A friend recently shared his suggestion that Hoosiers use
this year’s Presidential election to express their displeasure with the two
major party candidates by voting for a third party candidate. Here’s the reason
I don’t want my friend to make that choice this year: I think Obama has a puncher’s
chance to win Indiana again.
My friend’s contention is that Indiana will go red just as
surely as California will go blue so Hoosiers who are inclined to vote for
Obama have options since their votes won’t impact any outcomes. I was immediately reminded of the massive
efforts to ‘swap votes’ in the 2000 election. In that election year, many
Americans viewed Ralph Nader’s campaign as an attempt to build off the
electoral successes of third party candidates Ross Perot and Jesse Ventura to
help promote a national multiparty system*. I had friends in Oregon and
Minnesota and California and Indiana and Arizona all talking about their fears
of ‘wasting’ their votes by supporting a Presidential candidate who had no
chance to win their state. While the typology of ‘red state’ and ‘blue state’
was not uniform until after the voting that November, the idea of that divide
was widespread and lots of folks wanted to avoid wasting blue in red places or
wasting red in blue places.
Part of the magic of elections is that they can amaze and
surprise. In 2008, I told everyone who would listen (and many who wouldn’t!)
that Obama was going to win Indiana. More than a few people laughed and some
wondered if I’d simply forgotten that Indiana is much more than Indianapolis. I
smiled at the laughter and often reminded folks that I was deeply aware that
many Hoosiers would have literally voted for the corpse of Ronald Reagan before
they voted for Barack Hussein Obama. But in 2008, an odd coalition of Hoosiers
coalesced enough to give Democrats their first Electoral College votes here since
1964. That coalition has frayed but not fractured. Relatively few of those
voters are going to be excited about voting for Romney; if anything, they may
need to be given reasons
to vote for Obama again.
Certainly an ad blitz is unlikely at this late stage but
here’s one ad
that would play fantastically well here. A White, blue collar, middle aged Hoosier guy talking
about Romney making $100 million by closing his plant? That would be a winner.
It also seems pretty clear that Romney and Senate candidate Richard Mourdock
are a bad pair for driving GOP turnout. In fact, due to Mourdock’s most recent verbal
train wreck it’s possible he will produce a generic bump for the Democrats.
That may happen even though his Senatorial opponent is in a weak position
to benefit. There are an awful lot of folks who typically vote GOP who just won’t
be excited to show up at the polls in November.
However, relatively few people are immune to the largest
media waves and this election will be one of them. Even the folks who are least
inclined to vote will hear about the election all day Monday and Tuesday. Between smart phones and nearly ubiquitous access
to social media, I anticipate a great amount of social pressure to vote. That
means more people showing up to vote without a deep well of engagement,
interest, knowledge or understanding. As cynical as it sounds, the Obama team
can take advantage of that situation to pull off a real ‘November surprise’ in
Indiana. There are also a lot of folks who are typically not voters but were
directly impacted by recent policies like Governor Daniels' Scott Walker style efforts
at union busting. Not only are those folks off the political grid but they'll
lean strongly toward the President.
With the combination of all these different realities
swirling about and the continuing strength of Obama's Get Out the Vote
campaign, I think this is an election with genuinely different possibilities
than in 2000. Remember that’s when vote swapping reached its apex… and perhaps
helped George W. Bush win the Presidency#. I want Hoosiers to vote for the
person they think will do the best job as President. And I believe their votes
may count more than they might anticipate.
*- I love the idea of a multi-party system and believe it
would help politics and our country as a whole. But it’s a long process and
certain short-term costs seem too high to me.
#- My argument on this point is very complicated. Lemme know
if you’d like me to share it with you.