The Most Important Tiny Group in the Country

That is the 916,643 undecided voters in the 6 swing states.

See, apparently the country really is about equally red and blue, except for 4% of the expected voters in those states whose color is not as easily predictable as California’s or Mississippi’s.

Here’s Paul Begala on the mishugas:

And, oh, the lengths we will go to reach those magical 916,643. The political parties, the campaigns, the super PACs (one of which, the pro-Obama Priorities USA Action, I advise), will spend in excess of $2 billion—mostly just to reach those precious few. That works out to $2,181.87 per voter—or as Mitt Romney might call it, pocket change.

Who are these people, these few, these proud? Well, pollsters tell us swing voters are mostly women. They are younger—which blows away the myth that the president has the youth vote locked up. Older voters, like older consumers, are just more set in their ways. Young people are more persuadable about nearly everything. Many swing voters have a high-school diploma but no college degree. And a chunk of them are Hispanic.

And here’s Elizabeth Kolbert on how the independents really aren’t paying attention, and really won’t be paying attention until November, maybe not until election day. She cites a bit more research than Begala, but she’s writing in the New Yorker instead of Newsweek. Cough.

If the 2012 campaign is really “about” swaying nine hundred sixteen thousand six hundred and forty-three “less knowledgeable” voters in half a dozen states, then everything else—the referendum on economic policy, the battle over values, the fight for the “soul of America”—is just a sideshow. Of course, you probably already knew this, because you’ve been paying attention. In which case, you’ve already decided.

Right. That’s me. Time on my hands and a perverse interest in the minutia of partisan mud-wrestling.

Begala points out wryly that if a candidates would just cut his campaign ad spend into 916,643 portions and send a check to each undecided voter, he could probably win.

Because $2000 would help anyone. Yeah, it’s bribery. But people are struggling.

Here’s where a little edumacation can help us (I mean help us understand the big picture. Not, apparently, help us make a lot of dough because see this chart below):

Wonkblog put a chart together for us explaining why not even half of our college graduates can get a “good job,” defined by the economists as the inflation-adjusted median wage, for men, from 1979 ($37K), plus basic health and retirement benefits.

The authors of this study use basic economic and social history to explain the causes of this dismal chart: the loss of union power, deregulation of major industries, globalization, and poor immigration policy have all pressurized the low-wage labor sector out of any political power or will.

And all of these changes have played out in a macroeconomic context that has – with the exception of the last half of the 1990s – placed a much greater emphasis on controlling inflation than achieving full employment. In our view, these policy decisions, rooted in politics, are the main explanations for the decline in the economy’s ability to generate good jobs.

That undecided voter who is paying more attention to her family and career than to the election is working in this system. Facing the steepest decline in prospects our country has seen in decades. And she’s right: neither candidate can do all that much about it, given the nearly 50 years of economic, social, and political change that has created this mess.

(Polling hasn’t addressed the economic status of the undecided sliver, to my frustration.)

I have my opinions about who’d do less harm. But given the historical context of our current recession, I cannot reasonably expect the above chart to improve much if my guy is elected. Not even in the dot com boom times did that pukey brown line get to 50.

So why bother paying attention to the gaffes and bravado? The daily Nate Silver?

Just have a nice grill-out with your family and enjoy the sunshine, right?

And enjoy the show, running for free till November.

Happy weekend, friends!

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