Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Is the South out of touch?

Republicans continue to win big in the South in Presidential elections, but struggle to compete in most of the rest of the nation. In short, the South appears out of touch with the rest of the country. The South exerts a reactionary pull on the Republican Party, leading to it endorsing many issue positions which are losers nationwide. Whether this difference between Southern Republicans and the remainder of the nation is primarily racially-based, or religiously-based is unresolved.

It is clear that Southern whites are decidedly more conservative than the national electorate on a wide range of issues. While Republicans win an overwhelming proportion of the vote among white southerners, the white vote splits much more evenly in other parts of the country.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Persistence of the "New" Electorate

While Republicans face the possibility that changing demographics might have relegated them to an underdog position in Presidential elections for a generation, the 2012 election brings the Democrats' primary electoral challenge into stark relief.

The overriding challenge for Democrats is to bridge the apparent structural gap between Presidential-year electorates and mid-term electorates. Democrats need to ensure that the voters who have fueled their 2008 and 2012 Obama victories, especially those who cast their first votes in 2008 or 2012, become habitual voters who show up at the polls in mid-term elections. The demography of 2010's electorate (much older and whiter) differed dramatically from the 2008 and 2012 electorates. Democrats need to change that.

If Democrats fail to ensure the persistence of the new electorate from Presidential elections to mid-term elections, they will continually face the prospect of losing Senate and House seats in mid-term elections.

The Presidential electorate continues to grow more ethnically diverse,with the non-white portion of the electorate now up to 28%, the highest in history. The non-white sector of the electorate is only going to continue to grow moving forward. Latinos comprised 10% of the electorate, African-Americans held steady at 13%, while Asians and other ethnic groups combined for 5%. The Republican challenge is to become more competitive within this diversifying electorate, while Democrats' challenge is to turn out this electorate in non-Presidential elections. 

Additional Election Observations

Democratic Presidential candidates have now carried 18 states (the "Blue Wall")  plus DC in six consecutive Presidential elections (1992-2012).  These states include 10 East Coast states stretching from DC northward to Maine excluding New Hampshire; the four Great Lakes states of Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin; and the three West Coast states of California, Oregon and Washington, plus Hawaii. These states now account for 242 Electoral Votes, providing a huge Democratic base. 

There are three additional states (Iowa, New Hampshire and New Mexico) currently totaling 15 electoral votes which Democrats have carried in five of the past six elections. Iowa and New Mexico went Republican in 2004, while New Hampshire went Republican in 2000. If these three states are added to the "Blue Wall," the Democratic Electoral College advantage becomes even more stark. It is challenging for Republicans to win so long as states possessing 257 Electoral Votes clearly tilt Democratic.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

2012 Elections data and observations

Several notable facts from 2012 elections:

1. With votes still being counted, President Obama's popular vote lead continues to widen. His national margin is now up to 3.25 million votes, boosting his portion of the vote to 50.6%, and a 2.7 point lead over Republican Romney. This is apparently going to wind up being a 51-48 election, instead of a 50-49 election as it seemed to be through much of Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

2. With Florida being called for Obama, he finishes with 332 Electoral Votes, losing only two states (North Carolina and Indiana) which he carried in 2008. He did not win any states he lost in 2008.

3. Obama becomes the first Democrat since Franklin Roosevelt to win 50%+ of the popular vote in two elections.

4. He becomes the first President since FDR to be reelected with a smaller share of the popular vote and electoral college than in his previous election. This happened to Roosevelt in his 1940 and 1944 elections. And he becomes the first since Andrew Jackson to win a smaller share of both the popular vote and electoral college in his second election.

5.Democrats won the national popular vote in the House of Representatives, but appear likely to be limited to 200 seats in the 113th Congress. Combination of redistricting providing Republicans a distinct advantage and Democratic votes being heavily concentrated in urban areas will give Republicans sizable edge in the House.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Democrats net two Senate seats

Democrats increased their Senate majority to 54, with possibility of it reaching 55 seats depending on whether Independent Maine Senator-elect Angus King caucuses with Democrats. No incumbent Democrat lost, though Democrats lost the Nebraska seat previously held by retiring Ben Nelson, the Senate's most conservative Democrat. Democrats were able to take two Republican seats, in Massachusetts and Indiana.

Democrats won all the close Senate races, though only the North Dakota race was decided by fewer than 4 points. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

State polls had it right

There were numerous polling controversies of 2012. They included whether established pollsters were accurately capturing the likely electorate in partisan and demographic terms; whether poll aggregators were missing the boat with their probabilistic interpretations of various state projections; and whether state or national polls are more accurate. The election outcome confirmed that the state polls, as is usually the case, had it right.

National polls with more generous non-white shares of the electorate more accurately forecast the national popular vote as the non-white portion of the electorate reached a new high of 28%, according to exit polls. The Republican Party's inability to compete among the non-white portion of the population threatens to relegate it to minority party status for a generation. Democratic strength continues growing in more demographically diverse areas of the nation. The Democratic strength in industrial states Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin attests to the continued inclusion of white union workers, a staple of the traditional Democratic New Deal coalition, in the evolving 21st century coalition. Unmarried women also continue as a staple of the Democratic coalition.

This election was one in which Democrats had both the superior campaign and the superior candidate, plus the advantage of an incumbent President running with a united party. Exit polling indicated that voters considered President Obama the candidate who most understood people like them and who most favored the middle class by wide margins. Unsurprisingly, he won handily among voters for whom those were important concerns.

These perceptions were likely attributable to several first-term policy decisions invoked throughout the campaign, and to devastating media advertising characterizing his Republican opponent as a plutocrat. Among the previous policy choices that were emphasized most were the Auto Rescue, his executive order allowing immigrant youth to avoid deportation, and his health care requirement that employer-provided insurance cover contraception, and passage of the landmark Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. His quest for "tax fairness," requiring the wealthy to do their fair share, further reinforced his identification as the candidate of a battered middle class.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Obama Dominates Battlegrounds in Reelect

President Obama has been reelected, carrying every battleground state other than North Carolina. In fact, Obama appears to have lost only two states, Indiana and North Carolina, which he carried in 2008. With Florida still uncalled, Obama has 303 Electoral Votes, Romney 206. Obama leads in Florida by fewer than 50,000 votes with approximately 95% of vote counted, and seems virtually certain to win the state's 29 Electoral Votes. Florida would boost Obama's final Electoral Vote total to 332.

Obama's winning margins in the eight battleground states varied from roughly seven points in Wisconsin and Nevada to between one-half and one percent in Florida. In fact, Obama carried 10 states decided by fewer than eight points, while NC was the only state carried by Romney by fewer than eight points.

The margins, as currently reported, in those states won by the President by fewer than eight points, compared to official 2008 results are as follows:

State                  2008 Margin     2012 Margin

Minnesota                10.24%             7.6%
Wisconsin                13.89                6.7
Nevada                    12.50                6.6
New Hampshire         9.61                5.7
Iowa                         9.57                5.6
Pennsylvania           10.32                5.1
Colorado                   8.95                4.7
Virginia                     6.30                3.0
Ohio                         4.54                2.0
Florida                      2.81                0.6

The President's national popular vote margin is about two points, as he leads currently by nearly 2.8 million votes.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Enduring Democratic Majority?

The American electorate's changing demographic composition has fueled the rise of the Obama coalition. This coalition features wide majorities of ascendant demographic groups, as the non-white share of the electorate has steadily risen in recent elections.

One significant variable in 2012 will be whether that expansion of the minority vote continues. Non-whites cast barely more than a quarter of the vote in the 2008 Presidential election. Will they again constitute a quarter of the national electorate? Is the non-white percentage more likely to continue inching upward, perhaps as high as 27-28%, or to recede below 25%? The exact percentage of the total vote cast by non-white voters could be a telling factor in the 2012 outcome, as an electorate less than 25% non-white could yield a Romney popular vote edge. Conversely, if more than 26% of all votes are cast by non-white voters, President Obama could outperform his final national poll numbers. 

If President Obama is indeed reelected, a major question going forward involves the potential lasting power  of the Democratic Party's current demographic advantage in Presidential elections. Does the Obama coalition indicate an enduring Democratic majority, at least in Presidential years? 

The development of the Obama coalition, with the ever-expanding Latino vote a key component, also has looming potential policy implications. Will Congressional Republicans, in view of their party's poor performance with Latino voters, be open to comprehensive immigration reform in the next Congress to avert a potential generation in the electoral wilderness? Or will right-wing anti-immigrant reactionaries among House Republicans prevail, and prevent immigration legislation? The immigration question and how to adapt to a growing non-white portion of the electorate could divide the Republican Party in 2013.

2012 Election Forecast

Polls and media analyses finally seem to be converging on election eve. All except the most deluded on the right are moving to projecting the reelection of the 44th President, Barack Obama. There is widespread disagreement about just how close the outcome might be, and how late we might have to wait before the official call is made tomorrow night (pre-midnight or post-midnight), but there is growing agreement that the incumbent will be reelected.

My Electoral Vote projection is Obama 303, Romney 235. That would have Obama winning all "battleground" states other than Florida and North Carolina. And while the popular vote will be closer, it now looks as though Obama will eke out a popular vote victory which approximates two points. My projection is: Obama 50.3%, Romney 48.2%, Others 1.5%.

The battleground states can be arrayed along a continuum from most favorable for Obama to least favorable for Obama. Such a continuum would include:

Nevada, Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio, New Hampshire, Virginia, Colorado, Florida, North Carolina.

Obama is likely to carry the first five of these, along with Pennsylvania and possibly Minnesota, by 5 points or fewer. The next three states, Virginia, Colorado and Florida appear to be true tossups likely to be decided by no more than 2 points in either direction, with North Carolina leaning slightly in Republican challenger Mitt Romney's direction. The 303 EV total assumes Obama will win both Virginia and Colorado, though the outcomes in those two states and Florida might not be known until Wednesday.