Friday, April 9, 2010
WHY DO VOTERS "FLIP-FLOP?" EXPLAINING STARK'S 9 TO 1 SWITCH TO REPUBLICANS
Voters are known to criticize officeholders/candidates who flip-flop.
But how about voters flip-flopping between being a Democrat, then a Republican and then, perhaps an independent?
Flip-flopping, whether it is officeholder/candidate-based or voter-based is indicative of fundamental self interest.
The question is this. Is it good or bad to be a flip-flopper?
For officeholders/candidates it is bad.
Let's take Arlen Specter, U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania. Understanding that he was going to have a hard time being reelected this November because he likely was not going to be able to get through the GOP primary due to a challenge from the right wing of the Party, he switched to being a Democrat.
Many Pennsylvania and national Republicans said "good riddance, he was a Republican In Name Only (RINO). Democrats, on the other hand were mixed on the switch. President Obama welcomed him with open arms. But some Pennsylvania Democrats didn't quite see it Obama's way and have - ironically - mounted a primary challenge to Specter on the Democratic side. Obviously, these folks don't think switching at the candidate level is a "cool" thing to do.
From a voter standpoint, the SCPR believes it is perfectly acceptable.
For the voter is perceived as trying to align himself/herself with the political party he/she most reflects his/her interests and, of course, the interest of nation, state or locality.
You hear it all the time. Question. Who do you vote for? Republicans or Democrats? Answer: "I vote for the 'best' candidate!
So what to make of reports in state and local media (See Lots of local Dems switch to GOP, Tim Botos, The Rep 04/08/2010) about significant shifts from Democrat to Republican this election cycle?
The SCPR's answer: very little.
First of all, the only heated Stark County primaries are on the Republican side. There is the congressional race (the 16th) which pits political newbie Jim Rennaci against "third time is the charm?" Matt Miller. There is also a primary between James N. Walters (Jackson trustee) and Dean Windham (a Stark County builder) for the right to be the Republican to take on Democrat Tom Bernabei for the county commissioner seat for the remaining two years of the Tom Harmon seat.
The Report doubts this is much of a factor (the desire to vote in the Republican primary), but it is part of the reason for the switch.
Second, despite the Botos headline, it is not "lots" of Democrats switching to Republican in the context of the total Stark County voter base. So the consequence on voter patterns will be negligible.
Third, switchers are voters who will, in the assessment of the SCPR, vote - in November's general election - not a straight party-line vote, but rather the "best" candidate.
So the story makes for a good headline, but is not indicative of a major political shift in Ohio or in Stark County.
In Stark County, Democrats will continue to dominate local elective office. Perez will win the auditor's race, Bosley is likely (but, this race will be very, very close) the 50th Ohio House seat while Democrat Steve Slesnick will win the in the 52nd House District over Republican Travis Secrest.
There is a bright spot for Republicans in Stark. Former Canton mayor Janet Creighton is running against former Jackson trustee Steve Meeks (now serving as a politically appointed commissioner by the Stark County Democratic Party Central Committee). The SCPR projects Creighton to win this race. But it will be a relatively close race (something in the 55 to 45 range to 51 to 49).
Why does the SCPR think Creighton will win this race? Because she will run particularly strong in Jackson and Lake Townships which are dominated by Republicans and because she will hold her own in the Democratic strongholds of Canton and Massillon.
Also, helping Creighton and other Republicans running in Stark, although not enough for the "others;" is the growing perception in Stark that it is not in the interest of voters to have one-party-rule in countywide offices.
Of course, "musical chair" and the SCPR believes, ineffective Republican candidates Oelslager (29th Ohio Senate and Kirk Schuring (51st Ohio House) will win easily. Reason? The Dems failed to come up with challengers who match up well with Oelslager and Schuring.
So the Botos story is "much ado about nothing."
Most Stark County voters (irrelevant of the registration numbers) are not wed to either the Dems or Republicans, they will flip-flop, flip-flop and flip-flop some more, if necessary, to get to whom they perceive to be best for their interests, and by extrapolation, the community-wide interest.
That is the baseline line political dynamic in Stark County.