It's impossible to predict a presidential election based on midterm results. . . considering that 131.2 million people voted in 2008, when Obama was elected, compared with 87 million this month.
--Liz Sidoti And Jennifer Agiesta, AP, 11.13.10
What will the 44 million who voted in 2008 but not in 2010 do in 2012?
We’ll get some idea from looking at the chart I made documenting the Democratic base’s potential size:
I’ve not seen these exact figures anywhere else. Along with white liberals, Democrats have identified youth, minorities, and unmarried women as their base (there’s an often overlooked real difference between white married and unmarried women).
The 2010 election provided additional data that bears out continued strength in the Democratic base. Dick Morris, going into the election, overestimated the size of the Republican victory, and was curious to find out afterwords where he went wrong, Focusing on John Zogby’s post-election polling, Morris concludes:
➢ Obama’s last-ditch attempt to turn out his voter base worked. . .voters who made up their minds . . . within the last week voted Democrat by 57-31 while those who made up their minds earlier backed the Republican candidate, 53-44.
➢ only 8% of the electorate were late . . . 46% [decided] early. . . Democratic late deciders [came] from the party’s base: 15% of single voters decided late, [voting] 64% Democrat.
➢ 20% of voters 18-29 [youth] decided late, and . . . backed Obama by 56-37. Obama’s appearances on “The Daily Show” and in youth-oriented media worked. But voters under 30 constituted only 11% of the vote[ Their] failure . . . to turn out . . . did much to doom [Democrats.]
➢ blacks cast only 10% of the vote and Latinos only 8% . . . Obama[‘s] appeals based on immigration worked. Hispanics voted Democrat by 58-37. But, surprisingly, . . .black voters. . .backed the Democrat by only 72-24.
Comment: Without Obama on the ticket, many blacks felt free to vote against the Obama economy.
➢ Marital status continued to be . . . key . . . Married men voted Republican by 60-35. Married women . . . by 58-40. . . Unmarried women voted Democrat by 61-34.
➢ Obama’s last-minute appeal [worked] on demographics, not on union membership. . . Union members broke evenly, with 49% backing Democrats and 47% voting Republican.
Comment: Private sector union members care about the economy, and voted their (near empty) pocketbooks.
Bottom line: If Democrats in 2012 can turn out their base, the base that showed up late if at all in 2010, Obama can hang onto the White House.
The potential size of Obama’s minority base (already 33.3% and growing) has to concern Republicans. Zoltan Hajnal, political science professor at U.C. San Diego, sees the Republican problem—the one that doomed Meg Whitman’s and Carly Fiorina’s candidacies for California governor and senator respectively—more clearly than do observers in the South, Midwest or even the Northeast. Hajnal writes:
➢ the Republican Party has almost become a whites-only party. . .it will lose over the long run. Republicans won big in 2010 . . . among white voters. The 60% of the white vote that Republicans garnered last Tuesday is. . . the highest proportion of the white vote that the GOP has won in any national election since World War II.
➢ whites . . . are a declining demographic. The proportion of all voters who are white has already declined to 75% today from 94% in 1960. By 2050, whites [won’t] be a majority.
➢ Republicans are alienating racial and ethnic minorities—the voters . . . they need to stay in power. In every national election in the past few decades, Democrats have dominated the nonwhite vote.
➢ Even with Democrats presiding over the worst economy since the Great Depression, racial and ethnic minorities did not turn away from [Democrats.] Latinos favored Democrats over Republicans 64% to 34%, blacks voted overwhelmingly for Democrats, and [56%] of Asian- Americans supported Democrats.
➢ minorities . . . are unlikely to [leave Democrats] without dramatic changes in the platforms of the two parties. A growing and resolutely Democratic nonwhite population is clearly a serious threat to the Republican electoral calculus. . . any campaign that appeals primarily to whites will be doomed.
Bottom line: For Democrats, smile. Minorities already supply 2/3rds of the voter base needed to win. For Republicans, change or die.