In his post at The Atlantic, “A Blueprint for Winning the White House in 2012,” Ronald Browstein discusses the Teixeira/Halpin study we cited in Tomasky’s analysis. Brownstein flags the study as “a comprehensive demographic and geographic roadmap to the 2012 presidential campaign that political junkies of all ideological stripes will want to keep close at hand.” Here’s some of Brownstein’s take:
In their new paper, The Path to 270, the two correctly lay out, I believe, the critical dynamics that will likely tip the balance in both the Electoral College and popular vote next year….Some Democrats fear (and Republicans hope) that even if more minorities and college-plus whites turn out to vote in 2012, they won’t increase as a share of the overall electorate because so many older and blue-collar whites will turn out to vote against Obama in 2012, just as they did in 2010. That will be a critical variable.
…Obama could more easily survive reduced margins among his most favorable groups if those same groups cast a larger proportion of all the votes….Assuming the minority vote unfolds as they project, Teixeira and Halpin calculate that Obama could still win a popular vote majority if he maintains his 47 percent share among college educated whites, even if non-college whites stampede toward the GOP as overwhelmingly as they did in 2010 (when Republicans captured 63 percent of them, up from 58 percent in 2008). Alternately, they argue, Obama could still maintain a narrow popular vote majority if he attracts three-fourths of minorities and loses college whites and non-college whites by the same margins John Kerry did against George W. Bush in 2004. (Kerry’s deficit with each group was about five percentage points larger than Obama’s against John McCain in 2008.)
“In summary,” they write, “given solid, but not exceptional, performance among minority voters, Obama’s re-election depends on either holding his 2008 white college-graduate support, in which case he can survive a landslide defeat of 2010 proportions among white working-class voters, or holding his slippage among both groups to around 2004 levels, in which case he can still squeak out a victory.”
Brownstein cautions that “recent polls suggest that at least on first impression, Mitt Romney has a much stronger chance than his GOP rivals of peeling off significant numbers of those upscale whites, who probably represent Obama’s last line of defense in 2012.” He quotes Teixeira and Halpin’s conclusion that the election is likely to be about demographics vs. economics.
Demographics may indeed be destiny in 2012, and if Obama gets a bit of a break on the economy, it could be very good news for Democrats.