(David Mansdoerfer) – As the 2012 election season begins to ramp up, it is important to look at Nevada’s recent voting trends and registration statistics in order to gain a picture of what the Republican Party will need to do to turn Nevada red.
In 2008, by the close of registration for the general election, registered Democrats made up nearly 44% of the electorate at 531,317, Republicans made up 35.7% of the electorate at 430,594, and independent/minor political party voters accounted for 20.3% of the electorate at 245,850.
During that election, of the roughly 1.2 million registered voters, 970,019 (80.27%) voted. Of that, on the only top of the ticket race, President Obama enjoyed a nearly 120,000 vote victory – 533,736 – 412,827.
In the 2010 election, registered Democrats made up 42% of the electorate at 470,919, Republicans made 36.7% of the electorate at 410,811, and independent/minor political parties made up 21.3% of the electorate at 237,846.
In that election, of the roughly 1.1 million voters, only 723,515 (64.4%) voted. In that election cycle, with two top of the ticket races, Senator Harry Reid defeated Sharon Angle by roughly 40,000 votes (362,785 – 321,361) and Brian Sandoval defeated Rory Reid by roughly 84,000 votes (382,350 – 298,171).
Now, obviously, these were completely different races. However, assuming that nearly all of the people who voted for Sharon Angle voted for Brian Sandoval, this trend shows that Sandoval enjoyed a nearly 60,000 vote edge with independent voters over Sharon Angle. What we should derive from this, is that independent voters were the deciding factor in both of these races and contributed to both Harry Reid and Brian Sandoval winning.
As of June 2011, Democrats still enjoy a roughly 65,000 vote edge (472,289 – 407,309) and independent/minor political party voters account for 242,574 of the electorate.
With this information, if you forecast that the gap between voters will remain the same going into election day, and with voter turnout more likely to look like 2008 than 2010, Republicans face an uphill battle as they march toward election day.
If, and I say if because it is extremely difficult to forecast Election Day turnout, the Democrat-Republican gap remains close to what it is today, and 75% of registered voters turnout, Republicans would need to gain at least 65% of the independent vote – which is quite high but not impossible, to turn Nevada red.
Right now, Nevada is slated to have two top of the ticket races, President of the United States and Senator Dean Heller’s seat.
So, for Republicans to turn Nevada red in 2012, they will need to focus on two things.
1. Independent Voters! Independent Voters! Independent Voters!: It is extremely unlikely that Republicans will be able to close the voter registration gap. Nevada Republican candidates need to focus on issues that pertain to them such as the economy, job creation, and the increasing U.S. debt.
2. BE ABOVE REPROACH!: Since 2012 hinges on independent voters, which are much more fickle than a voting base, Republicans need to limit the negative stories that come out about their candidates. This time, Republicans have policy on their side. If Republicans can run their campaigns on policy, and not on pants on the ground screw-up’s, they will have a good chance to sway independent voters.
With these two approaches, Republicans have the opportunity to retain their U.S. Senate seat and flip Nevada red in the Presidential election. But, as we all know, things are never as simple as they look on paper.
(Mr. Mansdoerfer is the Director of Federal Affairs for Citizen Outreach)