Where are the Coattails?
In politics a successful politician who can help get others from the party elected simply by association is said to have coattails. In the 2008 election President Obama was given credit for helping to elect Democrats in many state and local elections after local officials and candidates eagerly joined Obama at every event and did everything they could to associate themselves with him.
The 2012 election seems to be shaping up differently. Since the 2010 mid-term elections in which Republicans won a great number of state and local offices Democrats have not been as eager to have their names mentioned in the same sentence with President Obama’s. Many prominent Democrat elected officials announced they could not possibly make it to the Democrat National Convention far in advance of the actual event.
This year’s election seems to feature far fewer presidential candidate yard signs as I have seen substantially less this year than 2008. Yard signs are not themselves any indicator of support level and campaign consultants often tell candidates that yard signs don’t change anyone’s mind about for whom to vote. However, yard signs are an indication of how the politically active view the candidates and candidate relationships.
Yard signs are put up by politically active residents who ask for signs or by candidate committees who seek sign locations by calling or knocking on doors. Candidates and their campaign managers often tell volunteers when they are putting up signs to put them next to or near particular other candidates with whom they would like voters to associate them. Sometimes candidates and their committees will cover neighborhoods for each other, so that one will put up signs for both in a neighborhood and the another will put up signs for both in another neighborhood. They save time this way and associate the candidates in the minds of the voters whom they ask for permission to put up signs. Usually volunteers put the signs next to or near each other to continue the association or just because they are in a hurry and don’t want to wander around the voters yard to put the sign somewhere else. In general, if yard signs of candidates are together, they are associated to some degree or politically active people want them to be perceived as associated.
In my travels here in Northeast Ohio over the last few weeks as political yard signs have begun going up I have noticed that Romney signs are usually prominently placed with state and local Republican candidates, as would be expected. I have however seen few Obama signs, which did not start appearing until President Obama was campaigning in nearby Kent, Ohio, but what I thought was more interest is the signs were not near any other Democrat candidates who do have lots of signs out. Yards seem to have either Obama or other Democrat signs. Very few yards have both. I think I have actually seen more empty chairs, referencing Clint Eastwood’s Republican National Convention Speech criticism of Obama, next to Romney signs with more Republican signs around them than yards with both Obama and other Democrat signs. The yards that do have both, have their Obama sign at one end of the yard and the other Democrats at the other extreme end of the yard. The yards look like when one member of the household is Republican and the other Democrat and they have signs for one down the one side and signs for the other party down the other side of the lawn, but these are Obama on one side and Democrats on the other.
It would appear that politically active Democrats do not believe there are any coattails this year and may even think Obama could be an anchor. Meanwhile, Republicans are eager to be associated with Romney and it seems to be working as new polls here in Ohio show U.S. Senate Candidate Josh Mandel even with or 4 points ahead of incumbent Sherrod Brown, according to Rasmussen.