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Shut out by GOP, independents may tilt Democratic

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Filed: Country: Philippines
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By Richard C. Paddock

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

SAN MATEO -- — Medea Bern, once a registered Republican, is one of a growing number of California voters who shun party membership and declare themselves independent. In the upcoming presidential election, that makes her the kind of voter all the candidates would like to reach.

But when it comes to California's Feb. 5 primary, there is only one major party where she's welcome: the Democratic Party. She isn't allowed to cast her ballot in the Republican primary, and that upsets her.

She might be inclined to vote for Republican Sen. John McCain, but instead finds herself weighing a choice between Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"It really makes me mad," she said. "I haven't decided which candidate to vote for, but I'm not happy that my voice is eliminated on the Republican side. Don't they trust the independent vote?"

Unlike the New Hampshire primary, where huge numbers of independents were embraced by both parties, California's independents will be limited to the Democratic or American Independent Party primaries.

Some political analysts -- including some Republicans -- say the California Republican Party blundered when it decided last year that only registered Republicans could vote in its presidential primary, unlike 2004.

"It's pretty hard to build a big tent if you don't let anybody else in," said Dan Schnur, a veteran Republican political consultant. "It doesn't make sense for a party that wants to and needs to broaden its base to throw this kind of obstacle in the path of an independent voter who wants to hang out with us."

Not surprisingly, the Democratic Party is delighted at the prospect of attracting hundreds of thousands of independents to vote for one of its candidates next month. Democratic strategists believe that an independent who votes Democratic in February is likely to vote for a Democratic candidate in November too.

"The Republicans have been caught with their pants down," said Democratic Party campaign advisor Bob Mulholland. "The Republicans are going to create a lot of anger out there."

In California, the number of voters who decline to register with a party has soared to 19.3%, double the 1992 percentage.

At the same time, the number of registered Democrats has fallen to 42.7% and the number of Republicans has declined to 33.6%, according to the office of Secretary of State Debra Bowen.

That means that 62% of California voters can cast ballots in the Feb. 5 Democratic primary, nearly double the number who will be eligible to vote in the Republican race.

"Republicans have made the serious, perhaps fatal, error of shutting independent voters out of their primary," said Garry South, who was a top advisor to former Democratic Gov. Gray Davis. "The thing we know about independents is, when they choose to vote in a primary, they tend to stay with that party" in the general election.

In California, independent voters have tended to reflect the state's majority views, merging a comparatively conservative view on fiscal matters like taxes with a more liberal perspective on social issues, like abortion rights and support for the environment.

The official designation for independents in California is "decline to state." Also on the ballot will be the American Independent Party, once championed by segregationist Alabama Gov. George Wallace and John Schmitz, a conservative former California congressman. Some analysts believe that that party remains alive in California because voters mistakenly sign up thinking they are registering as independents. The fact that the American Independent Party primary is also open to decline-to-state voters this year may only add to the confusion.

California Republican Party spokesman Hector Barajas said his party decided to exclude unaffiliated voters in February in the belief that only registered Republicans should be able to select the presidential nominee.

In addition, he said, party officials were concerned that independents could band together and create mischief in a handful of congressional districts where unaffiliated voters outnumber Republicans.

That includes the Peninsula district south of San Francisco, where Bern, a freelance writer, lives. Independents make up 25% of registered voters, Republicans 20%.

In the neighboring San Francisco district of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the difference is even greater: fewer than 10% of voters are registered as Republicans, while more than 29% decline to state a party.

Barajas played down any damage that the decision to exclude independents might cause to the eventual Republican nominee. Whoever the GOP selects, he said, will have months to court California's unaffiliated voters.

"It will give our presidential nominee time to communicate their vision to all the independent voters," he said. "They are all going to be up for grabs."

But Allan Hoffenblum, a Republican campaign strategist, says the party made a mistake by giving in to elitism. "It's the country club atmosphere of Republican leaders," he said. "Their attitude is, 'If they don't look like us or talk like us, why should we let them vote in the presidential primary?' "

For Republicans, with just one-third of the voters statewide, appealing to independents is critical to their candidates' prospects. In most recent elections -- Arnold Schwarzenegger's two statewide victories are the exception -- independents have sided with Democrats.

Hoffenblum says there are many stripes of independent voters. Where they live can indicate how they are likely to vote.

In general, independent voters in the Inland Empire and the Central Valley tend to be more conservative, and those who live along the coast tend to be more liberal. In San Francisco, many independents are more liberal than the Democratic Party.

Strategists say that decline-to-state voters are less interested in politics and generally have a lower turnout than Democratic and Republican members, although that may not be the case in February if the Democratic race remains competitive.

Mulholland predicts that independents will make up about 10% of the vote in the Democratic primary. It is unclear which of the two leading Democrats will benefit most from their inclusion.

Obama has shown strong appeal among independents in other states. But the Clintons have long courted California, where Bill Clinton won in 1992 and 1996 with the backing of independents.

A recent Los Angeles Times/CNN/Politico poll showed independents going for Hillary Clinton by a large margin. But Times Poll Director Susan Pinkus cautioned that the situation is fluid and the numbers could change as election day nears.

Eyvine Perkett, 81, one of the independent voters surveyed in the Times Poll, said he might have been interested in McCain had he been able to vote for him. For now he supports Clinton but might switch to Obama as he learns more about him.

"I have no interest in parties," the retired Plumas County general contractor said. "I vote who I like. I listen to what they say, and decide."

Independent voter Laurie Keig in San Diego County, who also was surveyed in the Times Poll, has voted for candidates of both parties in the past but this time plans to vote for Clinton.

The 52-year-old contract negotiator said she has no desire to vote Republican this time, but the party's decision to exclude independents confirms her perception that the GOP is "very clubby."

"Since George Bush became president, I can't ever see voting Republican again," she said.

In downtown San Mateo, part-time tax preparer John Ridpath said he has belonged to the Democratic and Republican parties in the past, but is now registered as an independent because he is "not satisfied with the way the two-party system operates."

He believes the state's Republican leaders don't want to open their presidential primary to independents because that would increase the chances of a moderate winning.

Ridpath said he would probably vote in the Democratic primary but hadn't settled on a candidate.

"I am so sick of the Republican Party and so disgusted with the things they have done over the past eight years that I am ready for a change," he said.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/na...=la-home-nation

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i agree... allot of folks i work with are voting Dem..most of them voted for bush over kerry..but they are tired of iraq, the economy suxs...etc...they blame the gop more than the dems


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Filed: Country: Belarus
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Why anyone registers for a party is beyond me. I make the bastards woo me instead of giving it up ahead of time. ;)

Declare your independence...be an Independent! I've been an Independent since 1976.

Why be incumbered with their packaged product? You know they are all full of sh*t anyway.


"Credibility in immigration policy can be summed up in one sentence: Those who should get in, get in; those who should be kept out, are kept out; and those who should not be here will be required to leave."

"...for the system to be credible, people actually have to be deported at the end of the process."

US Congresswoman Barbara Jordan (D-TX)

Testimony to the House Immigration Subcommittee, February 24, 1995

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Filed: Country: Philippines
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Why anyone registers for a party is beyond me. I make the bastards woo me instead of giving it up ahead of time. ;)

Declare your independence...be an Independent! I've been an Independent since 1976.

Why be incumbered with their packaged product? You know they are all full of sh*t anyway.

Did you vote for Bill Clinton in '92 or '96?

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Filed: Timeline
Why anyone registers for a party is beyond me. I make the bastards woo me instead of giving it up ahead of time. ;)

Declare your independence...be an Independent! I've been an Independent since 1976.

Why be incumbered with their packaged product? You know they are all full of sh*t anyway.

Did you read the article? Independents are voting Dems because they can. Reps shut them out of primaries. And primaries decide a helluva lot.

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Filed: Country: Belarus
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Why anyone registers for a party is beyond me. I make the bastards woo me instead of giving it up ahead of time. ;)

Declare your independence...be an Independent! I've been an Independent since 1976.

Why be incumbered with their packaged product? You know they are all full of sh*t anyway.

Did you read the article? Independents are voting Dems because they can. Reps shut them out of primaries. And primaries decide a helluva lot.

In Texas an Independent could choose which party primary to vote in. You can't vote in both. I'll see what happens in March.


"Credibility in immigration policy can be summed up in one sentence: Those who should get in, get in; those who should be kept out, are kept out; and those who should not be here will be required to leave."

"...for the system to be credible, people actually have to be deported at the end of the process."

US Congresswoman Barbara Jordan (D-TX)

Testimony to the House Immigration Subcommittee, February 24, 1995

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Why anyone registers for a party is beyond me. I make the bastards woo me instead of giving it up ahead of time. ;)

Declare your independence...be an Independent! I've been an Independent since 1976.

Why be incumbered with their packaged product? You know they are all full of sh*t anyway.

Did you read the article? Independents are voting Dems because they can. Reps shut them out of primaries. And primaries decide a helluva lot.

In Texas an Independent could choose which party primary to vote in. You can't vote in both. I'll see what happens in March.

Perhaps but this article was about Cali. And you can only go Dem here.

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Filed: Country: Belarus
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Why anyone registers for a party is beyond me. I make the bastards woo me instead of giving it up ahead of time. ;)

Declare your independence...be an Independent! I've been an Independent since 1976.

Why be incumbered with their packaged product? You know they are all full of sh*t anyway.

Did you vote for Bill Clinton in '92 or '96?

I will actually admit that I voted for Bill in 1992. Only because I distrusted and disliked Bush, Sr. The guy is a party hack. I never liked him or his kind. I never liked his son either. I cringed when he got the nomination in 2000. In retrospect I regret not voting for Gore in 2000, but could not vote for that idiot Kerry in 2004. I've always loathed the Liberal Left.

It worked out OK from 1992 to 2000 because there was a Republican Congress to keep Bill from straying too far to his Lefty roots.

I voted for Dole in 1996 though, but didn't cry too much when he lost to Bill because the Republican Congress kept Bill from f*cking up as much as he would have been inclined to do with a Democratic Congress.

The sad truth is that I have tended to vote against candidates in recent years rather than vote for someone. Sad, but true.

As far as issues in 2008...immigration, trade issues, the budget, and the economy are it for me. Iraq will play out no matter who is in office. I was never in favor of invading Iraq. I thought it was a mistake from the get go. I still do.

Bush has been a disaster for us, but that doesn't necessarily mean I will vote Democratic in 2008. You can't undo the lunacy of Bush with the lunacy of the Liberal Left. Let's not go there either.


"Credibility in immigration policy can be summed up in one sentence: Those who should get in, get in; those who should be kept out, are kept out; and those who should not be here will be required to leave."

"...for the system to be credible, people actually have to be deported at the end of the process."

US Congresswoman Barbara Jordan (D-TX)

Testimony to the House Immigration Subcommittee, February 24, 1995

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