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
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.