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The Bush Campaign and the Fence Sitters

Maybe in a different year 8% of the people being undecided about who to vote for in a presidential election wouldn't be a big deal. But Rasmussen's latest numbers look like this: That 8% looms large. If the Bush campaign plans on winning this thing, they better start concentrating on those undecided voters. Right now, the Bush ads sing to the choir. They are talking to people who already understand, follow and probably donate to the Bush campaign.
The 8% of available voters out there are somewhat different than undecided voters in other elections. The 2004 election seems larger than life simply because we are at war. We are at war in Iraq and we are fighting the war against terrorism. These are the issues that are being addressed every day, in every newspaper, on every talk radio station, on every news channel. We are bombarded with images, sound bites and story upon story and we get it from all sides; war, anti-war, conservative, liberal and everything in between. So who are these undecided voters and why haven't they decided yet, given all the information available to them? They are, of course, the fence sitters and there two different kinds of people that sit on that fence. The first kind - we'll call him Type A- could be swayed to jump off the fence with just a slight push. Even a small breeze could tilt them off to one side. This person is easily swayed by imagery and sound bites; they need no facts, they don't do any research on their own. Words and pictures are presented to them and they take them as fact because they are too lazy or unknowledgeable or gullible to do the work on their own. They want someone to make all their choices for them, so they just sit on the fence and wait to be told what to do. You know this type. They believe all the chain mail they receive. They are often talked into buying things they don't need. These are the people that F911 will sucker in. They will be dragged to the movie by well meaning friends and relatives and they will gasp in all the right parts and come out of the theater believing that George Bush is the devil and Michael Moore is a god, and they most likely will take that to the voting booth with them in November. Notice something missing there? Why, it's John Kerry! Here, we have a voter who is being swayed against a candidate rather than towards a candidate. This voter, who just minutes ago was sitting on that fence, is now standing on the ground where he believes the grass is greener, even though that grass is maybe just painted green. Ask this voter why the other side of the fence is so bad and he'll reiterate everything he just saw and heard. Ask him why the grass is so green on his side and he will only be able to say because it's not the other side. The problem with the Type A fence sitter is that she is fickle. Anything can change her mind. Perhaps one week after seeing F911, she goes out to lunch with a friend who is a staunch Republican. By dessert, the friend has convinced her that Bush is a god and Michael Moore is the devil. Now, she wants to hop onto the other side, because she's sure the grass is just a shade greener over there. And so it will go with Type A until the election. Who gets her vote depends on who she last spoke to before she headed into the booth. It makes no sense to go after their vote. You will never be assured of it, anyhow. The people the Bush campaign should be going after is the Type B fence sitter. This guy needs to be pushed or dragged off the fence. He wants fact and figures, not flashy films or staged press conferences. He gets his news from fifteen different sources. He reads, he digests, he thinks. And right now, he hates both sides. He thinks Bush isn't great with the economy and Kerry isn't great with security. He knows he has to make a decision and it's not going to be Nader. He's not going to be swayed by a negative campaign ad because he already knows what he doesn't like about each candidate. And he's going to wait as long as possible to make his decision. This is the guy Bush needs to talk to. This is who the Bush ads should speak to. Not the fence sitter who changes his mind every ten seconds, depending on who he's having lunch with. Not the fence sitter who can be pushed over the wall by a small touch. He doesn't need to speak to Humpty Dumpty. No, he needs to speak to the guy whose butt is so firmly placed on that wall that it may as well be glued down. The Bush campaign staff needs to find a way to dissolve that glue and get him over the fence. The thing is, this guy is not going to listen if this is what you're saying. And he's certainly not going to be swayed by this: [click for larger image] That's a screenshot of the official Bush campaign site. I see Kerry's name at least four times. I see his face three times. I see six points of negativity towards Kerry. This is a big turnoff for Fence Sitter Type B. This is not going to win him over. The campaign site speaks to those already on the campaign trail. If Bush wants to win over this guy, he needs to choose positive over negative. His campaign staff should be emphasizing Bush's qualitites instead of Kerry's detriments. Like I said, Type B isn't swayed by images or sound bites, but he can be turned away by too many of those things if they are all negative. I think the Bush campaign is speaking to the wrong people. They are speaking to those who already made up their minds. They should regroup, focus on that 8% and the focus even more on those in the 8% undecided group that make up the Type B voters. They have got to sell Bush as a someone to follow over to the other side of the fence rather than selling Kerry as someone to run away from. So far, this looks like it will be a very close election. If the Bush people don't start focusing on the fence sitters, they're all going to be trampling on Kerry's grass come November. These people feel alone and they need someone to cling to. By concentrating on Kerry's negative aspects, Bush and his staff are making this yet another lesser of two evils election. The Type B guy wants a leader, not a lesser devil.


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» The Don't Cares... from The S-Train Canvas
Michele is talking about the Fence Sitters (in the presidential election) and how Bush needs to cater to a particular... [Read More]

» The Fence Sitters from the RANT:
Michele (A Small Victory) wrote a post about the undecided vote in the presidential race along with some commentary about who these people might be and why they are undecided and how they could be swayed one way or another.... [Read More]


Your points are all valid, but I see another problem for the Type-A'ers out there. The media.
Since the CFR measure blocks candidate ads, Type-A has to rely upon the media to tell them what's what. And we know how reliable that often is.

I agree with your point regarding the over-use of Sen. Kerry's name in the Bush ads. While I think the use of the latest web-video showing what Geo. Soros, et al, have said about President Bush, they are going for the overkill, and that may back-fire.

You put 3% as other so wouldn't only the 5% remain? I think Nader and other misfits will pull that 3%.

Besides its all about what states you will not what the popular vote is. Correct me if I am wrong but didn't Gore win the popular vote?

Nice post Michele, I actually find myself agreeing with you.

One thing though: you could just as easily target the Kerry campaign for not aggressively pursuing your Type B voters. It's not exactly a secret that I'm no fan of Bush, but I'll be damned if I can find a compelling reason to vote for Kerry.

Protest votes go two ways and while I'm inclined to hold of deciding until after the conventions, Kerry is no longer assured of my vote. The boy better show me something or I'll sit this one out and that is not in Mr. Kerry's best interests.

I'm not sure that there are enough type B people to matter. There also exists a variant of type A that isn't "lazy or unknowledgeable or gullible", they just don't care. I'm not sure that any approach will work with this group either, so they don't matter.

IMHO, while Bush should indeed develop a more positive message, leaving the negativity to others, he should focus on building optimism in his base. If the GOP is motivated and energized to support Bush, then his re-election is almost guaranteed, regardless of what the fence-sitters do. Bush should focus on the three C's: Cheerful, Conservative, and Consistent.

I think that ALL Americans want a real leader, not a lesser of two evils Michelle. Unfortunately that isn't an option this year.

I'm voting for Kerry because of all the Cheney/Bush failures---they are weak on al Qaeda, terrible for the economy, and dedicated to offering LGBT Americans second-class citizenship. Cheney/Bush has been such an unmitigated disaster for the poor, the working class, and for the safety of all Americans that almost ANY alternative is preferable.

Of course, this lesser of two evils thing isn't new. My mom claims she hasn't voted FOR anyone since Truman.

I've got a question for those who, like me, are thinking about ways to talk to Type B folks. Has anyone seen a thoughtful fisking of Michael Moore's movie? Moore Watch seems to be offline. Did the VLWC do something to it? So I'm looking for something that 1) doesn't make a huge point about how fat Michael Moore is (Nader already bought this bandwagon), 2) that isn't written by Christopher "Reagan was a vulgar fraud" Hitchens.

What I've seen so far is mostly suggestions that things Moore claims in the movie contradict the things he's been saying since 9/11. Since Moore's principle claim to fame has been lying and making sarcastic insinuations, he might actually be doing a service by contradicting his previous lies (unless he's just replacing them with new lies). I'd like to see an honest evaluation of the movie on it's own merits. I'm guessing one of the readers here is probably working on something like this or knows someone who is.

Actually it is a much smaller then that. Out of that 8 only the people in the states that are in play really count, undecided voters in South Carolina don’t really mean anything, there is virtually no presidential ads on broadcast TV here in Columbia.

Second the ads only target heavy TV viewers (targeting readers would be stupid). So the ads will have to resonate with undecided voters in swing states that are heavy television watchers. And you can bet that that group is only a small fraction of that 8%. This election will be decided by people in a handful of states that watch a lot of TV. God have mercy on us all!

Also there is an odd inconsistency regarding the hand wringing about “lies” in Moore's movie in a comment on a post about how to target campaign advertising to swing voters considering that campaign ads tend to distort the truth as much as any of Moore’s movies.

Rick: The difference being that even prominent left-wing sources have noted that Moore's movie is full of what any honest-minded person would consider lies--and they amount to free campaign ads.

Michele: Your analysis is cogent, but I think you miss a point. The truth is that with that few undecided voters left, and the fact that the campaign is guaranteed to be vicious and brutal no matter what, being nice isn't an option. It would be nice, and they'll try, but it won't happen.

What it therefore comes down to is who can get out the vote best. Who can bring out the base best. Thus, motivating the choir is exactly what they'd have to do, and it's where you can probably expect them to put most of their efforts.

At this point I'm so angry, so alienated, so diaffected by Democrats that I'll do whatever it takes to help Bush win. Apparently, they feel the same about me. So that's just where we're going as a nation. Those of us who'd rather be bipartisan, would rather find both Democrats and Republicans to support, really find ourselves having no choice: it's one or the other.

In a sense it's upsetting, but in another it's rather heartening: as a nation we're arguing over difficult issues, and we're going to get answers in November.

Here's my pledge though: If Kerry wins, I promise not to be as vicious and unfair and irrational toward him as Bush's critics have been toward him.

Just a quick comment about the undecided 8% ... there are also voters hanging out in those 46 "decided" percenters who are Type A's who aren't self-aware enough to know they will be supporting a different guy next week and Type B's who have been shown a lot of facts that support only once side but may be swayed the other way if they get a more balanced picture.

Oh, geez, Don, now you have to define Poor and Working Class so we have a point of reference to begin from. Hopefully you don't define working class like the college teacher of another poster at another site just did,working class doesn't own stock, middle class does. And I think the teacher was trying to argue the middle class is shrinking.

Considering that "the poor" were not the hardest hit during the recession.

And you did read the study comparing Europe and America by 2 Swedes(?). American poor live better than those in Europe, ave house size is 1200 sf, am ongst other comparisons.

At this point I'm so angry, so alienated, so diaffected by Democrats that I'll do whatever it takes to help Bush win. Apparently, they feel the same about me. So that's just where we're going as a nation.

I completely agree. I didn't support Bush in 2000 and haven't been a big fan of his since. But watching Democrats close their eyes to the real enemy and compare their own president to Hitler has made me a Republican for life. I won't even associate with anti-war leftists anymore. They're fucking pieces of monkey shit.

In a sense it's upsetting, but in another it's rather heartening: as a nation we're arguing over difficult issues, and we're going to get answers in November.

Here's where you lose me, Dean. What exactly are the "difficult issues" we're arguing about? Whether John Ashcroft is or is not ready at any moment to start kicking down doors and sending dissidents to the gulag? The whole point here, the very crux of the matter, is that there isn't any reasoned debate happening. It's conspiracy theories and Christian paranoia and assorted other bullshit. That's what's on the table in November and that's why so many people on the right see victory for Kerry as a doomsday scenario. It's not Kerry that's so awful; it's the worldview of the people who'll be voting for him.

Here's my pledge though: If Kerry wins, I promise not to be as vicious and unfair and irrational toward him as Bush's critics have been toward him.

I won't be making any Hitler comparisons, and if Kerry surprises people by being tough on terror I'll give credit where credit is due. But I do believe some payback is in order. Why shouldn't there be? For fourteen months these treacherous fucking rats have done all they can to hamstring the war effort on Iraq, despite the fact that their own country's prestige is on the line and despite the fact that a lot of innocent people in Iraq will benefit from our success there. And you want to fight fair with them. All you're accomplishing with that is handicapping yourself.

I don't think it's an either/or situation. The purpose of negative advertising about Kerry now is to color the public's image of him before they get a chance to know him in the soft lighting at the DNC.

The 5% undecided are probably not going to make their minds up until after the debates, possibly on the way into the polling booth. Remember that most people are not paying attention to the election yet. It's still over four months away.

Kerry's negatives have gone way up over the last couple months. This shows that the Republican commercials have been working. Particularly important was a poll that found that most people thought Bush said what he thinks, while most people think Kerry is saying what they want to hear. This puts Kerry into a bind as he tries to run towards the center.

Rick: The difference being that even prominent left-wing sources have noted that Moore's movie is full of what any honest-minded person would consider lies--and they amount to free campaign ads.

I have read most of them and they really don't have as much in the way of hard core inaccuracies as you are making it sound like. In fact Christopher Hitchens in the Slate article distorts the NYT story that he links to in order to “prove” that Moore is “lying” and in the movie, which I saw and you have not, Moore doesn’t make the claim that Hitchens said he did, so the fact checkers need to check the fact checkers and the “mountain of lies” you all keep talking about pretty much amount to the same kind of crap you find in any campaign ad and will find in attack ads against Kerry (and those against Bush as well). But no one her will care about those “lies”.

Oh and one other thing, campaign ads cost money, a Michael Moore movie makes money (but then again so does porn), that’s how you can tell the difference.

The purpose of negative advertising about Kerry now is to color the public's image of him before they get a chance to know him in the soft lighting at the DNC.

Right good strategy, distort Kerry’s record before the American people get to know him, it might work. But your right about one thing, Kerry says what people what to hear, but so does Bush if you think otherwise you haven't been paying attention.

We've had 30+++ years to get to "know" Kerry.

Via Hobbs online:

Is the U.S. economy suddenly facing a "supply shock"? Russell Sheldon, senior economist at BMO Nesbitt Burns in Toronto, thinks so:

In a neat 360-degree turn, the basic theme in the U.S. economy has swung from excess capacity to shortages. The shortage situation is extreme by any standards. Inventories at all stages of production plunged relative to sales in the initial months of this year. All three levels - manufacturing, wholesalers and retailers - are very short on inventories. ... Viewing the "moon shot" economic numbers for ISM and construction, I think the shortages story is lighting a fire under the economy that will last a while.
Translation: the economy is now growing so fast that manufacturers, etc., can't keep up with demand. That's likely to fuel inflation a bit - but it's also likely to fuel a surge in production, which means a surge in employment and wages. The Bush Boom has major momentum now.

I've seen the Moore movie...it is a massive pile of one sided crap. Usually documentaries present a balance and then lean one way or the other. There is no balance in the movie and no intention of presenting any balance.

There may well be a reasoned argument for not pursuing the liberation of Iraq; if there is, this movie does very little to present it.

Unless you wish to defend bizarre conspiracy theories as the reason we went to war in Iraq, you need to back up and quit defending what amounts to a Nazi-style propaganda film.

I'm just greatful that it was not produced by the Democratic Party. At least our countries political discourse has not fallen completely to the level of Nazi Germany.

Spare all the outrage over the Moore film, Mahatma. I saw it also. He made some points and also missed some points. The right should have beat him to the punch. Oh, I forgot. The Nazi-style propaganda of the DNC stopped rich conservatives from making patriotic films like Gods and Generals. Whatever...

I grow weary of this. The Democrats and Republicans are playing the same tired game of GOTCHA. If Kerry wins, the Repubs talk about losing America the un-American left. Bush wins, the Demos say we losing America to the facist right. BLAH! BLAH! BLAH! While the real bosses of our country, our wonderful multinatonal corporations, continue to their quest to turn the world into one big office cubicle.

When I volunteer to coach a community soccer team, that matters. When we work together to restore the arts to a dilapidated theater, that matters. When our country is attacked by terrorists and we as citizens redouble our efforts to help each other, that matters. Ignorance and hate breeds terrorism. And damn it, the liberals and conservatives verbally terrorize each other daily. And how the hell that's going to fix anything, huh????

Aw hell, let my get off my soapbox...

Michele, I occasionally read your blog because I don't want to read a bunch of BS that jives with my opinion.

Strangely enough, I agree with you on most of the points you make. Except of course the parts about Bush needing to capitalize on fence sitters.

I feel dirty.

Nothing Bush could do or say will convince me. Kerry, however, really really needs to convince me if he wants my vote.

Someone mentioned the Lesser of two Evils always being thus. I have to agree.

"I've seen the Moore movie...it is a massive pile of one sided crap"

I haven't seen it,or any of his other films, but I've heard him say at least twice that it's HIS OPINION, so of course it's one sided.

oh yeah, and one good way supporters for either side could win the hearts and minds of the fence-sitters is to stop calling each other silly names like moonbat, misfit, looneyleft, etc. I see no constructive purpose to resorting to insults. I see it happen more on the right than the left, but I don't read many left sites. I'm sure they do it, but so what? Why lower to their level?

I think that the 46% for each candidate may have a sizable number of those who can be swayed either way. They just have a candidate now, but could still be open-minded to some degree. I heard from other sources (NPR's bipartisan morning pollsters and Zogby) that this election has a very small undecided column, but I think 5-8% is too small.

And it's about time for a balanced campaign from someone: positives and negatives can work together quite well. Of course, such a candidate would have to have some positives....

And just what is Mr. Bush supposed to do about the 8 %? Water down his positions? Pander to constituencies? Move toward the "center" (whatever that is)?

Naw, I rather suggest Mr. Bush just keep on keeping on. Do the right thing, say the right thing, stay honest and decent, and let the chips fall where they may.

In fact, I wouldn't suggest much more right now than just governing. As we close in on September, then the hard campaigning needs doing.

And, for that matter, keep ticking off Senatory Kerry. It's seems to work at making him look quite small.

Even in the last election, running against the VP of a two-term President in "peacetime" and apparent "prosperity", he got more popular votes than Slick Willie ever did in any one election.

Mr. Bush knows how to campaign, and it's still June (July, almost).

And, he's running against John Kerry.

i think "other" and "not sure" should be sent to another country. kerry sucks but if you are still not sure, i don't think you should have the right,

"Other" and "Not Sure" might also mean "Stop calling me" and "Fuck off, I need to use my phone". Deportation based on an answer to a poll is a bit of a stretch.

"So who are these undecided voters and why haven't they decided yet, given all the information available to them?", you ask?

I am. I will continue to be "undecided" right up until election day keeping an open mind, listening, and watching. A lot can happen in a very short time. This one is not a no-brainer.