No, no, no! Think about us swing voters, always…

Think SWING.

Think SWING.

I’m cleaning up my In box, and I run across one of these daily emails I get from David Leonhardt at the NYT, and he’s babbling incoherently:

Elizabeth Warren and Jay Inslee are running. Amy Klobuchar is “getting close to a decision.” Joe Biden, Sherrod Brown and a bunch of other potential Democratic presidential candidates may also announce their plans soon.

So how should a Democratic voter — or, for that matter, campaign aide or donor — choose among these candidates? I have two pieces of advice.

First, think for yourself. Don’t try to figure out what kind of candidate some other hypothetical voter — a swing voter, say — is likely to want. Think about which candidate excites you….

No, no, no, a thousand times no! Democrats going with what excites them is what gets you an Elizabeth Warren or a Bernie or somebody else that those of us in the middle would never choose to vote for. And refusing to back somebody that swing voters might like is what gave us Donald Trump.

This is a national crisis, and getting Trump out of office is far too important for anyone — Democrats, Republicans, Whigs or what have you — to go diving into their belly buttons and backing someone who tickles their personal fancies.

It’s time to think about the country. That, of course, means thinking about candidates that someone like me might get behind.

If you need any help or guidance with that, I’m right here…

27 thoughts on “No, no, no! Think about us swing voters, always…

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    OK, I’m exaggerating a bit…

    It’s not all about what I, Brad Warthen, want. Although you could do worse…

    I just want there to be somebody that a comfortable majority can feel OK about, and the rest of the country at least not have a conniption over. And we’re not going to get there by the partisans nominating people they get “excited” over. (When partisans get excited, it’s usually time to head for the exits.)

    We need a rest from this business of electing someone with a majority (or worse, plurality) plus one, and thoroughly ticking off the other 49-point-something percent of the country, so that all they can think about for the next four years is the NEXT election, when maybe THEY can cram through THEIR guy with 50-plus-one, and make the OTHER half miserable…

    I think we’ve all had enough of that. The sensible people have, anyway…

  2. Doug Ross

    No, “I” am the swing voter people Democrats should try to court. I’ll go for single payer, legal pot, funding for roads… and I know many of you Democrats used to be against war. Get back to that, too. All I ask in return is a simplified tax code, a balanced budget, and term limits (all very sensible ideas).

    But if you support “free” college or forgiving student loans for anything but fly-by-night scam universities, or if you say the words “white privilege”, that’s a deal breaker…

  3. bud

    Brad you are really showing your age here. There just really aren’t very many actual swing voters anymore. The Republicans have made sure of that. Yes I blame the Republicans because THEY are the problem. NOT, repeat, NOT the Democrats. The Democratic Party is our only hope. And to get a Democrat elected we need someone who can fire up Democrats. So frankly I don’t give a damn about what the false equivalency crowd wants. THEY are part of the problem. THEY helped give us Donald Trump. Right now I’m leaning toward Beto O’Rourke. He puts Texas in play. Plus, he has charisma and crowd appeal. He’s basically right on the issues. Does he perfectly represent everything I want in a candidate? Of course not. No one does. Elizabeth Warren probably comes closest. But she is probably too easy of a target.

    But let me be very clear about one thing. I absolutely will get behind the Democratic nominee. Even if it’s Michael Avenatti. I really don’t much care for Avenatti. But he is far superior to anyone the Republicans might nominate, especially Trump. Elections are now about parties, not individuals. Issues matter and the only way to begin to pass sensible legislation and get reasonable court justices is to have a team to support. So I implore everyone to never, ever vote for a Republican. Vote third party or stay at home if the Democrat is someone you just can’t support. But never, never, never vote Republican. At least not until they stop acting like reactionary bullies. People like Brad who live in the past will say otherwise but they are WRONG! Hopefully one day we can get back to voting for the person rather than the party. But that day is most assuredly not now.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      You have it backwards, Bud. I’m the man of the future.

      These two parties, as constituted, are not long for this world. They are both SO far from what they were. And they’re out of control.

      Were the parties healthy, Bernie Sanders wouldn’t have posed such a threat to Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump would never, ever have captured the Republican nomination.

      And as for this statement: “There just really aren’t very many actual swing voters anymore.”…

      You should Google “decline of political parties,” and read some of what you find.

      You’re a number guy. Look at these numbers over time from Gallup. The percentage identifying as “independent” has almost always been greater than the number identifying with either one party or the other. For instance, on the last poll — taken in December, 26 percent saw themselves as Republicans and 32 percent as Democrats. But 39 percent of us were independents. Within the past year, that number has been as high as 46 percent.

      We are not of the past. We are your future. And you’d better figure out how to appeal to us, if you want to win elections…

      1. bud

        You’re missing the point. Being a swing voter is different from being an independent. Most independents fall into the camp of hating Trump or loving him. The Democrats need to find someone who is likeable, charismatic and without excessive baggage. Hillary was not that person. So many Democrats stayed home in ’16. It’s much more important to fire up the base than to appeal to the tiny number of actual swing voters.

        But perhaps we’re both wrong in one way. It may not matter much who the Democrats pick if the economy collapses. I suspect a recession is just around the corner. There are just too many leading indicators suggesting such. The world economy in general is slowing down. Debt, especially student loan and credit card debt, is soaring. As interest rates go up that translates into lower family income. Gas prices are very low. That cannot last. Oil companies cannot continue large scale fracking with WTI prices in the $40s/barrel. And once gas prices go up family income will conversely drop. The government shutdown, if it continues, will thrust many families into financial distress. Corporate profits are sluggish.

        On the other hand. If the economy somehow manages to continue to grow then Trump will be tough to beat regardless of the candidate. Incumbents benefit from a strong economy regardless of how bizarre that incumbent is. George W in ’04, perhaps even more unlikeable than Trump, proves that. I suggest it’s more about the economy than the Dem choice. Time will tell.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          “Being a swing voter is different from being an independent.”

          Yes, it is, and I apologize for using them interchangeably. Lazy of me. An independent is someone who identifies with neither party. A swing voter is someone who might vote either way. But there’s a great deal of overlap between them.

          I am both, so to me it feels like the same thing.

          Then of course there’s “centrist,” an inadequate word to which I answer as well — even though I hold positions considered well to the left, and others considered well to the right.

          As for this: “It’s much more important to fire up the base than to appeal to the tiny number of actual swing voters…”

          Both are important, and very difficult to achieve at the same time. If you pander to the base to the extent of alienating independents, you’re lost.

          The central challenge of the Smith campaign was always, from the beginning, to keep Democrats motivated to turn out for us while winning a sufficient number of independents (and some Republicans as well). It was always a doable thing, and we didn’t have to strain. That’s who James is — a genuine Democrat who appeals across the spectrum as well.

          But we didn’t succeed, probably because we didn’t reach enough of the independents and persuadable Republicans. If we had, if they’d honestly compared James and Henry rather than just picking the R, we’d have won….

          1. Doug Ross

            “But we didn’t succeed, probably because we didn’t reach enough of the independents and persuadable Republicans. ”

            The campaign didn’t offer anything of interest to either group. Making Medicaid the primary issue was a huge mistake. If you aren’t one of the people directly affected by that issue (and don’t say we ALL are), it doesn’t resonate. The rest of the campaign was Democratic boilerplate.

            You know what actually would have drawn crossover voters? Making his campaign issue of “Replacing a Culture of Corruption with a Culture of Service” the centerpiece by, you know, actually TALKING about the corruption that he apparently was aware of going on around him for so long but never doing anything about it. The website mentions a failed bill he tried to pass in 2012 as if that was an accomplishment. What was he doing during the past six years when Harrell, Quinn, Courson, et al were committing actual crimes?

            The reality is that Smith had no track record for getting anything significant done while in office so why would independents and Republicans think he’d have the ability to convince a State House dominated by Republicans to do anything?

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Again, Doug, there’s nothing I can say to the ways you choose to perceive things.

              You constantly hammer on the Medicaid thing (which was EXTREMELY important to the base, and if you’ll recall, the comment you’re reacting to was about both motivating the base and reaching out beyond it), as though that was our only message.

              Which is wasn’t — something I know more about than you do because I was spending my days and nights pumping out the messages.

              … a truth which you then acknowledge by mentioning another of our messages — the one about opposing the culture of corruption.

              Frankly, as I look back on our messages, I don’t think we hit Medicaid appreciably harder than we did, say, job-killing tariffs or Henry being in the pocket of the big utilities (which, you know, speaks to the corruption thing).

              The tariffs, and the threat they posed to BMW in the Upstate and Volvo in the Lowcountry, spoke to core traditional Republican concerns. We spent a lot of time in the Upstate, and we heard a lot about this, and Henry was on the wrong side of the issue, and we made sure people knew it — to the extent that we had the resources to pump out the message.

              Of course, our biggest appeal to conservative SC was James’ extraordinary (I know of no one else with a story like it) record of military service. That was huge, to the extent we were able to get people to sit still and hear the story. It said James is no Nancy Pelosi-loving San Francisco leftist; he values Duty and Honor and Country even more than I do.

              But I know you’ll scoff at that.

              And I know that no matter what I say, based in my deep experience of the matter, you’ll sneer at it and remain convinced that if only you’d been in charge of our campaign, we’d have won.

              You’re not alone, though. Everywhere I go, I get such belated “expert” advice. One gets tired of people being so generous with their wisdom after awhile…

              1. Doug Ross

                My advice wasn’t belated.. I was telling you the same thing very shortly after you joined the campaign.

                You just don’t get it. You decide you are right and there is no evidence or opinion that will convince you otherwise. Medicaid expansion IS NOT A CONCERN OF THE BASE. It isn’t. The Democrats might be for it but it isn’t driving anyone to the polls in any significant numbers.

                Job killing tariffs — where were they in November.? It was all speculation… and then the Smith campaign overplayed the issue in Fairfield County at that small manufacturers as a major event — when it turned out to be zilch — because Henry called in some favors with Trump.

                You’ll never admit the campaign made actual strategic and tactical mistakes. The results show different. Smith didn’t move the needle at all despite having the best chance in 20 years for a Democrat to win.

                I’d love the opportunity to advise the next Democrat running for governor. At least bring something new to the table…

                1. bud

                  Medicaid expansion IS NOT A CONCERN OF THE BASE. It isn’t.

                  Off course it is. That’s just ridiculous Doug. But the base wasn’t enough.

                2. Doug Ross

                  bud – would you have voted for Smith if he had said nothing about Medicaid? would you have voted for him had he said he would NOT expand Medicaid.?

                  Yes and yes.

                  But would Smith have received MORE Republican votes had he not mentioned it or said he wouldn’t vote for it?

                  Yes. And he wouldn’t have lost a single Democrat.

                  Voters care about the economy and jobs first and foremost at the state level. I believe they also care when politicians are corrupt — and Smith just wouldn’t get on that bandwagon because of his close ties to many of the guilty parties.

                3. bud

                  Would I have voted for Smith if had come out AGAINST Medicaid expansion? Of corse not. I would not have voted at all.

              2. bud

                Just wasn’t all that important. But the biggest problem with Smith was lack of charisma. He was not Beto O’Rourke. Yes Beto lost but he did a damn amazing job in Texas losing by a mere 2%.

                1. Doug Ross

                  Exactly. And spending 90% of his campaign time next to Mandy – who IS charismatic and has a good shot at winning in 2022 – only served to make that more obvious.

              3. Mr. Smith

                “our biggest appeal to conservative SC was James’ extraordinary … record of military service. That was huge, to the extent we were able to get people to sit still and hear the story.”

                In other words, appeal to identity politics, to a specific tribal identity.
                Appeal to: “He’s one of ‘us’ because he served in the military.”

                1. bud

                  Yeh, the military stuff was ok to mention. But the constant, in your face smothering of that really was a turn off.

          1. bud

            I’ve seen those numbers too. My theory is that many of those were angry Bernie voters. Bernie would have likely won the election since he resonated more with populist type voters that just did not like Hillary.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Don’t get me started on angry Bernie voters!

              Trying to appeal to the base AND independents and Republicans at the same time is a tricky proposition at the best of times. Even when you’ve got a candidate like James — and Mandy — for whom that’s a comfortable thing. Both are real Democrats who nevertheless get along great with Republicans and share a lot of values with them. The challenge for us was making sure everyone knew it.

              But the Bernie people tried hard to make that impossible.

              The RGA did its misleading best to paint James as Bernie himself. Which was ridiculous. But when we’d point out how ridiculous that was, the Bernie folks would get upset and demand some love. And of course, in this age of social media, they’d do so quite publicly. And anything we did to calm them of course fed into the RGA’s false narrative….

                1. Doug Ross

                  When you eventually get single payer, you can thank him and not Hillary or Obama.

                  Well, I guess you could thank Obama for creating such a convoluted mess that single payer became the only alternative.

                2. bud

                  Huh??? Not sure what you have against Bernie but you are painting with much too broad a brush. He was quite correct on most issues. I liked and voted for Bernie and had not trouble enthusiastically voted for Hillary. Granted there were some who were angry with the way the mainstream Democratic party treated them. And with some justification. And yes a few were angry enough to stay home or even voted Trump. But 90% of his supporters voted with Hillary.

              1. Doug Ross

                The vast majority of voters are not on social media and of those that are,, the vast majority of them weren’t following James Smith on Twitter. The campaign account had only 5-6K followers… many of those are just dummy accounts based on a quick scan. ,. Unless you think Sara Betty (@sarabetty14) from Wisconsin was a force in driving voters in SC. “I am Betty. .and I am single searching for the right man hobbies are singing and playing tennis”

                1. Doug Ross

                  Scrolling thru the list of the campaign twitter account followers makes me think there MIGHT be less than 1000 actual humans who voted in SC.

                  Way too much time is expended on social media as a distribution platform for campaigns. That;s why I find all the Trump was helped by Russian hackers excuses so laughable. It’s a bunch of phony accounts sending out junk to a very, very, very small number of people.

                2. Brad Warthen Post author

                  The MSM were following our social media, so our saturation posting had an effect I thought was important… in an era in which reporters don’t cover campaigns up close and personal, they at least had the opportunity to see what we were doing. Not that they did much with it.

                  As I’ve said in the past, there was a time when reporters really covered campaigns. We were embedded. We went everywhere the candidates went. Frequently we rode with them in their cars, or on campaign planes (which were essential for campaigning in Tennessee, where I cut my teeth as a political writer). We ate with them. We had down time with them in which to get to know them and their staff people and supporters and see them at their best and worst.

                  But no more. They might go with you occasionally for a day, or part of a day. But most of the time you only see them for an arranged interview, or at a staged presser.

                  Mind you, I’m not blaming them for this. They don’t have the manpower, and the few people they have don’t have the time. The reporters and editors are doing their best, but it’s still frustrating.

                  Especially toward the end of the campaign, I did everything I could to increase those interactions. One thing I did was campaign hard within the campaign to do something a lot of staff were uncomfortable with — letting press in to fund-raisers. Early on, we missed a couple of great opportunities for fund-raiser coverage that would have really made us look good. (James and Mandy were with me on letting in the reporters, so eventually I won that argument…)

                  I harassed reporters constantly during that last week to get them to ride on the bus with us. We had that one good day, the first day, with reporters (and a photographer) from The State and the Post and Courier, but after that all I could get was the occasional interview in or in front of the RV.

                  Before that week, the only way they could see how hard James and Mandy were running — while Henry was doing basically nothing in public — was to pump it our on social media, which reporters were monitoring.

                  But that — the depiction of the ACTUAL CAMPAIGN, as it was happening — almost never made it into coverage. Lot of stuff about ads and which 2020 candidates were coming to SC (which ranks as possibly the least relevant thing I was ever asked about) — stuff they could get over the phone — and little of our candidates going out and interacting with actual voters. Very little real life.

                  I got really frustrated about that. One day, I put out a post challenging, DARING the media to come out and cover us, and failing that to at least use some of the stuff we were posting for them. I kept it light and friendly, but it drew a critical Tweet from an editor, and I got one of my few reprimands from James because it made us look bad — desperate, you might say.

                  Well I WAS desperate for coverage at that point, and willing to try anything, even if it made me look foolish — which it did.

                  But I didn’t mean to make James look foolish.

                  That’s the problem with being a spokesman. You can’t just make mistakes and only hurt yourself. So I took down that release, and ditched the social media posts promoting it. I couldn’t do much about the fact that I’d emailed it to every journalist in the state, but I put the toothpaste back in the tube as well as I could. And moved on….

  4. Karen Pearson

    Make sure swing voters can back your choice. Are you saying swing voters chose Trump over Clinton?? They may have stayed home (and thus effectively voted for their worst nightmare), but Trump is not someone a swing voter, who tend to be centrist, would vote for.


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