The Truth About Sarah Palin and ‘Independent’ Voters

So, Sarah Palin can’t win independents, blah, blah, blah. It’s all we hear.

Let’s talk a little about this red herring, shall we?

First off, it’s not true that Palin can’t win independents.

Palin won the governorship of Alaska quite handily. Almost two-thirds of Alaskans are not registered with a political party. They are … um, independent. (Kinda like a lot of the Rolling Thunder folks, Gov. Palin met last weekend). Alaska’s unique characteristics, including a 15% Native Alaskan population, "provide fertile ground for the emergence of candidates and ideas that at times appear to include the whole political spectrum," according to one study.

Hmmm … candidates and ideas that appeal to the whole political spectrum? That sorta sounds like Palin when she enjoyed an 88% approval rating in the summer of 2008 after passing bi-partisan legislation focusing on reforming government and developing energy resources.

Secondly, in all this talk about independents, let’s get real. There are very few actual "swing" voters. Most so-called independents tend to vote predominantly for one party or the other despite choosing not to affiliate formally with the party they usually vote for.

A recent report in Salon explained:

Rutgers political scientist David Redlawsk estimates that 5 million people voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and then voted for a Republican in 2010.

Boy, 5 million people! That is not even 6 percent of the entire voting electorate! (Or maybe even less, because the number of people who claim they voted for Obama is probably high.)


Truly independent voters are still mythical creatures. They exist in the imaginations of commentators who’ve spent most of their adult lives in Washington, D.C. Otherwise, the electorate is largely made up of Democratic voters and Republican voters. In this last election, more Republican voters showed up than Democratic voters. In 2008, the opposite was true.

Wait just a gosh darn minute! You’re telling me that this whole 2012 presidential election could just boil down to turnout? No freaking way! So basically the party that mobilizes more excited voters than the other wins? Unbelievable!

So, wait, um, doesn’t that suggest that we need a nominee who generates … like … actual enthuasiam? Wasn’t that why Palin was added to the ticket in 2008, because McCain generated so little enthusiasm among conservatives? Didn’t she generate that enthusiasm, attracting tens of thousands to rallies and raising tens of millions seemingly overnight, which was almost unheard of for a VP nominee?

And won’t the loosely-affiliated independent voters be so fed up with Obama by 2012 they’ll elect whomever is opposing him? So doesn’t that mean that whoever wins the GOP nomination, has a solid chance of being elected?

Howard Dean thinks so.

And what does it take to win a nomination? Oh yeah, base support. (Remember when Hillary and Barack were fighting for their base by seeing who could present the most liberal stance on Iraq and soaking it to the rich?) That’s what you DO in a primary. You appeal to your freaking BASE. Then you PIVOT to the middle for the general election. To suggest that someone should pivot to appeal to “independents” in primary season is rather ridiculous, don’t you think?

These idiots are arguing about winning over Democratic independents … while taking the conservatives and independent Tea Partiers for GRANTED.

So, next time you hear some GOP know-it-all professing that Palin could never win over independents, ask him/her if Mitt Romney can win over the base. Because if you want to become president, you first gotta convince your own side. (Sorry Mitt … manmade global warming and mandates aren’t gonna cut it on our side.) Then you can make your case to the other side. If you head into the general election with weak base support, you’re gonna lose. Because while the base may hold their noses to vote for you … they will never generate the enthusiasm you’ll need to carry the day.

Let’s all seriously try to imagine this many people greeting Romney at his next campaign rally.

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I'm a mother of three, and devoted Palin blogger.