Tuesday 23 January 2018

Robert Schmuhl: We have to ask the question - did Obama really reach out enough?

IN South Bend, Indiana, as the American presidential campaign careers to its conclusion, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney confront a choice. Is there more potential for victory in appealing to the most loyal Democrats and Republicans -- the so-called bases of the two parties -- or is success more possible by trying to capture the support of independents, the swing voters who often decide US elections?

The most recent Washington Post/ABC News poll reveals that among registered voters, 36pc identify themselves as independent, with 34pc Democratic and 25pc Republican. Since January, these numbers have fluctuated modestly, but at least a third of the people surveyed 10 different times count themselves as independent.

This slice of the electorate deserves attention not only for its size, but also for its place in American politics today. At a time of partisanship on steroids and pronounced polarisation, the independent, who's usually centrist or moderate, is faced with a decision made more difficult by relentless emphasis on the significance of either party's base -- with liberals tilting the Democrats and conservatives slanting Republicans. Independents often feel caught in a cross-fire of competing positions.

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