Democrats – and political pundits — are buzzing that medical marijuana initiatives on midterm ballots may give the party a boost.
Democrats favor pot legalization by a 34-point margin, while Republicans oppose it by 23 points, according to an NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll, which also notes that Americans aged 18 to 34 favor legal marijuana by a whopping 49-point margin
If the issue drives young voter turnout, as expected, it could alter the political landscape, says Susan MacManus, a political scientist at the University of South Florida.
"Normally in a midterm election or non-presidential year, young voter turnout really drops. So for Democrats to have more young voters show up at the polls is a positive," MacManus told a Florida ABC affiliate
The Huffington Post dedicated a column to it this week, citing a recent Quinnipiac poll showing Colorado Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper’s strong approval ratings and comfortable lead over Republican challengers. Colorado last month became the first state to legalize recreational marijuana.
After the Denver Post published
a story on the poll results, NBC News political correspondent Chuck Todd weighed in.
Businessweek’s Joshua Green responded
to Todd’s tweet, pointing out that the theory has been bandied about for a while. Green referred a November story he wrote on the subject, where Democratic political consultant Jim Merlino opined about how marijuana might help Democrats on the ticket.
“Having marijuana on the ballot would activate a group of voters who don’t usually participate in elections—mainly younger voters who, perhaps by dint of their fondness for pot, are not the most civically engaged,” Merlino said.
Young voters, he pointed out, overwhelmingly favor Democrats. Lured to the polls by the chance to vote for weed, these youngsters would presumably pull the lever for the Democratic ticket while they were there. I
In a sense, this is the same dynamic Karl Rove and Republicans created in 2004 by placing anti-gay-marriage initiatives on state ballots across the country—the idea being that evangelicals who weren’t wild about George W. Bush would show up to “protect traditional marriage” and vote for Bush while they were there.
Twenty states allow medical marijuana and a host of others are debating the issue, notes Reuters
The ballot proposal in Florida “is so popular it could help Democrats unseat the state's Republican Governor, Rick Scott, who is up for re-election in November,” Reuters reports.
As many as 70 percent of registered Republicans in the Sunshine State favor medical marijuana, according to a November Quinnipiac poll. Even more Democrats – 87 percent – are in favor, while 88 percent of independents support the issue.
Republican political consultant Rick Wilson told Reuters the GOP “should get out in front of a rapidly evolving change in public attitudes toward the drug."
"Americans have sort of made up their minds about a certain amount of marijuana in society," said Tallahassee-based Wilson, citing recent votes in Colorado and Washington state.”
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