Monday, November 06, 2006

Down to the Wire: Swing Voters Key to Elections

Today's Wall Street Journal has a front page article on the remaining hours of the 2006 campaigns for Congress. The piece notes that voters are angry at the unbridled partisanship in Washington, and many are hopeful for a new degree of cooperation among government officials:

The negative tone and angry partisanship of many campaigns could yet keep voters away from the polls or drive them into the arms of this year's third-party alternatives. "I am the middle... Notice the purple tie please," says Eric Eidsness, a frustrated Republican who has swept up Colorado newspaper endorsements as a Reform Party House candidate in Colorado's Fourth District. "There is really such an undercurrent of anger at the two parties."

Registration numbers bear out this disaffection with the number of voters signing up as "independent" rising across the country. But the emotional interest stirred by the election could also mean the highest turnout rate for any midterm election in the past 25 years.

"I would be shocked if it isn't higher than 1982," says Curtis Gans, who had tracked turnout numbers for 30 years and is now a researcher at American University in Washington, D.C. That would put the number above 42.1%, a significant increase above the last midterm election in 2002.

Most important is turnout among the great swath of "middle" voters, a group comprised of independents and loosely affiliated members of both parties. In the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News Poll, 42% of registered voters said they were "independent," compared with 28% who called themselves Democrats and 24% who called themselves Republicans. Often, independents, with less attachment to the political process, vote less than partisan loyalists. Given the number of large and emotional issues, this year could be different.

"The theme of this election could well turn out to be 'the revenge of the middle,' " says Geoffrey Garin, a Democratic pollster.

Strategists in both parties say that if "the middle" turns out to vote, Democrats will be better able to ride the wave for change. Yesterday's Pew poll showed Republicans making some gains in that group, cutting the Democrat lead among them from 18 points to 11 points.
Read the whole thing. The article has a nice discussion of the top national issues of concern to voters: national security, immigration, taxes and jobs, and scandals.

Be sure to check out
this additional article up at the Wall Street Journal website, which looks at this season's vicious television campaign advertisments, and includes videos from hot races around the nation.

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