Democratic and Republican presidential candidates face a choice: They can appeal to the broadest possible audience or pander to their most devoted partisans. Most will choose option No. 2, because it's the easiest and clearest route to the presidency.
But it's not the right path.
The New York Times reported Sunday that Hillary Rodham Clinton "appears to be dispensing with the nationwide electoral strategy that won her husband two terms in the White House and brought white working-class voters and great stretches of what is now red-state America back to Democrats."
Instead, she is poised to retrace Barack Obama's far narrower path to the presidency: a campaign focused more on mobilizing supporters in the Great Lakes states and in parts of the West and South than on persuading undecided voters.
Mrs. Clinton's aides say it is the only way to win in an era of heightened polarization, when a declining pool of voters is truly up for grabs. Her liberal policy positions, they say, will fire up Democrats, a less difficult task than trying to win over independents in more hostile territory—even though a broader strategy could help lift the party with her.
Notice the contradiction: Clinton's aides say their approach is "the only way to win" and yet they acknowledge that persuading independents isn't impossible; it's just more difficult.
Amid a wave of dissatisfaction with the U.S. political system, the percentage of self-identified independents is at the highest level in decades, far exceeding support given to either the GOP or Democratic Party. The approval rating for both parties is at a record low. A plurality of voters calls themselves moderate—38 percent, compared with 33 percent who identify as conservatives and just 26 percent who say they're liberal.