By turning away from independents and appealing to his base, the president seems to be following the same playbook laid out by Karl Rove eight years ago
A plethora of articles in recent days have noted President Obama's sudden shift in emphasis back to his party's liberal base, following his largely unrewarded dalliance with independents. What has gone unnoticed, however, is that this move could mimic the strategy that Karl Rove pursued in President Bush's 2004 reelection campaign. When faced with a bloc of independent voters who viewed Bush with skepticism, the campaign began focusing more on expanding its base than on throwing huge amounts of resources at independent and undecided voters.
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Knowing that undecided voters typically break away from well-known and well-defined incumbents, the Bush-Cheney campaign opted to pursue an unprecedented strategy. Rove and his team identified precincts, counties, and other political subdivisions that could be relied upon to deliver high percentages of support to the president but that also had high numbers of undependable voters--that is, people who couldn't be counted on to go to the polls.
A precinct might be expected to give Bush or any Republican at least 60 percent of the vote, for example, but only 300 of the 500 registered voters in that precinct usually voted in presidential elections. If the campaign could ramp up the anticipated turnout from 300 to 400 or more by pouring in money for data-mining and targeted communications--zeroing in on those with hunting licenses, Field & Stream subscriptions, and minivans, as opposed to Volvo owners and PETA contributors--it could maximize its votes on Election Day. Maybe this strategy won the election, maybe not. We'll never know, but it seemed to work very effectively.