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Democrats can’t win without independent voters

By LIZ SIDOTI
July 19, 2010

Republican Pat Toomey: Capturing the independents

Democrat Joe Sestak — a son of the Philadelphia suburbs — needs the independent voters in his backyard as he campaigns for a Senate seat in a swing state that may tilt Republican this year.

Independents have been turning away from President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party, frustrated with the economic downturn and administration initiatives, even in Pennsylvania where Obama won by double-digits two years ago. Sestak, a two-term congressman, has his work cut out for him.

“To vote for any of them right now, I’m not really sure I could. It’s too early to say,” says Tori Fisher, 45, an artist selling handmade jewelry at a picnic table down the street from Sestak’s bustling campaign headquarters.

Fisher backed Obama two years ago and Democrats in 2006 but says “all of my friends feel frustrated” with the president’s policies. “All of them could be doing a better job,” she said of the Democrats controlling the White House and Congress.

On a nearby park bench, Albert Davis, 63, calls his previous support for Obama unfortunate. He faults the president and his party for their handling of the troubled economy, the soaring budget deficit and the new health care law.

“I thought he could straighten this country out,” he says. “I may have been wrong.”

Davis doesn’t know how he’ll vote this fall — “if I vote.”

Although Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 1.2 million in Pennsylvania, independent voters, especially those in the so-called collar counties around Philadelphia, have proved decisive in elections in this swing state. They are seen as key to victory in the competitive Senate race between Republican Pat Toomey, a former congressman who once headed the anti-tax Club for Growth, and Sestak, who defeated Sen. Arlen Specter, a former Republican who switched parties to run in the May 18 Democratic primary.

A recent poll showed Toomey with a clear advantage among independent voters, and the same Quinnipiac University survey showed Obama’s approval under 50 percent in the state. The president has lost considerable ground among Pennsylvania independents.

In 2006 and 2008, independents frustrated with then-President George W. Bush and the war in Iraq pushed Democrats to House and Senate wins across the country. Among the winners was a retired admiral and political novice named Sestak who captured a district that encompasses the one-time factory town of Conshohocken and the wealthy enclaves of the Main Line. This year, voters unaligned with a political party are disgruntled with the direction of the country, the Democratic-controlled Congress and Obama — and appear poised to punish the party in power.

Nationwide, a recent Pew Research Center survey showed Republicans with an edge over Democrats — 44 percent to 36 percent — among independents. At this point in 2006, independents backed Democrats 47 percent to 32 percent.

With independents so critical to victory, each Senate candidate is casting the other as an extreme ideologue out-of-step with voters on economic issues.

“Pat Toomey, someone I like, will always side with Wall Street and big oil … but I’ll stand up and fight for the working family and what they need,” says Sestak, painting Toomey as far too conservative for the state. Sestak regularly hammers the former Republican congressman on his support for drilling in Lake Erie and his House votes on measures that included tax breaks for corporations.

Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, chairman of the Senate committee charged with electing Democrats, tags Toomey as “a former Wall Street executive who made his money trading derivatives” after a House stint in which he “not only racked up an extreme right-wing voting record, but he also championed freewheeling Wall Street practices.”

Toomey, in turn, assails Sestak for voting for the Wall Street bailout, the economic stimulus, the health care law and cap-and-trade legislation that critics deride as an energy tax.

“That’s liberal,” says Toomey. “He is in lockstep with Nancy Pelosi and her agenda.”

Republicans frequently link Sestak with the House speaker from San Francisco and argue that Sestak does nothing more than toe the Democratic line. Says Texas Sen. John Cornyn, chairman of the National Senatorial Campaign Committee: “If voters give Sestak a promotion this November, they can expect more of the same from the Washington Democrats’ tax-and-spend agenda — lost jobs, higher taxes and bigger government.”

Freed from a GOP primary this year, Toomey has amassed far more money. He raised $3.1 million in the most recent fundraising quarter and ended with $4.65 million available. He has four offices open, is running TV ads and is getting help from deep-pocketed groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Sestak emerged from his Democratic primary with Specter all but broke; he raised $1.95 million last quarter and had about $2 million on hand. He has yet to run TV ads but has 10 campaign offices.

Three months out, polls show the Senate race a dead heat.

Stephen Bouikidis, a founder of the grass-roots organization Independent Pennsylvanians, says it’s unfulfilled promises of bipartisanship that influence the state’s 1 million independents. “We are very interested in candidates who want to reform. But what we won’t respond to is partisanship,” he says.

If independents side with Republicans this fall in Pennsylvania, Democrats could lose both a Senate seat and a governorship in an important presidential state two years before Obama is expected to seek re-election.

There’s little disagreement over what’s on the minds of the state’s electorate, independents included.

“They want to see government get their fiscal house in order,” says Dan Onorato, the chief executive of Allegheny County and the Democrat running for governor. And his GOP opponent, Attorney General Tom Corbett, says: “They’re concerned about taxes, they’re concerned about spending.”

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press

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23 Responses to Democrats can’t win without independent voters

  1. doggie daddy

    July 19, 2010 at 7:32 am

    In 2007/2008 Independents – were – nothing more than republicans who were too embarrassed to admit their affiliation. Progressives were and for all anyone knows – young, college age or early 20 years old who actually fell for the crap BHO spewed.
    And tried and true Democrats, unless we see anything that actually helps the middle-class/working-class of this country, will not vote.

    That ‘anything’s better than a republican’ doesn’t wash. We just won’t vote and if the dummies who the president surrounds himself with don’t realize it, then we’ll have a return of the same nonsense that got this country into the mess it’s already in.

    We expected, for lack of a more profound explanation, a daddy type. Someone to take the lead and be the anti-Bush. Someone to overturn and correct all the evils of the previous administration, but what we got was a lump of a man to overwhelmed in his own hype and overcome with his place in the history books. That is all. Move along. Next.

    • AustinRanter - AKA Gregg

      July 19, 2010 at 6:03 pm

      “In 2007/2008 Independents – were – nothing more than republicans who were too embarrassed to admit their affiliation.” ~ Doggie Daddy

      DD, I agree.

    • paulb6

      July 21, 2010 at 5:06 am

      You wanted a “daddy type”, sounds like a lack of maturity to me. Don’t bother to vote as you don’t understand when someone outright lies to get in office and then refuses to enforce immigration laws that allow us to be over run by lawless people. When you grow up you will realize thinking people vote for honesty and integrity not the same old party line.

  2. griff

    July 19, 2010 at 9:17 am

    No one can win without the “independent” vote.

    Consider that in 1992, Ross Perot won almost twenty percent of the vote – mostly true independent voters.

    I would say approximately forty percent of voters are hardcore partisans for either party, roughly twenty percent for each faction.

    That leaves about forty percent of voters being swing vote “independents,” meaning they aren’t true independents but merely swing their votes from one party to another as the winds change.

    When it comes to blaming a certain part of the electorate for the mess we’re in, look no further than the so-called “independents.” They would be the main reason for the continued domination of the two major parties. Without them the Dems and Repubs wouldn’t stand a chance.

    • Guardhouse lawyer

      July 19, 2010 at 9:36 am

      “Without them the Dems and Repubs wouldn’t stand a chance.”

      If the indies stayed home on election day the Dems and Reps would have the same chance they have now. It would be the far left vs the far right, rather than having to move their positions toward the center to capture the indie vote.

      • griff

        July 19, 2010 at 9:48 am

        You mean move their rhetoric to the center, like they always do? Their positions once in office don’t come any where close to resembling their rhetoric.

        “Rhetoric is the art of ruling the minds of men.” – Plato

        I’m not suggesting the indies stay home, but vote for some one else…say…an independent?

        • History Guy

          July 20, 2010 at 11:28 am

          Have you ever seen what it takes to run as an independent? Both parties have spent years changing the rules to make independent and 3rd party runs for office almost impossible.
          The game is rigged, the cards are marked and both parties work for the dealer.

  3. NC-Tom

    July 19, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    Sooooo….. People think things aren’t going well now so we should vote in the Republicans. But before that, things weren’t going well with the Republicans, so we voted in the Democrats, who were voted in because what the bad things the Republicans did, and they were voted in because of the bad things the Dems before them…

    Anybody else see a pattern here? And we still get excited about this two party B.S. What a sad sick joke politics are in this country.

    • griff

      July 19, 2010 at 10:27 pm

      And the cycle continues…

  4. woody188

    July 19, 2010 at 11:11 pm

    Democrats and Republicans can’t win without Independents and Independents can’t win by voting Democrat or Republican. Tell your friends, if you consider yourself Independent, vote for an Independent.

    Voting for the lesser of two evils is still a vote for evil. Break the cycle!

    • griff

      July 19, 2010 at 11:27 pm

      “To prefer evil to good is not in human nature; and when a man is compelled to choose one of two evils, no one will choose the greater when he might have the less.” – Plato

      And so is the basis for our political system as it is today.

      Oh what the hell, I’ll throw out one of my favorites from Socrates too..

      “If all misfortunes were laid in one common heap whence everyone must take an equal portion, most people would be contented to take their own and depart.”

  5. AustinRanter - AKA Gregg

    July 22, 2010 at 8:19 pm

    The American people will lose no matter who the independents vote for.

    Hmmmm, I guess the same will go for whoever the Repubs and Dems voter for as well. The American people will again lose.

    We’re damned if we do…and damned if we do! Oh, and damned if we do!

  6. eve

    July 25, 2010 at 11:20 pm

    Wings of the same evil vulture. A rigged game indeed and the citizens are always the loser.

    Why it is so unfathomable to most Americans that both parties are members of the same elite club?

    The “vote the bastards out” game is getting a little old/tired don’t you think?
    The old bastard is replaced by the new bastard who is then replaced by the even newer bastard?

    Could it be the decision power is actually originating from somewhere else?
    Can you say b-a-n-k-e-r? I knew you could.

    The elite bankers/Wall St./Fed are running this country into the ground and it seems like it’s on purpose. Incompetence is a cheap cover for intention/agenda.
    We do not control our currency.

    Now … how to change it?
    Answer that question and we’re starting to get the ball rolling.

    November is coming.
    All sitting incumbents must go.

    • Carl Nemo

      July 26, 2010 at 12:58 am

      Hi Eve,

      I always make an extra effort to read your posts. It’s nice to have a woman posting to this site, especially one that has seemingly a sense of national preservation vs. the bilge rats, aka as ‘bankers’ being directly linked to our national travails.

      A spot-on incisive indictment…! : |

      ***

      ” All sitting incumbents must go” …should become our national mantra for this upcoming election

      ***

      Carl Nemo **==

      • Guardhouse lawyer

        July 26, 2010 at 4:56 am

        Let’s start with Ron Paul!

        • griff

          July 26, 2010 at 8:24 am

          He’s about the only one that should stay. But of course that wouldn’t sit well with a state worshipper such as yourself.

          If you have the balls, read his farewell speech from 1984 and see how much of it still rings true…Politics or principle?

          • Guardhouse lawyer

            July 26, 2010 at 1:30 pm

            Ah, some animals are more equal than others. I suspected that would be the case. Just wanted to see whose knee jerked unmercifully when the stimulus was no more than a leg pulling.

            I hope that all the other incumbents except my Senators and Congressman are thrown out. Then my guys go to the top of the seniority heap and can advance agendas that benefit me rather than the people who voted without thinking to turn the other rascals out.

            This works for me really well. You guys keep up the good work out there and be sure and throw away all of the power you have in the system.

            And while you are at it insist on term limits pledges from those for whom you vote. Throw away as much power and clout as you can, which means I and others like me will have more.

            This is a win-win situation. You get satisfaction and the rest of us get our agendas met.

  7. Carl Nemo

    July 26, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    “Then my guys go to the top of the seniority heap and can advance agendas that benefit me rather than the people who voted without thinking to turn the other rascals out.” …extract from reply

    It’s precisely this type of mindset GHL that’s gotten our country into the sorry fix that we must now all suffer; ie., a “what’s in it for me” mentality found throughout Mayberry, USA relative to their reps in Congress. Those ‘pulled pork sandwiches’ courtesy of the U.S. Treasury “deli” shor taste good. You’ll feel both filled and fulfilled because “your guys” are now slicin’ the pork for your personal serving… / : |

    Carl Nemo **==

    • Guardhouse lawyer

      July 26, 2010 at 4:06 pm

      Yep. Couldn’t agree more.

    • griff

      July 26, 2010 at 5:01 pm

      Hey Carl, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t grow it a brain.

      • Guardhouse lawyer

        July 26, 2010 at 7:30 pm

        I love you too, Griff. But I don’t say sh*tty things about you.

        • griff

          July 26, 2010 at 9:01 pm

          No you only imply them through association, whether real or imagined. I prefer a more honest and straightforward approach. That way there’s no guessing.

  8. eve

    July 26, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    Carl, I read your posts as well. Sensible and honest.

    Americans have been duped time and time again and yet they are more than happily arrogant (and self righteous) in their ignorance.

    It doesn’t bode well for “the Republic.”