Independent voters — an increasingly formidable force
in politics over the past several years — will be even more crucial in the 2014 midterm elections, according to Republican policy advisor Karl Rove.
And that’s good news for Republicans, Rove wrote in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal Wednesday.
"The party that winds independents wins Congress," the former deputy chief of staff predicted, adding independents "look more like Republicans than Democrats … and are therefore more ‘gettable’ by GOP candidates."
"This could be a Republican year if the GOP understands how important independents are to deciding elections and cultivates them," he urged. "Criticizing Democrats who have loyally backed Mr. Obama is part of what's needed. But criticism comes naturally and easily. A comprehensive agenda focused on the economy, spending, deficits, health care and energy is more difficult. And more important."
The history of independents' sway dates back to 2006, Rove wrote, noting Democrats took control of the House by winning those voters 57 percent to 39 percent. And they kept control two years later, he said, by carrying independents 51 percent to 43 percent.
In 2010, he added, the GOP won back the House with a sweep of independents – 56 percent to 37 percent – and held onto the majority in 2012 by taking independents 51 percent to 44 percent.
Back then, Rove said, independents represented between 34-40 percent of the electorate.
They have grown, a Gallup poll
last week showed.
In 2012, 42 percent of the electorate identified themselves as independent; in 2012, 40 percent did, and in 2008, 36 percent identified that way, the poll found. But the percentage of voters who identify with the GOP was the lowest since 1983—at 25 percent, a drop of three points from 2012.
"While President Obama's approval rating took a dive last year, the GOP didn't gain as much of an advantage as it might have," Rove wrote. "Independents strongly disapproved of last October's government shutdown and blamed Republicans.
"The more dysfunctional Washington appears, the more independents blame everyone."
But he said "strengthening their House majority and taking control of the Senate will require Republicans to present a constructive conservative agenda on big issues that win over independents."
A Jan. 7 Quinnipiac University poll
showed just what those big issues were, Rove noted.
Only 35 percent approved of Obama’s job performance; more than 50 percent of them don’t believe he’s honest and trustworthy; only 36 percent were happy with Obama’s handling of the economy; and 66 percent disapproved of his handling of the federal budget. On Obamacare, independents gave Obama only a 31 percent approval.
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