Beyond the Cusp

June 17, 2011

The Mirage of the Unaligned Middle Voters

Pundits, editorialists, reporters, and assorted experts inform us that the election for the Presidency is completely dependent on winning the swing voters, those unaligned voters who are not loyal to either party and are assumed to be as politically neutral as imaginable, and that is what it is, imagination. It is often stated that the Democrat Party can depend on receiving approximately 35% of the vote and the Republican Party can depend on approximately 33% of the vote while another eight percent or so will either vote third party or not vote for President when casting their ballot. Assuming this to be correct, that leaves almost 25% of the voters making up those ever mysterious unaligned middle voters. Were we to assume these numbers are accurate, then we should see elections far more lopsided than the nearly even splitting of the votes with both major party candidates almost always receiving from 45% to 53% of the total vote count. My contention is that the so-called unaligned voters, if we could actually measure their voting patterns, would most likely break down with very similar split as the final vote totals that each candidate pulled from getting out his base voters. Should that be the case, then the voting of the presumed middle voters do not split in such a way as to change outcomes in the majority of Presidential elections.

If this is the case, then what does determine how one wins Presidential elections? The answer is very simple, turn out your base voters at a higher percentage than the other candidate turns out his base voters. This past election was a great example of this phenomenon as Candidate Obama excited the Democrat base, especially younger voters and others who would normally be lazy in their voting habits and not necessarily have normally voted. They came out full force and he gained a very high percentage of the Democrat base, thus winning the election. The final tally gave Obama 53.6% while McCain received 46.3%, which would be expected as the Republican base was extremely unexcited by McCain’s candidacy. Another example of this same phenomenon was President Reagan who turned out the Republican base to win his first term and was one of the few who turned out his base and garnered a vast number of the unaligned middle voters in his second term. Looking at the numbers from each election bears this fact out as Reagan received 51.4% while Carter received 41.9% in Reagan’s first win. In the second term election, Reagan received 58.8% while Mondale received 37.6%, which are numbers more representative of what every election would resemble if the winning candidate would receive a sizeable majority of the unaligned middle votes. So, what does all this mean when it comes to elections?

The first item is that much of what the media has fed us about how to win an election is dead wrong. The myth that in order to win the Presidency you must run to the middle and capture the unaligned voters is a chimera. If you look back at Presidential elections of recent history it fast becomes obvious that most of the Democrat candidates ran catering to the left and far left while the Republican candidates actually tried to follow the run to the center mantra and lost, and lost big. Let’s look at elections from 1980 forward and see who won and what message their campaign put forth. In 1980 Jimmy Carter ran on simply more big government interventions which he claimed that once his administration spent more money, the economy would recover and interest rates would come down, unemployment would be vastly reduced, and everything would come up roses if he could be given the chance to just spend a little more on his programs that had so far failed. Ronald Reagan ran on strengthening the Military though modernizing equipment and investing in a major buildup necessitated by neglect and budget cuts since the end of the Viet Nam War, lower taxes across the boards, drastic cut in the Capital Gains Rates, and a good measure of deregulation. Reagan’s platform was pure Republican conservatism. The media predicted Reagan would have a rough go of it purporting such a far right set of policy. Reagan took the Presidency with a solid victory due to the turn out by the Republican base against a lackluster turnout by the Democrat base for Carter and some of the Democrat base voting for independent candidate Anderson. In Reagan’s run for a second term against Walter Mondale, President Reagan continued to propose his conservative view which had begun to work and turn the economy around making reelection a sure thing.

In 1988 Vice President Bush ran for the Presidency on the Reagan record and won due to Reagan’s popularity and the fact that Michael Dukakis ran a particularly inept campaign. Even with such apparent disparity, the vote was a comfortable win for Bush not a landslide as Bush received 53.4% and Dukakis received 45.7%, giving President Bush a mere half a percentage point above the normal range for the winner. Moving on to the 1992 election we have one of the strangest elections of the modern era due to a relatively successful Ross Perot third party candidacy which threw much of the regular wisdom out the window. The end percentage results were Clinton 43.0%, Bush 37.5%, and Perot 18.9%. Even with the unusually large vote for third party candidate Perot, Bill Clinton was only two percentage points under the normal range for winning candidates. Moving to President Clinton’s run for a second term, we return to the more normal levels with Clinton receiving 49.2% and Dole receiving 40.7% of the votes cast. The results of this election still had a measureable vote going to third party candidate Perot who received 8.4%, yet President Clinton still fell within the normal range for a victor.

Now we move to the elections that have caused the most controversy, the ramifications of which are still to be felt down the road. In 2002 the election placed George W. Bush against Al Gore. This was the election that the electoral votes were so close that it came down to had one state gone the other way the election might have gone the other way, and the fight came down to Florida. Since we are only concerned with the popular vote percentages, I get to skip making any statement about the rest of the controversy, thankfully. The final results were Al Gore taking 48.4%, George W. Bush taking 47.9% and Ralph Nader capturing a potentially crucial 2.7% which placed both Al Gore and George W. Bush within the range for one winning the election, which actually further supports our theory as in an election where the win is by such a narrow vote count of the Electoral College should have the two candidates within the range expected for a win. And finally, let’s look at the 2004 election between George W. Bush and John Kerry which turned out to be a normal election by the actual numbers in the popular vote. The end result gave Bush 50.7% and gave Kerry 48.3% of the votes. This is how many of the elections have gone throughout history with the winner and loser both receiving over 40% and the winner not getting over 55% of the votes.

Looking at the numbers with an eye on President Reagan’s impressive totals in his reelection bid where it was conceded that he actually might have received some votes from people who had never voted Republican in their lives before 1984. Those votes from people who had never, or at least rarely, voted for a Republican for President is evidence that even the so-called unaligned voters truly are aligned, they just have not declared their party of affiliation. My parents are among those unaligned voters for a simple reason, to avoid the phone soliciting for donations for the party or their candidate and also prevent an overly stuffed mailbox from May to November every other year, if not every year, and trust me that they vote one party ticket as if doing so will make everything correct in the world.

The one item this means to me is the virulent demands that Republicans (and to a lesser extent, Democrats) need to nominate a centrist candidate and avoid an extreme conservative candidate or have no possibility of winning. The truth is that by nominating a middle road centrist candidate will virtually guarantee a Republican loss. President Reagan showed that an unapologetic conservative who clearly states the conservative position in plain and understandable language will win. I found the same to be true in my short stint into politics. I also learned that anything less than millions upon millions of dollars spent on a campaign also guarantees losing the election. The average American is a conservative despite the fact that the media has done everything in their power to convince them otherwise. Republicans need to wake up to the fact that if they want to win they need to stick to their principles and not nominate any more compromise candidates who attempt to be all things to all people. A winning candidate is one with core conservative beliefs who is positive that moving government out of everybody’s way will lead to a healthy economy and also make the spending cuts that are so thoroughly necessary if the United States is going to survive as the dream of its founders. The best Republican candidate would stand by our allies and clearly recognize our enemies, would move heaven and earth, especially earth, to make the United States energy independent from foreign energy supplies. A perfect conservative candidate, which should also be the idea of a perfect Republican candidate, would believe in the greatness of the United States, trust its people to be capable of any accomplishment if freed from the shackles of government, and would encourage a return to every specific and restriction stated in our Constitution, a document unequalled by no other country’s charter documents, and also the principles so beautifully expressed in the Declaration of Independence to transport this great nation, this experiment in government by men ruling themselves, a novel idea unheard of two centuries ago, into a bright and promising future based on the wisdom and knowledge gained from the past. This is what Americans want in a President, or at least what I hope we would want in a President.

Beyond the Cusp


  1. Very astute analysis, and I agree with every word. In this particular election (2012), I’ve heard a lot of people who are analyzing the Republican candidates say they prefer candidate A, or candidate B, but in the end, admit that they would vote for any of them over Obama.

    For that reason, I feel a true conservative will clean up.


    Comment by Hardy Wright — June 17, 2011 @ 9:38 AM | Reply

  2. […] resides. That is the basis of the problem in the United States, which we had pointed to first with The Mirage of the Unaligned Middle Voters back on June 17, 2011 and much later in Republicans Need a Real, Honest and True Blue Candidate on […]


    Pingback by The Left’s War Against Trump and the Media | Beyond the Cusp — February 20, 2017 @ 4:05 AM | Reply

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