This is a huge change from the past three years. Independents put Republicans into control of the House in the historic election of 2010, and they have leaned strongly against President Obama since the passage of the Health Care law.
The current swing back to support of Obama signals a significant shift in the election.
The way American presidential elections are now determined, a close election will be decided by one important group: independent voters in a few swing states including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida—and possibly Colorado and/or Iowa.
Why are so many independents changing their support?
They are still strongly against the President’s Health Care law, and most of them dislike the stimulus package and the Obama Administration’s inability to turn around the economy.
In 2010 independents were overwhelmingly on the side of the Republicans.
So why the change?
The answer is interesting. Independents are switching sides in the presidential election because they are deeply frustrated with the amount and severity of negative attack ads among the Republican candidates.
The race has become very negative, and the negativity is turning off independents in droves.
In reality, negative campaigning turns off almost everyone.
The difference is that most Republicans and Democrats will still vote for their party’s nominee no matter how negative things are, but independents who get fed up with negativity are more likely to simply switch sides.
This is exactly what is happening.
The Republican candidates have made each other the enemy, and they are spending millions of dollars to tear down other Republicans.
This has happened in past primary elections for both parties, but this time the new Super Pac structure of campaign advertising is taking the negativity and division to an unprecedented level.
On the other side of the aisle, the Obama campaign has chosen a different enemy: the rich. This may turn out to be brilliant (if misguided) politics.
Few people consider themselves “the rich,” and most of those who do are either committed Republicans or committed Democrats rather than independents.
In the general election, the Republican candidate will naturally turn his negativity toward President Obama, and the Democrats will certainly use negative attack ads against the Republican nominee.
Independents expect both parties to attack each other, but in a contest between Republicans who attack each other plus Democrats on the one hand and an Obama campaign that attacks Republicans plus “the rich” on the other hand, the majority of swing-state independents will almost surely side against the rich.
The electorate is split into three major groups (Democrats, Republicans and independents), and whoever wins two of these wins the election.
If the economy is bad and getting worse by the fall of 2012, attacking the Obama Administration amounts to an attack both on Democrats and on a bad economy.
This could be a winning argument.
But if the economy still seems to be improving, as it has for the last few months, blaming the rich may work.
In any case, the negative attack ads by Republican candidates are driving a lot of independents to the Obama side.
There is a lot of time left in this election, and independents are highly motivated by concern about the future of the economy.
Barring some kind of major shift in world affairs, the election will ultimately come down to which candidate can convince independents in swing states that he can fix the economy.
President Obama has already outlined his strategy for this, which is to raise taxes on the wealthy.
The Republican race started with various plans for rebooting the economy, but this has taken a back seat to other issues throughout the early part of 2012.
Unless Republicans can change this direction, the independent switch to Obama will continue.
Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.