ERICKSON: The November numbers game

President Joe Biden speaks about the infrastructure law at Portland International Airport, Thursday, April 21, 2022, in Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

There are 332 million Americans. Of that, roughly 75% are eligible to vote. Only 50% are actually registered to vote. On average between midterm and presidential elections, only 40% of the 332 million go vote. A presidential year may swing up to about 47%, and a midterm may swing down to 33%. The average is about 40%.

Of the 40% of Americans who vote, are registered to vote and who do vote, you need 21% to win.

But of that 40%, about 13% will vote Democrat in every case and 12% will vote Republican in every case. It varies by state, but generally, the GOP and Democrats are at parity in the nation now.

That leaves 15% of Americans who really shape the election.

Four percent of Americans are single-issue voters. They only care about guns (gun-control versus gun rights), abortion (pro-life or pro-abortion), the environment or other random issues and will only vote on those issues or stay home if they don’t like where any of the candidates land on the issue. On guns and abortion, the majority in each group have tended to lean to the GOP, offsetting the Democrats’ generic ballot advantage.

That leaves 11% of Americans to decide the election. Of that 11%, you have to get the votes of 5.51% of those Americans.

It is impossible in some districts and states because the percentages at the state level vary. But in swing districts and swing states, that really matters. You have to target 5.51% of the population, find them, persuade them, and hold them once you have your base locked down. To be sure, these are generalities, but over time they hold up. Some elections have higher turnout. Some have lower turn out. But as a benchmark for political campaigning, they hold up over time.

To you and me, President Joe Biden’s team seems off the rails right now. The number one issue in America is inflation, encompassing the economy, jobs, gas prices, food prices, etc. Everything else is incidental. What is Biden doing? He is focused on a supposed climate crisis, abortion, gun control, etc. The real question is: Why?

The answer is not that the Biden team is incompetent at a political level. It is that they know doom is coming. They are having to mitigate the damage. In geometry, you learn a sine wave is negated by a cosine. A wave of amplitude x can be offset by a reverse wave of amplitude -x. Biden’s team is trying to grow a wave of Democrat voters to help mitigate the coming Republican wave.

Their strategy is to turn out the 15% of Americans who will always, in every circumstance, vote Democrat and also maximize the turnout of those single-issue voters who care about abortion, the environment and guns in the ways Democrats care about them. Some of those neutralize each other, e.g., gun-control voters versus gun-rights voters. But at the margins, perhaps more pro-abortion advocates turn out over single issue pro-life voters.

The danger here is that this further alienates nonwhite Democrats, and those voters continue their shift to the GOP. But if the Democrats want to do their best not to cancel the GOP’s wave but reduce its impact, they need to pull in as many Democrat and single-issue left-leaning voters as possible.

What you and I see as nuts for them abandoning inflation and the economy as the big issue is actually smart politics when they know doom is coming and they want to ensure the GOP only wins 20 seats in the House, not 40, and the GOP wins the Senate by one seat, not five.

The behavior of the White House and Democrats is a tacit admission that the GOP wave really is coming and really is big, and their strategy is to reduce its size and scope, not actually stop it from happening at all.