ANDREW KOHUT: By the middle of his first term, most Democrats strongly disapproved of George W. Bush. And almost from the get-go, most Republicans have strongly disapproved of Barack Obama. So part of it Is response to these presidencies and the political culture. Part of it, too, is the way the parties have changed. The parties have become smaller than they once were. We have a record number of political independents.JUDY WOODRUFF: In fact, an unprecedented 38 percent of those surveyed identified as independents, the most to choose that description at any point in the last 75 years.
By comparison, just 32 percent said they were Democrats, and only 24 percent now call themselves Republicans.
There are three bits of information to process here:
1) Self-identified Democrats hold an 8 point edge over self-identified Republicans. This means the Democrats message to its membership has been more effective than the Republicans.
2) Of the 38% who self-identify as "independent," there's a strong diversity (not unexpected) of political views, but no consistency. They can be older and fiscally conservative and socially liberal (which, when you think about it, is an opportunity to make them choose either lower taxes or lower services, and message it that way), they can be younger and fiscally liberal and socially liberal, and then there are the suburban types who really only care about how to take care of the kids and will the trains run on time.
3) Most of the people in the middle, that 38%, aren't independent because they reject either party. They're independent because they believe *both* parties have rejected them. Both have stopped listening to their needs, they feel, and so will choose to vote on candidates.
The opportunity to pluck many of these votes back is waiting, and the work really isn't that hard. Indeed, Bill Clinton was a master at finding votes out of unlikely places, and he made it look easy. You just have to stop framing the world as "us versus them," and start framing it as "me and you."