The Great Migration
2:03 PM, Aug 19, 2009 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
The independents who provided the lift for the Democrats' soaring political fortunes in 2006 and 2008 are abandoning the Democratic party. The new Pew poll has Obama's job approval rating at 51 percent, and finds that "Independents, who approved of Obama's job performance by nearly two-to-one in June (56 percent to 29 percent) are now about evenly divided: 45 percent approve while 43 percent disapprove."
Nationally, the Republicans have not benefited fully from the independent out-migration. But at the state level, the shift is helping the GOP's fortunes. Republicans lead in Virginia and New Jersey in 2009, and Tom Bevan notes at the RCP blog that Bill McCollum, a Republican candidate to replace Gov. Charlie Crist in 2010, leads Democrat Alex Sink by 4 points, "due almost exclusively to a big swing among Independents."
Why the change? It must have something to do with Obama's governance to date. My guess: the man who campaigned as an advocate for a "new" bipartisan politics has proven to be a partisan, liberal Democrat. People still like Obama, they just don't like his policies.
Independents still support Obama, but they are headed in a direction that no doubt worries the White House. Maybe Obama will reassert his connection with these voters; maybe not. But their exodus serves as a reminder that American politics is determined by people who do not identify with a concrete set of partisan and ideological commitments.