Strategy ’08

Obama vs. the other guy, 2008

And Now For Some Good News: Dem Registration Way Up And What To Do About It

According to today’s New York Times, there has been a notable shift among voter registration, with GOP ID dropping substantially relative to gains by Democrats:

In several states, including the traditional battlegrounds of Nevada and Iowa, Democrats have surprised their own party officials with significant gains in registration. In both of those states, there are now more registered Democrats than Republicans, a flip from 2004. No states have switched to the Republicans over the same period, according to data from 26 of the 29 states in which voters register by party.

Putting aside whether Nevada can be classified as a traditional battleground, this is unquestionably good news.  Now, we should be cautious: increased party ID, while almost an unequivocal good for down-ticket races, doesn’t mean, for instance, that Obama will win Nevada (although it doesn’t hurt).

In six states, including Iowa, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, the Democratic piece of the registration pie grew more than three percentage points, while the Republican share declined. In only three states — Kentucky, Louisiana and Oklahoma — did Republican registration rise while Democratic registration fell, but the Republican increase was less than a percentage point in Kentucky and Oklahoma. Louisiana was the only state to register a gain of more than one percentage point for Republicans as Democratic numbers declined.

And I think it’s safe to say that much of that gain for the GOP in Louisiana came from the fact that so many blacks who would vote Democratic have left the state after Katrina.

As it relates to the presidential race, there is one section I want to highlight:

In many states, Democrats have benefited from a rise in younger potential voters, after declines or small increases in the number of those voters in the 1980s and ’90s. The population of 18- to 24-year-olds rose from about 27 million in 2000 to nearly 30 million in 2006, according to Census figures.

Mr. Obama’s candidacy has drawn many young people to register to vote, and some of the recent gains by Democrats have no doubt been influenced by excitement over his campaign. But even before Mr. Obama’s ascendancy among Democrats, younger voters were moving toward the Democratic Party, demographers said.

In the primary, and especially in Iowa, Obama did something no other candidate has done before: he actually turned out the youth vote.  Registering and mobilizing the parts of the electorate that hadn’t voted in the past was always going to be the key for someone like Obama, and that remains the case.

The real question is: can he maintain that level of excitement and activism in the fall, or will the youth falter when it counts?  I really hope not, and I think Obama should find a way to return to his roots (primary roots, that is), by re-engaging the youth vote and re-inspiring them.

So, in the fall, my humble suggestion is that Obama alternate three different types of events:

1) Town-halls, gatherings, and smaller rallies in the deep red areas of states he wants to win – showing up is a big part of the solution.

2) Rallies and events on college campuses – who cares if you get slammed for it?  The millennial generation is a huge untapped resource and engaging young people will pay enormous dividends (and heighten the contrast with old, doddering McCain).

3) Rallies with the base – hitting the urban areas and firing up the troops.

Obama IS change, and his whole candidacy was built on exciting parts of the electorate that weren’t even counted in past elections.   I’m glad he’s chipping away with these town halls, but in the fall, it’s time to bring the excitement back.

Let them hit you for your inspiring rhetoric – Americans still want to be inspired.  You’re not going to out-drill McCain, but you’ll out-inspire him in a big way.

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August 5, 2008 - Posted by | Battleground States, Polling, Uncategorized |

1 Comment »

  1. In the primary, and especially in Iowa, Obama did something no other candidate has done before: he actually turned out the youth vote. Registering and mobilizing the parts of the electorate that hadn’t voted in the past was always going to be the key for someone like Obama, and that remains the case.

    This is mostly right. Obama mobilized youth to a degree not seen in a long time – and he was certainly the first presidential candidate to do so in quite a while, but as the NYT story correctly notes, these trends were apparent long before Obama declared his intention to run. Others laid the groundwork upon which Obama built this campaign.

    Youth turnout was significantly up in 2004 for the first time since 1992, and broke 54 – 45% in favor of John Kerry. In 2006, the youth vote increased for the first time during a midterm election since the 1980s, and the youth vote was directly responsible for the election of Jon Tester, Jim Webb, and Joe Courtney.

    This youth wave was brought about by a variety of factors including the natural civic engagement of Millennials, a boom in electoral youth organizing beginning in 2003 (and from which Obama pulled much of his youth staff), as well as the attention of some campaigns.

    There is a lot more behind this youth movement than Obama.

    Comment by Michael Connery | August 5, 2008 | Reply


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