Swing voters are commonly and justifiably identified as the key to winning most elections in the United States. But while the importance of swing voters is often noted, what is not often identified is exactly who those swing voters are.
It’s much easier to identify the partisan voters that have already decided who they will vote for. There are large groups of Democrats and Republicans who wouldn’t vote for “the other guy” if you paid them. The kinds of voters that are not swing voters usually have absolute beliefs on particular issues and have unwavering opinions on certain issues. They tend to find which candidate agrees with them, or in some cases, disagrees with them, and then make their voting decision quite quickly and without any hesitation.
On the other end of the spectrum, swing voters do not often display absolute beliefs on issues. They are more comfortable changing their minds and can usually see two sides to most issues.
Another key trait of the average swing voter is voting with the candidate that “feels right”. That may sound silly to those who strictly go with issues, but whether partisan folks like it or not, the next leader of the free world will be decided by people who simply “feel” that candidate is the right person for the job.
With this understanding, we can comprehend the quick reactions from both candidates to comments from Democratic Consultant Hilary Rosen who said Ann Romney was not qualified to talk about the economy because she never worked a day in her life. Since Ann Romney decided to raise five kids and not pursue a corporate career, the general reaction was that Rosen’s comments asserted that raising kids was not real work.
The Romney campaign predictably jumped all over the comments, but the Obama campaign was almost as quick to call on Rosen to apologize and First Lady Michelle Obama tweeted on Thursday that all moms work hard.
Moms, whether staying at home to raise kids or raising kids while they pursue a career, are not all swing voters, per se. Like any large group of people, there are just as many diverse political opinions among moms as there are for any other group of people.
However, the key is that swing voters of all stripes, moms, dads and people without kids, still vote with how they feel about a candidate. Right now, President Obama has a distinct advantage over Mitt Romney because many people do not “feel” Romney can connect to average people.
But, if it looks like his wife is being attacked for simply being a stay at home mom, Romney can quickly make up a lot of ground by getting the story of his wife as a stay at home mom out in the general atmosphere. Instead of seeing Romney as an aloof millionaire, more voters will begin to see Romney as a family man with a wife who was verbally attacked on television.
Both campaigns understand how valuable a moment like this can be with swing voters. That’s why we saw everyone act so quickly, including seeing Hilary Rosen apologize less than 24 hours later on television.
It’s only April and the long general election season has barely begun. However, every politician knows that momentum is valuable at any stage of the campaign. We won’t know if this particular moment will make much of a difference for many months. But what we do know is that any possible moment that can create an advantage or disadvantage must be handled immediately when trying to secure the elusive swing vote.
About The Blogger
- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.