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Saturday, April 10, 2004

Teixeira: Combine New and Old to Win Ohio

Posted by DavidNYC

Democratic uber-guru Ruy Teixeira has a piece in The Gadflyer describing what he calls "Newer Democrats," who, he says, "view th[e] argument between New and Old Democrats as old hat and fundamentally unproductive. Their pragmatic concern is to toughen up the party to beat George Bush and take back Congress; any tool from the Democratic toolbox that works, be it New, Old or in between should be employed toward that end." I couldn't agree more.

Teixeira then uses Ohio as an example of how we can use our various Democratic tools to bring us to victory. I ordinarily shy away from long excerpts (human nature just causes our eyes to gloss over big block quotes), but his analysis is really worth a read:

Take Ohio, perhaps the key swing state for the Democrats in 2004. Al Gore lost Ohio's 21 electoral votes by less than four percentage points in 2000, and the combined Gore-Nader vote ran only two percent behind the combined Bush-Buchanan vote.

The economic basis for overtaking the GOP should be there for Democrats in 2004. Heavily unionized Ohio (37 percent of voters are in union households, including 35 percent of white voters) has lost one-sixth of its manufacturing jobs since Bush took office, including a stunning 81,000 since November 2001, the official beginning of the current economic recovery. Can Democrats win this state without a strong populist critique of the Bush administration's economic record? I doubt it.

On the other hand, Ohio, according to a recent Pew Research Center report, is still one of the more traditional states in the country on social issues. And about half of white voters there own a gun and tend to be suspicious of Democrats' views on gun control. That means the kind of "values centrism" advocated by New Democrats also has a place in the campaign toolbox in Ohio. Sure, Democrats have to support bedrock principles like a woman's right to choose, but, in a state like Ohio, that support has to be framed in moral terms these voters can understand ("safe, legal and rare") and combined with moderate stances on issues like gun control (think "gun safety").

This pragmatic, Newer Democrat approach has the best chance of moving Ohio's independent voters ��� a volatile mix of culturally conservative white working class voters and more moderate suburban professionals ��� back into the Democratic column in 2004. Exit poll data show that in 1996 and 2000, Democratic and Republican identifiers were about equally polarized toward their respective presidential candidates. But independents swung from a seven-point advantage for the Democrats in 1996 to a 16-point disadvantage in 2000. Move that margin back toward 1996 territory (heck, even the break-even point) and Democrats have the state.

And here's the good news: The latest Ohio poll has Sen. John Kerry beating Bush by 13 points among independents. If Kerry's campaign stays the Newer Democrat course, his chances of taking that state should be excellent.

Overall, I very much agree with this take. But while I think we can definitely woo independents back to our fold, I think Teixeira may be reading a little too much into those poll numbers. I assume that he's talking about the most recent Ohio Poll (PDF), which indeed gives Kerry a 37-24 lead over Bush. However, the poll (on page 5) specifically notes that there were under 75 respondents in the "Independent" category, and that "additional caution should be taken when interpreting the findings of this subgroup." So until we have better numbers, I'm going to remain, well, cautious on this front.

Posted at 03:15 AM in Ohio | Technorati