Jill Terreri writes in the D&C this morning that voters who decline to register with any political party is a growing part of the electorate and will help decide elections next month.
Registered voters who choose not to become a member of any political party are poised to decide the winner of this year's presidential contest between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain, which will be decided Nov. 4. Precincts across the country are seeing an increase in their ranks, and both candidates are making appeals specifically to them.
"The candidate that wins an election is the one that connects with moderates and the middle class," said John P. Avlon, author of Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics. "Independent voters ... are the common-sense center in America."
Reports out of Connecticut and Fort Collins, Colo. show new voter registrations in both major parties this year were outpaced by voters who chose not to register in any party. And in such states as New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Colorado, Iowa, Alaska and New Hampshire, unaffiliated voters have outnumbered either Democrats or Republicans.
In the local congressional race, both campaigns say they're paying close attention to independent voters.
Locally, the unaffiliated voter's role is significant even in races in which one party has an enrollment advantage.
In the 26th Congressional District, which includes nine towns in western Monroe County, registered Republicans have a 9 percentage-point advantage over Democrats, constituting 41 percent of voters. But one out of every five voters is unaffiliated, according to enrollment statistics released earlier this year, giving those ranks the power to decide the winner.
"It's incredibly important to communicate to these people," said Nick Langworthy, who is running the campaign of Republican Chris Lee, of Clarence, Erie County, who is seeking to succeed retiring Republican Rep. Thomas Reynolds, also of Clarence. "If you just play to your base, you can't do it, not in the modern political era."
To appeal to these voters, Langworthy and his team try to send an appropriate message.
"We're talking about jobs and taxes," he said. "Those themes are strong with Republicans and independents."
On the Democratic side, candidate Alice Kryzan of Amherst, Erie County, has been reaching outside her party, stressing the economy and bringing accountability back to Washington, said her campaign manager, Anne Wadsworth.
So here's my question for Nick Longworthy: The Chris Lee campaign has been far more negative far longer than the Kryzan campaign. How do negative ads help you win independent votes? As a decade-long independent, I know they sure do turn me off, and same for all my non-aligned friends. Maybe that's why this race is now a toss up?