Quinnipiac University has released its newest presidential polling data, with some surprising analysis for those considering an independent run at the White House for 2016.
While this is the first major poll showing Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) beating all of the Republican field in the general election, the most important thing this poll showed is that an independent run at the POTUS would hurt both party’s chances–but the Democratic candidate worse.
In the past, independent candidates were seen as a spoiler to one side or the other. All too often major party candidates tell voters that ‘a vote for the independent is a vote for the opponent,’ and often this analogy is true–the independent siphons votes from one side significantly worse than the other (i.e. Ross Perot’s two presidential campaigns).
In modern elections, during the primary season, the candidate has to consolidate the base by rallying to the core principles of the ilk. Then, in the general election, there is a standard gesture to the center, trying to win over independents, swing-voters, and the valuable political center. It is impossible for either candidate to win without the non-aligned and political center.
This phenomenon has grown in recent cycles, and what this poll is suggesting is that a strong independent candidate who appeals to the center and non-aligned voters will both capture it and siphon votes from both sides of the political partisan divide.
Why is this?
Without a question, Bernie Sanders is a self-proclaimed extreme of the political left. Likewise, the major Republican contenders, with the possible exception of Kasich, represent different aspects of the extreme political right–social, economic, or political. Gestures to the center by either side will be extremely difficult, and will most likely be wholly determined by the vice-president tap on both sides.
Where President Obama had a party darling as a political partner in Joe Biden to consolidate his party weaknesses, 2016 will be determined by both sides appealing to (or possibly even appalling) the center with their VP choice.
But if a candidate started in the political divide, like a moderate such as Michael Bloomberg could, then neither side would easily capture those votes and would lose a certain number of party members who are tired of the party antics and partisanship.
This poll should also serve as a warning to the parties about the modern primary system. A moderate can win the general election, but can’t currently win a primary in either party. What this has created is a climate where a moderate independent could completely circumvent the party primaries, avoid the political ‘battering,’ and still come out viable in the general election.
The parties have created this opportunity, it’s now time for the independents to capitalize on it.