When all the dust settles, participation in the presidential election breaks down into three large groups: Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.
Most of the time, there are more Democrats than Republicans, but Democrats usually don’t vote for their candidate as consistently as Republicans vote for theirs. In a typical year, 85 to 90 percent of the Democrats will go Democratic, but 90-95% of the Republicans will stay with the Republican.
This higher degree of loyalty evens out the voter population.
That leaves the political independents, the third large group, who account for about 25-30% of the voter population in any election year. More often than not, the collective choice of these folks settles the election outcome because of the balance between the other two groups. If that holds this year, Barack Obama may emerge as the winner.
The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows Obama with 49% of the independent vote, and McCain with 37% of the independent vote. Given all the other data, this could be a critical blow for John McCain’s chances to increase the size of his voter base.
Whether all this is handwriting on the wall remains to be seen. But with all of the other voters lined up in their traditional positions, Independents may be the last remaining opportunity for John McCain. And for now, they haven’t come over.