To: CUIP Networks
From: Jackie Salit
Date: February 12, 2008
As the presidential primaries and caucuses move along, the nomination fights may not be over (especially on the Democratic side) but the influence of the independent voter and the independent movement is strongly present. It is playing an essential role in fueling the anti-establishment insurgency of Barack Obama.
What was the independent story on Super Tuesday? There were ten states that held open primaries or caucuses where independents could participate and where exit polling was conducted. Barack Obama carried the independent vote in seven of the ten: Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee, California, New Jersey and Utah. Obama and Hillary Clinton split the independent vote in Alabama and Hillary carried independents in Bill's home state of Arkansas and in Massachusetts.
In the six closed primary states, exit polls did identify voters who consider themselves independents, even though they are registered in major parties. Obama carried these self-identified independents in five of those six states: Arizona, Connecticut (where many thousands of indies re-registered into the Democratic Party in the weeks before Super Tuesday), Delaware, New Mexico and New York. In Oklahoma, Hillary carried independents by three points.*
(In the post-Super Tuesday Louisiana primary on February 9th,72% of self-identified independents voted in the Democratic primary and Obama won among independents 57% to 36%.)
Another statistic of interest is which party independents chose to vote in. In the ten Super Tuesday states with open primaries or caucuses and with available exit polling, the majority of independents voted in the Democratic primary in seven, in the Republican primary in two, and split evenly in one.
Consequently, we can summarize that a majority of independents chose to cast ballots in the Democratic primaries and the majority of those voted for Barack Obama.
Black voters went overwhelmingly for Obama. (See "Obama's Wave and the New York Role Reversal" by Lenora B. Fulani on TheDailyVoice.com.) That was even more true for black independents, as Fulani noted in her article:
Exit polling picked up this trend for the first time on Super Tuesday. And here are what some of the numbers show. In Massachusetts 33% of black voters who cast ballots in the Democratic primary self-identified as independents. In Missouri it was 18%. In Connecticut the number was 22%, in California 14%, in New Jersey 13%, in Tennessee 17%. Among black independents, the support for Obama appears to have been astronomical. For example, in Georgia, where 12% of all African American voters in the Democratic primary were independents, 97% of those cast ballots for Obama.
How did CUIP and independent leaders and activists participate on Super Tuesday? CUIP did not endorse a candidate. Our strategy, as we reviewed in detail on our most recent conference call (where we had a record 34 states participating), was to support all local organizations to engage with and influence the full range of presidential campaigns. Our objective is to express the values of independents, the fact that we are becoming an organized force on the ground, and to be recognized as such in mainstream politics so we can participate in coalitions with pro-independent partners.
Over time the outreach to and from the Obama campaign brought many state organizations into line with the idea that the most fruitful coalition was with Obama and his supporters. Here are some highlights of what independent leaders in our networks did in connection with Super Tuesday:
- Jim Mangia, a national leader in the independent movement and a founder of IndependentVoice.org in California, was strongly reached out to by the Obama campaign. The hook-up occurred initially through contacts established by Russ Ouellette of the Committee for an Independent Voice-NH and Los Angeles City Councilmembers Bill Rosendahl and Eric Garcetti. Mangia did a series of meetings with coordinators of the Obama campaign in California and spoke briefly with national campaign manager David Axelrod. Subsequently, Mangia and IV.org endorsed Obama, he spoke at an Independents for Obama rally, and did a statewide radio tour promoting independents' support for Obama and his vision. Mangia counseled the Obama campaign on message and outreach. On Election Day, when news broke that tens of thousands of independent ("decline to state") voters in Los Angeles were denied Democratic primary ballots, Mangia, Eric Garcetti, Bill Rosendahl (a longtime friend of the independent movement) and leaders of Common Cause, the Courage Coalition and the League of Women Voters assembled at a press conference to call public attention to the problem. An investigation into this infraction is ongoing, including into whether it impacted on the outcome in any L.A. congressional districts by which delegates are awarded. Though Obama lost California to Hillary, he polled 56% of the independent vote to 33% for Hillary. California was one of the states with the lowest independent vote for Clinton.
- In Missouri the split among independents for Obama over Clinton was crushing â€“ 67% to 30%. Barbara Woodruff, co-chair of Show Me Independents endorsed Obama the week before Super Tuesday. Her press release, issued in coordination with the Obama campaign, called on independent voters to join with Obama as his vision embraced that of the independent movement. On Super Tuesday, Missouri was the closest race in the country, with Obama winning by 1 point (49% - 48%). Independents were his margin of victory, as Woodruff pointed out in a post-election press release: "With fewer than 10,000 votes separating Obama and Clinton, Obama's substantial lead among independents put him over the top. Independents comprised 22% of the electorate that participated in Missouri's Democratic primary, according to exit polls. Obama received the support of 67% of independents to Clinton's 30%. In raw numbers, it is estimated that over 180,000 independents voted in the Democratic primary contest. Obama received the support of 120,935 independents as compared with Clinton's 54,150."
- Idaho shocked the world when 14,000 people showed up in Boise to see Obama the Saturday before the election. Obama won these open caucuses and Mitch Campbell of the American Independent Movement of Idaho, which endorsed Obama, organized a contingent of independents to support Obama in the Twin Falls area.
- Popular Alabama talk radio host Bob Friedman, who is also the founder of the Alabama Independent Movement, hooked up with the state director of the Obama campaign, to invite a rep on to his show. Jerome Gray, the Obama field organizer for Alabama, appeared on Bob's show on WJLD, the Saturday before the election, where the phone lines buzzed with African American and independent support for Obama. Friedman also produced and ran radio spots urging independents to back Obama. Alabama was in the winners' column for Obama on Tuesday, even as the majority of indies chose to cast ballots in the Republican primary.
- In New Jersey, Newark City Councilwoman Dana Rone, an Obama supporter, promoted Obama's appeal to independents in her community-based campaigning. Hillary claimed New Jersey, but Obama claimed independents 49 to 43.
- In Augusta, Georgia another popular radio host, Helen Blocker-Adams, a mover and shaker in Georgia iMove, opened up her airwaves on WNRR to interview an independent Obama backer from halfway across the country. Steve O'Toole from Minnesota gave southern voters an independent view from the North Country, helping to strengthen the black and independent alliance that is flourishing in the Obama campaign. Helen and I were both guests together on an XM Satellite radio broadcast where we gave what Helen called "a one-two-punch" about how independents and some Republicans feel that Obama is speaking to their concerns about moving beyond partisanship. Audrey Mowdy, also of iMove, who anticipates a battle royal for the independent vote in November with John McCain as the Republican nominee, was interviewed about the attitudes of independent voters for Katie Couric's CBS Evening News.
In Connecticut, Massachusetts, Tennessee and Colorado, CUIP independents played a part, too. Meanwhile, Hopi Gesteland and George Penn of the Wisconsin Group for an Independent Voice have begun their campaign efforts for the February 19th open primary. Linda Curtis and Independent Texans are shaping their participation for the big showdown in Texas on March 4th.
Independent voters are on the move -- in the direction of support for Obama. At the same time, a notable development is the extent to which organized independents are becoming recognized as a force with power and connections and roots in a mass movement that is growing significantly. We see this in the interface with the Obama campaign in so many parts of the country. We see it also in the public discourse that we are directly influencing.
For example, pollster and consultant Doug Schoen, with whom I worked on both Bloomberg mayoral campaigns and who has spoken at a number of our national conferences, has just published a new book titled "Declaring Independence: the Beginning of the End of the Two-Party System." CUIP's networks are featured in his book, as Schoen observes "The networks of independent organizers already in place would surprise most people, especially those who are confirmed Republicans or Democrats."
In an op-ed piece he just published in the Washington Post Schoen also challenges the idea popular among so many pollsters and pundits that most independents are really soft Democrats, or soft Republicans:
Both parties, in fact, seem largely unaware that a new group of passionate and frustrated voters with a distinctive set of concerns has emerged. Instead, strategists from both parties have continued to treat independents as either "soft Democrats" or "soft Republicans." But there's nothing soft about the mood now transforming American politics. Anger at the status quo is now so intense, the desire for bipartisan cooperation so palpable, that even stalwart Democrats and Republicans are beginning to behave like independent votersâ€¦And come November, this group is virtually certain to determine the winner of the presidential race.
Finally, the question of whether the Obama campaign is just a campaign, albeit a highly successful and energized one, or a mass movement with standing beyond the presidential campaign was featured in a piece in Sunday's Atlanta Journal-Constitution. I was interviewed for it as was CUIP activist Dr. Omar Ali. Below is a portion of the piece.
And finally, special thanks to Kristin Austin, David Belmont, Margo Grant, Bob Kennedy, KiWook Jung, Sarah Lyons, Gwen Mandell and Lauren Ross for their work collecting and analyzing the data contained in this report.
* No available exit polling in: Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana and North Dakota.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Countdown 2008: Obama's Youthquake: Is the Senator Leading a Movement,
or Just an Interesting Campaign?
By Richard Halicks
After he'd fought Hillary Clinton to something resembling a draw on Super Tuesday, Barack Obama stood on his home soil of Illinois and declared: "Our time has come. Our movement is real. And change is coming to America."
Obama's "movement" might still founder under the disciplined assault of Hillary Clinton's campaign. But until that time, it is powered in large part by the inexhaustible idealism of young American voters, who are turning out in extraordinary numbers in the Democratic primaries. In Georgia, for example, people 18 to 29 as a percentage of all voters increased from 11 percent in the 2004 primary to 17 percent last week. The increase was typical of other primary states, and in nearly all cases, the majority of that younger vote went to Obama.
"It looks a bit like 1972," said Thomas Patterson, professor of government and the press at Harvard's Shorenstein Center and author of "The Vanishing Voter" (2002). The year before, in the midst of the Vietnam War, the states had ratified the 26th Amendment, lowering the voting age to 18. "There was nearly 50 percent turnout among young voters," Patterson said of the '72 election. "We've never been back to that level before, but we could get there this time."
So. Is Obama's candidacy an actual movement or just an interesting political campaign? Movements, of course, usually form around ideas, not people. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the towering figures of the 20th century, but the movement he led was even greater than he was.
Still, many of the young people backing Obama aren't just supporters. They're believers.
"I've seen it among young kids," said John Geer, political science professor at Vanderbilt University. "And I'm not talking about 18-year-olds. I'm talking about 10-year-olds. They like Barack. Maybe not for very reasonable reasons ... they're 10. But there's interest there as well, and it's really quite amazing."
Scholars who have studied U.S. movements suggest that Obama is, indeed, part of a movement, but one that he didn't start.
This "movement" began with the country itself. The founders had a narrow notion of citizenship -- as the preserve of white male landowners. But that notion rapidly evolved.
"The abolitionists were the first generation to conceptualize what it meant to be an American in the modern sense of the word; that to be an American meant to be rich, poor, black, white, male, female," said Omar H. Ali, assistant professor of history at Towson University, near Baltimore. "They had a new vision of the founding documents, to extend the notion of all men being created equal to all people being created equal. Those are really the founding fathers and mothers of our country."
This impulse toward democracy, toward fairness for all , has animated many movements in American history -- the Populists, whose presidential candidate won a million votes in 1892; the Progressives, who advocated an activist government to remedy social ills, in the early 1900s; and certainly the civil rights movement of the mid-20th century.
Ali, author of the forthcoming "In the Balance of Power: Independent Black Politics and Third-Party Movements in the United States" (Ohio University Press, 2008), believes that Obama has tapped into the same rich vein that produced the Populists, the Progressives and the civil rights movement.
"The thing that is most captivating about Obama is that he's speaking in nonpartisan terms," he said. "He's not speaking solely as a Democrat. He's speaking as an American who wants to rally fellow Americans around something wider, bigger, more hopeful."
Fueled by independents
Jackie Salit, editor of Neo-Independent magazine and independentvoting.org, concurs that Obama is tapping into a movement that is much larger than himself. But, seen through her lens, that movement is of independent voters.
She notes that independents comprise between 35 and 40 percent of American voters, and that their numbers continue to grow.
"You look for signs that new kinds of partnerships are emerging and becoming viable in the mainstream," Salit said. "And to me, one of the very interesting partnerships that is emerging is what I would call the black and independents alliance.
"Obama is the spokesperson for it. He is the candidate around whom this has galvanized. He does have a feel -- and I think independents respond very strongly to this -- for why it is that so many people are not Democrats or Republicans."
In this key respect, Salit maintains, Obama is starkly different from Clinton.
"She comes out of a different tradition. She's a core-constituency Democrat; I don't think she has a feel for or, frankly, a respect for the fact that so many people have a distaste for party politics. I think she likes party politics. She and her husband have built a career on it."
Salit notes that Obama and Republican John McCain -- the latter has clinched his campaign, while the former could still lose his -- are both popular among independents. McCain's identification with the war in Iraq has hurt him with independent voters, she said, but his own independent streak is still appealing to many Americans.
"Given McCain does have a history of appeal to independent voters, that makes it all the more important for Democrats to select a candidate who can coalesce with those voters," she said.
(For the full article Click Here)