Clark Judge has an interesting column in US News for your weekend reading which poses some provocative questions about the upcoming election. Titled, “The Invisible Romney Vote Obama Should Fear,” Judge identifies a group of voters who may be flying completely under the radar, and for good reason. It’s not a particular racial demographic, or women vs. men or seniors vs. young voters the author has his eye on. It’s the unions.
The cause for his analysis, like so many things recently, comes from the result of Scott Walker’s recall election. To Judge’s way of thinking, it’s not just the fact that Walker won, but the margin of victory and the enduring mystery of how the pollsters got it so wrong.
But that margin. Polls had shown a much tighter race.
All of a sudden, the ghost of elections past is haunting the president and his party. In 1980, in 1994, in 2004—in other words, in big Republican years over the past three-plus decades—the GOP has polled much weaker than its final vote.
Why? Late deciders may be part of the answer, but only part.
Something more is almost surely going on. Here’s my guess as to what.
Particularly in big years when the party is pulling in or turning out occasional rather than reliable party voters, part of the GOP vote is invisible to pollsters. In Wisconsin—maybe everywhere—there may be reluctance among union members to acknowledge that they will cast their ballot for candidates and the party their leadership so virulently opposes.
If you’re a jaded old political observer, the idea of some sort of silent union voting block for the GOP may sound like something out of an alternate universe science fiction movie. But is it really all that crazy? When the numbers were tallied, 38% of union members voted for Walker – totally contradicting most poll numbers – and the AFSCME has lost 54% of its membership in the last 12 months.
Judge may be on to something here. The unions, particularly in the public sector, tend to run a tight ship and don’t tolerate folks speaking out of school. And as long as the government was forcibly extracting dues out of workers’ paychecks, it wasn’t hard to project an image of solidarity against “the man.” But once the curtains close on the voting booth, prying eyes who might threaten to cut off your overtime can no longer see what you’re up to. And in significant numbers, the union workers voted for a new kind of change.
Could this be replicated in other parts of the country… specifically in the swing states? Once you accept the premise of what was happening under the covers in Wisconsin, the more obvious question seems to be, “Why not?” The problems which were plaguing Wisconsin in terms of spending and the unions are hardly unique.
So, is there an invisible union vote out there for Romney just waiting to quietly show up at the polls in November? It might not be as crazy as it sounds.