St. Louis Oracle

St. Louis-based political forecasting plus commentary on politics and events from a grassroots veteran with a mature, progressive anti-establishment perspective.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Slay must fight complacency as things go his way

The Oracle’s February 1 forecast, while cautious about Slay’s lead, nevertheless picked the Mayor to win renomination in the March 8 primary with close to 54% of the vote. Developments since then (or more telling, the absence of developments hurting the Mayor’s candidacy) now point to a more comfortable victory than then.

The “bobo” vote: My earlier forecast stated that the “bobo” vote might well determine the election’s outcome. “Bobos” (short for “bohemian bourgeois”) are the young, progressive, predominantly white-collar voters who are new to the city, for whom race is not central to voting decisions, many of whom powered Jeff Smith’s near-miss run for Congress last year. These geographically dispersed voters are difficult to gauge, and the bobo-run Arch City Chronicle made no endorsement for mayor. The Oracle’s best assessment is that most favor Slay. “Teflon Fran” seems not to be harmed in this group by fallout from two issues that might have meant trouble: school board politics and the phony crime statistics that may have lured some bobos to move into the city.

Republican crossovers: This isn’t really a new development, just one that the earlier analysis understated. Slay’s relative conservatism should win him nearly unanimous support from those Republicans who choose to vote in the Democratic Primary. Slay’s campaign literature touts his endorsement by Alderman Fred Heitert, the city’s only Republican officeholder, and Slay lawn signs now adorn several of the city homes that sported Bush-Cheney signs last October. Even though Republicans are now so weak in the city that they no longer field local candidates, their numbers are still large enough to have an impact in this election. As mentioned in the earlier analysis, the absence of any Republican candidate for any office frees Republicans to vote in the Democratic Primary this election. However, noting merely the thousand or so voters who cast ballots in the GOP primary in the last mayoral election understated their impact. If the relevant benchmark is the 2004 Democratic Primary between Jennifer Joyce and Jerryl Christmas, it is more noteworthy that the number of voters who participated in that Republican Primary (and who are now free to take a Democratic ballot) was over 5,500. They could add 4-8 percentage points to Slay’s margin.

Turnout: One of the factors mentioned in the earlier analysis, though, could still turn out to be Slay’s Achilles heel. Forecasts of Slay’s invincibility could impair the turnout among Slay voters. Absentee ballot requests, usually a good predictor of turnout, are running at about the same pace as the August, 2004 primary at which the Joyce-Christmas contest took place. (An Election Board official said today that about 2,600 requests had been received so far; a total of 2,876 absentee ballots were cast and counted in the August, 2004 primary.) To its credit, Slay’s campaign is taking nothing for granted, but turning out a complacent electorate that doesn’t feel threatened is now its biggest challenge.

The only people who count are the ones that actually vote.


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