With the GOP primary now all but officially over—congratulations, Mr. Romney—we can safely declare it swing voter season. As the general election campaign heats up, ever more attention is going to shift to that special class of voters who we presume will be responsible for picking our next President. But there’s good reason to believe that the vast majority of Americans, including professional journalists and campaign operatives, wouldn’t recognize a typical swing voter if they met one.
Indeed, the application of the term “swing voter” deserves a lot more scrutiny than it generally earns. As it is, the term is thrown around carelessly to apply to large demographically or ideologically defined groups. The most common assumption, for example, is that swing voters are synonymous with political independents, but as I explained at length in a recent book review, that is an utterly fanciful notion.