Let’s start at the top of the ticket and work our way down, shall we? With every ballot counted Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney 60.3%-37.2%. While the margin of 23.1% is below Obama’s 2008 24.1%, the Cook PVI is over a point higher at 10.0 compared to 2008’s 8.6. In addition the polling average was Obama by 15, so he beat the polls fairly dramatically. The only other seriously polled state that he beat by more was New Jersey. So clearly Barack Obama has a strength in California.
Obama won California by 3 million votes. He won the rest of the country by roughly 1.7 million. By Obama increasing his California margin since election day, the PVIs in many other states have actually moved toward the GOP.
Dianne Feinstein was even better. Her margin of 25.0% exceeds her 2006 margin of 24.2%. Of course in 2006 others got 6.4% of the vote. If California had top two then, she likely would’ve won by 25-26%.
These two are at the upper limit of what a Democrat has achieved in California. If you’re a Democrat, you’ll see this as proof that California is trending Democratic. If you’re a Republican, you’ll be relieved that the two most popular Democrats in the state will never ever be on the ballot again. Okay, she might be, but she’ll be 85 in 2018.
It’s difficult to know if the state is trending Democratic. The Democrats do have their highest margin in registration since 1984. Of course they had a 13% margin in 2010, a 5 point increase over 2006. And it really didn’t show up at the ballot box. Democrats were bleeding registrants faster than Republicans for pretty much every period between 2008 and 2012 up until the final registration report.
Online registration obviously made an impact. Democrats got a big boost in registration from it and it’s possible that without it, Democrats wouldn’t have had nearly the year they did. The SOS has reported that online registrants showed up at higher rates than people who registered the traditional way.
That begs the question of whether the online registrant spike was a one off low hanging fruit or something that’ll keep growing the Democratic advantage. I’m skeptical it’ll be as big a deal in the future, but it is definitely an asset for the Democratic party.
The state’s minority population is getting larger. It should continue to grow. Of course Hispanics and Asians are low propensity voters and it remains to be seen how well they’ll show up when Barack Obama isn’t on the ticket, especially in a mid-term.
What we do know is that Democrats did well this year and they have every reason to be optimistic. Republicans don’t have a lot to point to. Some people are drawing the conclusion that Democrats won’t lose anything they’ve gained this year and they will, in fact, pick up more Republican seats. I’m skeptical of such absolutes, as elections tend to be a teeter-totter not a continual straight line. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen.