The votes are almost entirely counted and Barack Obama has a 51.0%-47.4% victory. If you’re a Democrat you think that Obama was a huge underdog to win because no President wins re-election with unemployment as high as it is. He won because of the demographics of the electorate and the electorate will only get more and more Democratic. Thus, the Republicans won’t win another election… or Presidential election. One or the other.
It’s a good victory with a decent margin, although it’s only half his 2008 margin. While a victory by 3.6% is certainly a good sign for Democrats, winning by half of 2008 isn’t. The final exit polls calculations aren’t in but early exit poll number indicate that the electorate was 28% minority, 3% more than 2008. When demographics are moving your way, your lead is supposed to increase, not decrease. One of the reasons the electorate was 3% more minority was because the electorate was missing 6 million White voters who voted in 2008. If they would’ve voted like the remaining White electorate, Obama’s margin of victory would’ve dropped from 3.7% to 2.6%. He would’ve won, but not by any sort of margin where a definitive judgment could be made on the electorate.
Not only were there White voters that didn’t go to the polls, it’s likely that Romney didn’t hit a Republican ceiling with the White voter. Romney improved on John McCain by 4 points, from 55% to 59%. That 59%, however, wasn’t uniform. Romney likely didn’t improve in states McCain maxed out in states like Georgia and Louisiana where McCain got 80%+ of the White vote.
He showed good improvement in swing states however, managing 51% in Wisconsin, 49% in Minnesota, 47% in New Hampshire, and 55% in Michigan. While these states certainly aren’t Louisiana, there clearly is more potential for Republicans with the White voter. Republican governor Scott Walker got 53.1% of the vote in the June Wisconsin recall election, 7% better than Mitt Romney’s total.
There are definite reasons for Democrats to be optimistic for 2016. They’ve won two Presidential elections in a row and neither were squeakers. There’s no doubt the electorate is becoming more minority, their core supporters, although perhaps not as fast as they think it is. There’s the still unanswered question of how much of the minority vote is loyal to the Democrats or just loyal to Barack Obama. Can Democrats get the turn-out and vote share that the President got in 2012?
It’s possible that we won’t see much of an increase in the minority vote in 2016, as gains due to population increase could be offset by uninspired voters staying home. We saw a lot of uninspired White voters staying home this year. Minority voters tend to be less likely to vote than White voters. So them staying home is in the realm of possibility.
If Republicans don’t pick up more minority voters they’ll have to hope White voters turn out in more significant numbers in 2016 and that they can pick up more White voters in swing states. That’s certainly a tougher task than the Democrats face.
Of course we still have a mid-term in 2014 to worry about first. After a remarkable 2008, Democrats saw an enormous drop in their turn-out and voting shares in 2010. They went from winning Latinos by 40% to winning them by 22%. They went from losing White voters by 8% to losing them by 24%. No one expects 2014 to be nearly as bad for Democrats as 2010, but they need to show that they can turn out the voters who voted for them this year.
There’s reason for them to worry. In 2008, Barack Obama got 53.0% of the vote, while congressional Democrats got 55.6% of the two party vote. The Democrats’ beating Barack Obama showed a strength in the Democratic brand that went beyond he President. This year Barack Obama got 51.0% of the vote and Democrats got 50.5% of the two party vote. While Barack Obama’s erosion was 2.0%, congressional Democrats showed a drop of 5.1%. Without Barack Obama on the ballot, they likely wouldn’t have done that well.