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Exclusive Interview with Stefan Hankin, Director Lincoln Park Strategies on the Hutchinson Report Newmaker Hour December 3, 2010

EOH:Stefan, who did and who didn’t vote? What were droppers and what were switchers?

SH:This research was commissioned by a group called Third Way, which is a moderate think tank in Washington, DC. We found some incredibly interesting things. With the droppers, what the general thinking is that it was just young people and minorities that stayed home and they’ll come back in 2012. We don’t have to worry about that. What we found is that is not the case. About 40% of droppers fell into the category I would call disappointed liberal voters. These were voters who didn’t really feel like Democrats and President Obama did enough, so they stayed home in protest. But the droppers are much more complicated than that. They divide out almost evenly among people who consider themselves liberals, moderates and conservatives, and 42% of these droppers consider themselves Democrats, versus 40% who consider themselves independents. We are seeing that a good portion of the Droppers are feeling like the Democrats aren’t in line with their ideals and values, and that’s why they stayed home. They were younger, as a whole, then our switchers, but not by much. 13% of Droppers were under the age of 30. The thinking that the younger people stayed home is not the case, and if Democrats continue to think that and we would get these younger folks out again in two years, we’re going to be in a lot of trouble.

EOH:Against popular theory that it was the moderates in the political center that didn’t show up, could that mean that the Obama Administration might be more likely to compromise and conciliate on issues that liberals and progressives are asking the President to stand firm on?

SH:We really have two problems. One is a math problem and one is a brand problem. For the math, when you look at exit polls and polls like Gallop who do daily polling and track people’s attitudes, we see that about 20% of the country considers themselves liberal, verses about 40% who consider themselves conservative. We saw the conservative number bump up to the low 40’s for the first time since the 1970s. The liberal number has been holding fairly steady since the '70s, sometimes it goes into the high teens and sometimes up to about 22%. Especially for presidential numbers, Republicans really need to pick up an additional 8% to get themselves to 50% and Democrats are needing to pick up about 30%. The moderate middle of the road voters are infinitely more important to Democrats than they are to Republicans if we consider conservatives as more based Republicans and liberals as more based Democrats. It is something that we have been dealing with for a while, but something that needs to be kept in mind as we move forward as a party and looking to 2012.

EOH:What does this mean for 2011 and more particularly 2012 in terms of the Democrats again capturing their momentum?

SH:When you look at some of these bills that were passed, health care as an example, for all intents and purposes this was a Republican plan from the 1990s with some tweaks to it, but it was about the same as what Bob Dole came up with in the late ‘90s. Now all of a sudden President Obama and Democrats put this forward and this is now socialized medicine and we’re one step away from Communism. I don’t necessarily point to specific policies as being the big problem, but really the inability to sell those policies. And that goes back to seeing the party as more liberal, and we did see a majority of Switchers and a large number of Droppers that think that Democrats tried to have government do too much. With that perception, we’re going to have a lot of trouble over the next two years to do a lot in a proactive manner without this coming back and really causing trouble if we are not smart about how we are marketing this.

EOH: Have you gotten any feedback whatsoever in this point in time from President Obama or anyone in the Administration about what the numbers show?

SH:I haven’t heard anything from the White House. I wouldn’t say that’s surprising, but we are getting a lot of open reception from folks on Capitol Hill and other people in and around DC. As we pointed out, this study was picked up in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times and Politico as well, which is a political magazine in Washington, DC. It is being talked about and we are seeing discussion among Democrats as to what is the winning strategy over the next two years, what’s going to put us in the best position to win in 2012. Our view of these numbers is that a move to the center, changing the perception and being seen as more in line with these Switchers and Droppers would be the key to success in 2012. If we hard to the left and really try to out liberal ourselves, in a way, I think we’re looking at a minority party for years to come.

EOH:This survey and your analysis has huge implications for the next year to year and a half as to which way the Obama Administration and the Democratic Party chooses to go. I feel that those who style themselves progressives and pure liberal Democrats, were horrified when they saw what Lincoln Park Strategies came up with, I feel they were horrified.

EOH:The question of the Democrats and Mr. Obama is whether they can get both groups, the Switchers and the Dropper moving back in their direction. Can they in fact get them back and what would it take?

SH:Any liberal Democrats listening to this show, standing on the edge of a ledge, step back because it’s not that bad. The Republicans won a chance. They did not win a mandate with these voters. Just 10% voted for Republicans for “Republican Ideas”. This was really an anti-Democratic vote for the Switchers. With both these groups we have close to three-quarters of the Droppers saying that they are very likely to support President Obama in 2012, and half of our Switchers say that they are very likely to support the President again in 2012. This is not lost. What we saw in the Switchers when we asked them if they would be more likely to support the President in 2012 if he came up with a credible plan to reduce our deficit, which is a very important issue for these voters, an overwhelming majority said yes. With a couple of the right policies, and a much better sales job coming out of the White House from Democratic leaders, we can get these voters back.

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Earl Ofari Hutchinson, national commentator and radio host, slices through the political spin to provide insight on today's news.

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