If President Barack Obama cannot capture the white vote at quite the same numbers that he did in 2008 (43%), does that pretty much doom his chances in 2012 for a second term?
A demographic trends analysis at National Journal suggests not:
To assess the potential impact of the demographic change on the 2012 electoral map, National Journal recently performed a series of projections. First, we looked at the average annual increase in the state-by-state minority share of the voting-age population from 2000 through 2010 and projected that forward two years to produce an estimate of each state’s total nonwhite population in the 2012 election year. Then we estimated how that population increase would affect the minority share of the vote in each state, using the relationship between the two variables in 2008 as a guide. (We assumed that for each state, the minority share of the vote in 2012 would equal the same proportion of the total minority population as it did in 2008.)
Once we established an estimated minority share of the vote for each state in 2012, we ran two simulations. One projected that Obama would win the same share of minority voters in each state that he did in 2008; the other assumed that he would lose 10 percent of his previous minority share. (That scenario approximates the falloff between the 80 percent of minorities that Obama won in 2008, and the 73 percent that Democrats captured in 2010, according to the exit polls.) In each case, we then calculated the share of the white vote that Obama would need to win each state.
The exercise shows that, compared with 2008, the road would bend toward Obama, at least slightly, just about everywhere. Most important would be the changes in the states atop each side’s priority list for 2012.
Obama, for instance, won Florida last time with 42 percent of the white vote; under this scenario, if he maintains his minority support he could win the Sunshine State with just under 40 percent of the white vote. With equal minority support in Nevada, the president could win with only 35 percent of the white vote, down from the 45 percent he garnered in 2008. Likewise, under these conditions, Obama could take Virginia with just 33.5 percent of whites, well down from the 39 percent he captured last time. In New Jersey, his winning number among whites would fall to just over 41 percent (compared with the 52 percent he won in 2008). In Pennsylvania, under these circumstances, 41 percent of white votes would be enough to put the state in Obama’s column, down from the 48 percent he won in 2008.
Demography in America is not destiny, but like weighted dice it continues to load, year-by-year, in Democrats’ favor, and this should give 2012 Obama supporters some hope that they’ll see him continue in the presidency through 2016 (when the demographics will have shifted even further in favor of Democratic candidates).
Here’s a bit more from National Journal:
Since 1992, exit polls have found that the percentage of nonwhite voters in presidential elections has more than doubled, from 12 percent when Bill Clinton first won the White House to 26 percent in 2008. Obama got four-fifths of that nonwhite vote, which helps explain how he won the largest share of the popular vote of any Democratic presidential nominee since Lyndon Johnson while winning only 43 percent of whites’ votes.
If the minority share of the vote increases in 2012 by the same rate it has grown in presidential elections since 1992, it will rise to about 28 percent nationally. By itself, that could substantially alter the political playing field from 2010, when the minority vote share sagged to just 22 percent. It means that if Obama can maintain, or even come close to, the four-fifths share of minority votes that he won in 2008, he could win a majority of the national popular vote with even less than the 43 percent of whites he attracted last time.
These trends remind me of California in the 1980s and 1990s. Republicans played racial politics, alienating nonwhite voters—and Republicans won some election cycles doing it—but it ultimately came back to bite them. They now have great difficulty winning statewide elections.
As California goes, so goes the nation.
Republicans, are you listening?