by Ken Feltman
Focus groups across the country are smothering political campaigns with huge amounts of information. That information – call data by most of the young analysts who try to interpret it – is “crunched” and conveyed to the creative types who produce the ads that so many people complain about.
The data also provide insights into what words Americans use to express their feelings.
Here is one: Crazy.
Many more Colorado voters used the word crazy (or crazies) to describe Republicans than voters anywhere else. What does that mean for the future of the Republican Party in Colorado?
When asked, Colorado Republican officials most often responded with a laundry list of problems that they blame on Democrats. They quickly leaped to criticism of Democratic Senator Mark Udall, who is in a tough reelection fight.
Is Udall in a close battle partly because his Republican opponent is not thought of as crazy?
Senator Udall’s Republican opponent, Rep. Cory Gardner, was not perceived by focus group participants as crazy. Does the fact that crazy was not applied to Gardner have something to do with the close race in Colorado? A Colorado Democrat (female, 28) said, “the Republican isn’t bad, he’d be okay, he’s not like so many of them.”
Can Mitch McConnell benefit from the contrast with crazy Republicans?
The states with the next largest percentages of crazy comments are South Dakota, Missouri, Texas and Kentucky. When focus group participants who said they are Republicans used the word crazy, they often used it as a substitute for Tea Party, except in South Dakota, where it was used most often to describe Washington.
Kentucky voters, both Democrats and Republicans, used crazy to describe ardent supporters of Senator Rand Paul (R-KY). Kentucky Democrats also used it to describe Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Washington. Republicans sometimes applied it to Washington but, in more cases, to Paul.
McConnell is in a close fight for reelection. Will he benefit from the contrast with Paul and his supporters? Here is what one Kentucky independent voter (female, 59) said: “I had doubts about Mitch McConnell. Then I listened to Rand Paul and decided McConnell was pretty good after all.”
Are voters falling out of love with Ted Cruz and Rand Paul?
Even when they support Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), Texas Republicans seem to accept describing Cruz as crazy. One Texas Republican (female, aged 35) said, “It takes someone who’s a little crazy to get something done in Washington.” How many people, in Texas and elsewhere, have thought or said something similar? Another Texas Republican (male, 63) said, “Cruz makes (Governor) Rick Perry look good.”
Senators Cruz and Paul have devoted followers but seem to be accumulating more and more critics within the Republican Party. A California Republican (male, 27) described them as “dysfunctional.” A Missouri Republican (female, 56) said, “I listened and liked what they said at first but the more I learned, the more they seemed extreme. And they attract even more extreme people.” A Texas independent (male, 42) said, “I voted for Cruz but he won’t get things done. He’s part of the Tea Party. It’s their way or nothing. They won’t work with anybody else.”
A Republican from Texas (male, 33) said, “I supported Cruz at first but he has this huge ego. It will become harmful if he doesn’t change.” Another Texas Republican (male, 51) followed up that comment: “He won’t change. He thinks the rest of us are wrong.”
Is the obstructionist streak in the Tea Parties beginning to wear thin with voters? We will need more data before we can make that statement, but we know that the word crazy is used by voters of all persuasions to describe Republicans much more often than Democrats.