IF AMERICA'S 58th presidential election validates Ted Cruz's audacious “base plus” strategy, he will have refuted assumptions about the importance of independent “swing” voters and the inertia of many missing voters. Critics say his plan for pursuing the Republican nomination precludes winning the presidency. Jason Johnson, Cruz's chief strategist, responds: “I'm working backward from Election Day,” because Cruz's plan for winning the necessary 1,236 convention delegates is an extrapolation from his strategy for winning 270 electoral votes.
|Cruz with Jason Johnson, his chief strategist|
All presidential campaigns aspire to favorably change the composition of the electorate. Cruz aims to substantially reconfigure the electorate as it has recently been.
Between George W. Bush’s 2000 election and his 2004 re-election, the turnout of non-Hispanic whites increased by an astonishing 10 million. Barack Obama produced a surge of what Johnson calls “two-election voters.” In 2008, the African-American voting rate increased from 2004 while white voting declined slightly; in 2012, African-Americans voted at a higher rate than whites.
In Florida in 2012, turnout of non-Hispanic whites declined from 2008 even though the eligible voting-age population increased 864,000. Nationally, the Census Bureau’s Thom File writes: “The number of non-Hispanic white voters decreased by about 2 million between 2008 and 2012.” In the last five elections (1996-2012), their share of eligible voters declined from 79.2 percent to 71.1 percent and their share of the turnout declined from 82.5 percent to 73.7 percent, while the Hispanic and black shares of votes cast increased about four and three percentage points, respectively.
Nonvoting whites, especially those without college experience, are among Cruz’s principal targets. His geniality toward Donald Trump reflects the Cruz campaign’s estimate that perhaps one-third of the Trumpkins have not voted in recent elections. If so, Trump is doing downfield blocking for Cruz, beginning the expansion of the 2016 electorate by energizing people whose alienation from politics has made them nonvoters.
Cycle after cycle, says Johnson, the percentage of true swing voters shrinks. Therefore, so does the persuadable portion of the electorate. Cruz aims to leaven the electorate with people who, disappointed by economic stagnation and discouraging cultural trends for which Republican nominees seemed to have no answers, have been dormant during recent cycles.Read the rest of Will's op-ed HERE.
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