In my GOV 330 class this semester, we learned that political campaigns aren’t very good at persuading undecided voters, but rather they’re much better at mobilizing votes among a candidate’s base.
In analyzing President Obama’s apparent “trouble” with his liberal base, Nate Silver writes:
According to the exit poll of voting for Congress, 90 percent of self-described liberal voters selected the Democratic candidate for the U.S. House, in contrast to 8 percent who voted for the Republican. This percentage was actually up slightly from two years earlier, when 87 percent of liberal voters backed the Democratic candidate for the House.
Instead, Democrats’ troubles were almost entirely caused by conservatives turning out at higher rates in place of moderates. The share of conservatives of the electorate increased to 42 percent in 2010 from 34 percent in 2008, according to the exit poll. And just 13 percent of these conservatives voted for Democrats, as compared to 23 percent in 2008.
Still, just because liberals are disappointed with Mr. Obama does not necessarily mean they will fail to turn out and vote for him when the only other choice is a Republican. In some ways, it probably helps Mr. Obama that the country has become so polarized and that liberals view Republicans as such an unacceptable alternative, and vice versa. The prospect of a President Palin or a President Gingrich would surely motivate most liberals to vote — and even comparatively moderate Republican candidates like Mitt Romney will be under pressure to show their conservative stripes during the Republican primaries and are likely to campaign on policies, like a repeal of the health care bill, that liberals overwhelmingly object to.