The conventional wisdom is often just that – conventional. Neither is it always wise.
Right now the conventional wisdom among the punditocracy is that the results of the November election will turn almost entirely on the war in Iraq, Congressional malfeasance, and President Bush’s popularity, or lack thereof. Whether the Republicans retain control of the House and Senate, we’re told, will depend on the daily body count in Baghdad and a referendum on incumbents in general.
American voters are more sophisticated than the average Washington pundit gives them credit. Voters are motivated by more than a couple media-pushed issues, even when as compelling as a foreign war and congressional corruption. In close races around the country, other issues may prove decisive.
Pro-life voters, for example, are just as pro-life and every bit as dedicated today as they were in 2004. With the electorate divided just about evenly over the war in Iraq, the 2004 election turned on other issues, pre-eminently the “values issues”. The values issues – sanctity of life and marriage in particular -- were decisive for the Bush victory, especially in Ohio where a marriage initiative on the ballot helped mobilize values voters and gave the president the winning margin over his Democratic opponent.
In some states in 2004, values voters created a reverse gender gap – at least when the Susan B. Anthony List got to work.
That year, the SBA List and its Candidate Fund, a nationwide network dedicated to activating and mobilizing pro-life women, targeted eight battleground states. In six of those states, when the dust settled, it was clear that more women had voted for Bush than for Kerry, thus eliminating the so-called gender gap.
In Missouri, a target of SBA List activity, the female vote went to the pro-life candidate, not the pro-abortion one. For instance, Kit Bond (R-MO) garnered 54% of female voters. In some other cliffhangers in 2004, our women voters provided a necessary part of the winning margin --- and could have been the decisive voting bloc. Consider pro-life victories for Senators DeMint (SC), Thune (SD), Vitter (LA), and Martinez (FL).
Right now, the generic ballot split nationwide between Republicans and Democrats is a virtual dead heat. Values issues again could be the decisive factor in select races. The Susan B. Anthony List Candidate Fund is working again to mobilize swing voters in key Senate races.