So, the Politico profile of Rachel Bitecofer doesn’t do much to help you understand who’s right on whether the issue in elections is “swing voters” or instead is the matter of whose voters are successfully “activated”, but I admit that the latter smells more right to me than the former. I admit that this might be influenced by the fact that I do see the former as part of the worldview of, in Bitecofer’s words, the “Chuck Todd theory of American politics”.
I’ve never especially beleived in the impactful existence of the swing voter, and suspect the mythology endures because it keeps those who adhere to the Todd Theory in a position of influence and punditry. In other words, it always sounded more to me like an ad hoc idea they use to confirm their own existing biases.
There’s a bit in the profile the raises, really, the fundamental question to answer: if a given “electorate” of say, 100,000 voters moves from electing a Republican president in one election to electing a Democratic Congress in the next, this only is the result of swing voters if the electorate itself is essentially static, if “it was the same 100,000 who voted” but some voted differently.
Doesn’t it make far more sense if instead we are talking about substantially different voters showing up from one election to another? Doesn’t the Todd Theory in essence mistake the “electorate” for a unified mass rather than as just a term we use for whichever shifting mix of voters happens to show up for a given election?
The idea that there’s a pool of swing voters large enough to determine such differences just doesn’t seem right to me.