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Convention Insiders Poll

On balance, what’s more important for your party’s convention this year—to energize the base or appeal to swing voters?

Democrats (102 votes)

Appeal to swing voters: 53%
Energize the base: 46%
Both (volunteered): 1%



Appeal to swing voters

“The base is fired up and ready to go; [Todd] Akin did that!”


“In a narrow election, swing voters are the deciders.”

“ ‘Unconvinced’ 2008 Obama voters are now the undecideds most crucial to victory; Paul Ryan will take care of the base for us.”

“It’s the first time the indies are tuning in, and the base is already locked in.”

“While it is important to energize the progressive base of the Democratic Party, this group is not large enough to carry the important swing states like Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Colorado.”


“There are a vanishingly small number of swing voters, but they matter a lot in 50-50 elections. We’d better be able to speak to them in terms that resonate, or we’re screwed.”

“Obama needs to remember that his speech isn’t directed to those in the hall but to those watching on television.”

“But let’s be honest—most won’t be listening all that much.”

Energize the base

“Conventions are for the party faithful, not for swing voters.”

“Obama wins if blacks and Hispanics vote.”

“You must energize the base first. Look at Democrats in 2010. No energy from the base, and [they] got their clocks cleaned. Swing voters are for October.”

“We’re ahead. We just need to make sure our people get to the polls. They will be watching. Swing voters likelier to be watching Wheel of Fortune.”

“While I believe the single most important thing for both parties is to appeal to swing voters, the convention is designed to energize the base.”

“There are just more nonenergized base voters than there are true undecideds.”

“The base needs a little red meat before they start chanting “Yes, We Can!” again.”

“No swing voters watch the convention—really bad TV.”



On balance, what’s more important for your party’s convention this year—to energize the base or appeal to swing voters?

Republicans (154 votes)

Appeal to swing voters: 71%
Energize the base: 22%
Both (volunteered): 5%
Define Romney, his agenda (volunteered): 2%


Appeal to swing voters

“With the selection of Rep. [Paul] Ryan, the base is very excited. The appeal now is to swing voters—the few that are left.”

“Obama has energized our base for us already. Now we need to appeal to swing voters and show them why a Romney-Ryan administration will get America back on track.”

“You have to do both, but the obvious fact is that neither party’s base is large enough to win outright.”

“Appeal does not mean pander. Be consistent and direct.”

“If Republicans cannot appeal to swing voters or independents, we won’t have any chance of reclaiming the White House.”

“Base will be energized enough with the prospect of voting against Obama.”

“You hope your base is energized already. An hour a night of network prime-time TV ideally reaches out beyond The Daily Show and [The Sean] Hannity audiences.”

“The base knows what it needs to do. Frankly, if they’re not hopping mad then they shouldn’t be considered part of the ‘base.’ ”

“The base is energized, but the swing voters are still up in the air. And, in order to actually govern, the victor needs more than just their base, as Bush 43 found out in his second term.”

“Primary is over. Somebody tell Boston.”

Energize the base

“There are very few swing voters out there: In this environment, it’s the base that must be turned out.”

“Romney is a moderate and already appeals to the swing voters. The hard-core Christians will never vote for a Mormon. Therefore, he needs to get the ones who will [get] behind him energized.”

“With swing voters on vacation, the convention is to fire up, and then organize, the base.”

“Persuadables aren’t going to be happy with either of these nominees. Get out the anti-Obama majority.”



When all is said and done, do you think this will be the most negative presidential campaign you’ve ever seen?

Democrats (101 Votes)

Yes: 64%
No: 36%



“Super PACs with no accountability!”

This article appears in the August 25, 2012 edition of National Journal Magazine.

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