DLC types love to tell Dems that they should play for middle-of-the-road independents instead of taking firm progressive stances. Well, according to David Weigel, it looks like those independents love them some Bill Richardson:
That's been going on for a while. Pollster.com, which tracks the primaries and averages all the surveys, has noticed Mr Richardson gaining everywhere. In Iowa he's gone from negligible numbers to the low teens, near Mr Obama. In New Hampshire he's moving past Mr Edwards into third place.
But the internal numbers in that Smith-featured poll are fascinating: Mr Richardson's making the biggest gains with independents. In South Carolina only 1% of Democrats support Mr Richardson, but 9% of independents do. In New Hampshire it's 6% of Democrats and, again, 9% of independents. The Iowa poll's the real blockbuster: Mr Richardson has an outright lead with 25% of the independent vote. That's what's pushing him into the first tier.
The Iowa and New Hampshire numbers matter; those are both states where independents can show up to the caucus or primary and signal their intention to vote Democratic. When I reported from New Hampshire in June, Ray Buckley, the state's Democratic chairman, crowed that two-thirds of independents are planning to vote in his party's primary. Nearly half (44%) of New Hampshire voters are registered independent. If Mr Buckley is right, there'll be as many independents voting in Mr Richardson's race as there will be Democrats.
Personally, I think that the reason Richardson is climbing with independents is that people are tired... Richardson's most attractive quality is that he exudes non-partisan compentence. However, Weigel offers up another possibility:
Mr Richardson has the most extreme Iraq pullout plan in the race—all troops out of the country, no permanent bases. A lot of those non-Democrats and ex-Republicans who ditched Bush in 2006 like the sound of that.