The Missing Middle

Jon Rauch has a fascinating new piece up, analyzing the fate of Independent voters over the past few decades. There are fewer genuine independents than you might think - most are weak partisans of either side. Republicans have become the more ideological party, with the clearer brand and higher loyalty, even though their numbers are not, in fact, that impressive. Independents have only themselves to blame for declining influence, because they are staying home on voting day more and more (hence the Rove strategy). But a real centrist candidate emerged, who could galvanize the center from a Democratic label, then the gains might be huge (think what Perot did). Independents have become far more hostile to the Republicans in their Bush-theocon incarnation, making a centrist campaign more plausible. If Hillary wins the Democratic nomination, she could kill off this Democratic opportunity. If McCain ran as an independent, all bets are off.