact (of course, they are probably the same people who say it’s racist to criticize Obama for anything). But facts are facts; I merely report them.
So in summary: although Obama did worse among most demographics in 2012 than he had in 2008, he didn’t do worse enough to lose the election. And Romney didn’t do better enough than McCain to win it. So it’s not so clear how much effect a program such as Bird’s actually would have.
So why are conservatives so much gloomier in 2012 than they were right after the election of 2008, when Obama’s support has declined rather than increased between the two elections? The real difference between the results in 2008 and 2012 was that Obama’s victory in 2008 was understandable to conservatives, who knew it was at least in part a reaction to widespread weariness and hatred of Bush, the recent financial crisis causing people to want a change, and Obama’s newness and promise (albeit false promise). In 2012, Bush was long gone, the financial crisis should have been owned by Obama, and his newness and promise had been replaced by a dismal record. And yet he won.
And then there’s the future. Such projections are always tricky, but because the birth rate among minorities (most particularly latinos) is higher than among whites it is predicted that forty years from now whites will become a minority in this country. That is almost sure to change voting patterns and skew them ever leftward.