As I had stated way back in July when I first started this blog, there is only one true “national” election every four years. And, going back to the earliest presidential election that records popular votes (1824), you will always find a minimum of approximately 40% of the population that will always vote for the losing candidate no matter what. There are a couple rare exceptions to this rule, but even that secures 35% to the loser.
What does this mean? It means that any given election will have 40% of the population on either side of the electoral divide, leaving the remaining “middle” 20% for the candidates to fight over. In some elections, this “middle” group of citizens will make up [much] less than 20% of the electorate (such as in 2000), in other cases you find them so disenfranchised (I hate that word, but you get my drift) that they take their vote elsewhere (see the 19% Perot got in 1992). They may just stay at home and not even bother to vote.
But, in the end, there’s always… ALWAYS… a 10-20% middle group that determines which way the election will go.
Now, this middle 10-20% is a feckless bunch. They don’t take politics too seriously. They make up their minds in the last few weeks of the campaign. They sway in the breeze on issues that the majority of the voters take very seriously. Sometimes they may include the odd mix of the pro-life or fiscal-conservative democrat, or the pro-abortion or social liberal republican, thereby never fully happy with the choices at hand. They complain about being in the minority and not being given any attention to. Yet, this group is exactly who gets the most attention in each election. And they have more power than they even realize. This group drives the other 80% of the population (and the politicians) absolutely crazy.
This is NOT a monolithic bunch that can be swayed as a whole. Each tiny segment of this small group of the electorate is made up of a multitude of views with varying positions, differing emotions, shifting priorities. But, each individual will be ultimately affected by that one key issue (whatever that is for that individual) that will determine whether he or she votes D or R, something else, or not at all.
I still hold to this view - that there is anywhere from 10-20% of the electorate who are the determining factor of any presidential election. In 1992 it was 19% (who voted for Perot). In 2000 it was probably a little less than 10%, given how tight and contentious that election was. This year, I had figured it would be in the 10-15% range.
Well, this report says that it's at 18% (and their ain't no Ross Perot to give 'em a semi-viable third option):
A recent AP-Yahoo! News poll found that 18 percent of likely voters are up for grabs — undecided or willing to change their minds — little more than five weeks before Americans choose between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain.
Forgive me if I pat myself on the back. It's not often that I do that, but I like being proven right - again - four years hence.