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.