In the Suburbs / The campaign's most crucial question
Published 5:32 am, Thursday, October 11, 2012
Let's forget about who won the first presidential debate. Let's forget about the speeches as we wind down to Nov. 6. Let's ignore the poll numbers and their telling or hidden tales.
Suppose we focus on the only important question about this presidential election: Who will actually come out to vote?
In his Wall Street Journal column, "Capital Journal," Gerald F. Seib this week sent that message loud and clear. "Political campaigns contain many sexy components: multimillion-dollar ad buys, national debates, convention speeches," Seib said. "But this year's election may well hinge on a decidedly unsexy factor: voter turnout machinery."
A little later in the column, he added, "And in a close race, what matters most in the end game isn't who airs a few more ads or gives a slightly better speech. What matters most is which side can get its supporters to actually show up at the polls."
I couldn't agree more. I'll certainly be there to vote, and so will my wife and both of our daughters -- one in Beacon Falls and the other in Ann Arbor, Mich.
In 2008, pre-election reports pointed to a huge voter turnout and that's exactly what happened.
Eight years earlier, the nail-biter between former George W. Bush and Al Gore generated huge turnout and forever changed the way broadcasters project winners. Who can forget the contested Florida vote and confused senior voters there?
What will happen in this election? It's anyone's guess. Both candidates are courting various voter constituencies. But that doesn't necessarily mean that large numbers among those groups will actually vote.
And I'm not sure how successful early voting actually will be. While a lot of folks in various states and especially some swing states have the option to cast an early ballot, it's hard to say whether early voting will have a major impact.
I've spoken to a few of our friends who remain undecided about the candidates and about whether they'll actually go to the polls in this election. I have casually mentioned that their votes make a difference and that voter apathy can have a negative impact on any election.
Although all presidential elections hinge on the final number votes received from the Electoral College, I have always considered my vote important. Even when we were leaving on election day for a trip abroad in 2004, my wife and I made a point of getting to the polls at 6 a.m.
George W. Bush running for re-election against John Kerry, and like this year, there were a lot of questions about the record of the incumbent president and whether he deserved a second term. As we were landing in Amsterdam, we received word that Bush had won, and passengers let out a mix of cheers and groans.
For this year, according to Seib, "State statistics now show registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans in five of the six battleground states that register voters by party. In most of them, Democratic registration advantages still aren't as large as 2008, but they are widening. Crucially, the Obama camp says voters under 30 make up more than half of new registrants.
"For Republicans," he continues, "a similarly important turnout target is evangelicals."
For the next three weeks we'll be bombarded with sound bites and political commercials.
But there really is only one day that will make a difference for me -- Nov. 6. That's the day we'll see who really comes out to vote -- for the current or next president of the United States.
Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his "In the Suburbs" appears each Friday. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.