Looking for life in the political middle ground

jtarica@thetribunenews.comSeptember 8, 2012 

If you’ve been paying attention to the 2012 presidential campaign, you know the race will come down to a handful of swing states, which will be decided by handfuls of swing voters who, as I write this, are sitting in their Barcaloungers from Nevada to North Carolina pondering whether to watch the Democratic National Convention or “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.”

It’s a scary thought, I know.

This race is shaping up to be a tighter battle than 2008 but hopefully not as narrow a fight as 2000, when some swing voters in Florida Barcaloungers decided the election.

I was working that night, and it’s no fun to cover a presidential election that has no winner.

Anyhow, coming out of the conventions, a lot of the talk has focused on how each party or speaker appealed to those mythically powerful undecided voters and whether either side did enough to sway momentum one way or the other, or get them out of their chairs, period.

Did President Barack Obama inspire disillusioned Democrats who long for a return to the days of hope and change?

Did Mitt Romney motivate unsure Republicans who might wonder still just what his grand plan is?

And does either even matter, or are the remaining voters who are up for grabs true independents who are patiently waiting with no definitive alliance?

Personally, I’m somewhat amazed that such ideological characters even exist in today’s political landscape.

The polarization between right and left has become so stark, so extreme that there truly is no there there when speaking of a middle ground.

That space has become like no man’s land on a battlefield. You’ll get bombed to oblivion in the crossfire before you even come close to seizing any legitimate territory.

Territory these days is seized on the fringes and far edges, by people who wrap themselves in “Don’t tread on me” flags.

Most informed moderates and independents, I’d guess, have long since scurried for the cover of one side or another.

Which leads me to wonder, as we near the end of a long campaign that pits a sitting president against a guy whose nomination has been a veritable “fait accompli” since 2008, who is really left to convince?

Who has followed this race but still doesn’t have a good idea what these men represent?

Obama’s not going to stumble in the home stretch, and Romney’s an android, so there’s little chance of a software glitch at this point in the product rollout.

The only chance for new information, really, would come from external forces, such as Wall Street, Iran or a rogue asteroid — flying space rocks being the least damaging of the group. But even then, the likelihood of something substantial occurring in the next two months is slim.

These predefined conditions are even more pronounced in a state such as California, which votes solidly blue, though not quite so much in a county like San Luis Obispo, which leans red.

Nevertheless, I’m wondering whether we have some of these endangered voters roaming our plot of the electoral map, and if we do, what might be going through their heads as they step lightly and dodge verbal volleys from the likes of Paul Ryan and Joe Biden.

Who are you, and why haven’t you made up your mind yet? What will it take for you to pick a side, or might you abstain altogether?

If you’re one of these informed undecideds, send me a brief summary of your thinking, along with your name and hometown, and I’ll share the results in an upcoming column.

Joe Tarica is the presentation editor for The Tribune. Reach him at jtarica@thetribunenews.com.

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