Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Fourth Reading: It's the Undecided Who Decide

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Fourth Reading: It's the Undecided Who Decide

Article excerpt

With just about three weeks left before voters go back to the polls, Oklahoma political hopefuls are pulling out all the stops before the November election.

It seems everywhere you turn, someone is touting the latest poll that, they say, shows their candidate ahead of the pack by several dozen percentage points. Many candidates - those new graduates of their party's campaign schools - have resorted to communicating via press release, making just a few public appearances and refusing to answer questions from the media.

Their goal is to reach a very elusive part of the population - the still undecided voter - without the worry of accountability.

It works like this: In any campaign, there are always a certain number of voters who will support the candidate no matter what. Likewise, there are always a certain number of voters who will oppose the candidate, no matter what.

Then there's a group known as the undecided.

Candidates - and their handlers - believe there's no reason to spend their money on people who are already going to support you. And they also don't worry about spending limited funds trying to persuade those who, they believe, have decided to oppose them.

Instead, they earmark most of their money, time and other resources on the small group of people who can sway the election, the undecided. This group - usually a small percentage of, say, 5 to 15 percent - is the main target of the candidate's political campaign.

It's one of the few times in your life that being indecisive helps, but it doesn't do a whole lot for this thing we call democracy. It is, more often than not, a small group of people deciding for the rest of us.

I find it ironic that many a political campaign - on both the left and the right - is won by seeking out the middle.

Candidates are sure they speak for every voter when they tell us that Oklahomans don't like a certain policy or idea. They want us to believe that they are so in touch with the 3.5 million of us who live here that they can speak for the state's entire population. …

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