For GOP, former Democrat Davis is key to independents’ hearts

Four years after seconding Barack Obama’s presidential nomination at the Democratic National Convention and four months after leaving the Democratic Party, former Rep. Artur Davis of Alabama re-entered the national spotlight Tuesday to vouch for Mitt Romney at the Republicans’ convention in Tampa, Fla.

His appearance hammered home a message Mr. Romney wants to drive — that even some of Mr. Obama’s highest-profile supporters from 2008 can’t bear to back him again.

“The last time I spoke at a convention, it turned out to be the wrong place. So, Tampa, my fellow Republicans, thank you for welcoming me where I belong,” Mr Davis said, before urging Democrats and independents to question whether the Democratic Party stands for them.

“Ask yourself if you hear your voice in the glamour. Ask yourself if these Democrats still speak for you,” he said.

Hours before Mr. Davis‘ speech, the convention released a video titled “Switchers,” which leads off with an unnamed woman who says she’s a lifelong Democrat who caucused for, donated to and voted for Mr. Obama in 2008, but can’t do it again.

“I’m supporting Mitt Romney because I think he’s a great businessman and that he’s turned businesses around. I like that he’s turned the Olympics around,” she says in the video.

Recruiting party-switchers is a time-honored campaign tactic, though analysts acknowledge they aren’t a major voting bloc in elections. Instead, the target audience is independents, who might respond to the kind of message Mr. Davis will deliver.

“A Democrat that was so [disenchanted] with the failed promises of President Obama can have a big impact when the spotlight shines on him with millions of Americans watching,” said Ron Bonjean, a Republican strategist. “The speech should send a loud and clear message to independent voters that it’s OK to be mad at Obama’s failed promises of ‘hope and change’ and they can choose to vote for someone else who can get the job done.”

Exit polls from the last two presidential races provide a potential blueprint for Mr. Romney to win: stick close to Mr. Obama among independents and drive up the margins of victory among Republicans and crossover voters.

President George W. Bush did just that in his successful 2004 re-election bid against Sen. John F. Kerry, running neck and neck among independents, while outperforming him by 4 percentage points among crossover voters.
It was an entirely different story in 2008, when Mr. Obama turned out far more Democrats, ran even in crossover voters, but really cruised to victory with an 8 percentage-point lead among independents.

This year, the latest CNN/ORC poll found that Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney have about equal support within their respective parties, while Mr. Obama has a razor-thin edge among crossover voters. But Mr. Romney holds a narrow lead among independents.

“I don’t know that Romney will receive more votes of self-identified Democrats than McCain did, but that misses the point,” Mr. Davis told The Washington Times before his speech. “The fact is that independents are a growing voter share, and that classification has become a way station for disaffected Democrats. When you see Romney’s consistent lead in polling with independents, you are partly seeing the measure of Democratic defections.”

With his former party now billing him as a political opportunist, Mr. Davis counters that he no longer fit in the Democratic Party because, in his mind, it shifted so dramatically to the left on the political spectrum.

“It became clear that in this Democratic Party, there is no room for the voices of conservative to center-right voters,” he said.

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