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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Tomasky: Obama’s Best Strategy for 270 Electoral Votes Now Clear

Writing in the Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky has a post up which deserves attention from the Obama campaign. His first sentence alone stands as a ringing reality-check:

Well, now that it’s official that bipartisan compromise has no future in Washington, it’s time for President Obama to put aside once and for all the idea of playing patty-cake with these people and instead focus ruthlessly on getting to 270 electoral votes…

From there, Tomasky dismisses the either/or argument for NC+VA+CO vs. rust belt electoral vote strategies as “silly,” and urges Obama to go for both. He then plugs an important new strategy paper by TDS Co-Editor Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin, “The Path to 270: Demographics Versus Economics in the 2012 Election,” summarizing the gist of the paper: “Obama isn’t going to get his 2008 levels of the white vote. But he can’t quite absorb white-vote totals that look like 2010. And he is going to have to fight hard, and smart, to keep them closer to the former than the latter.” Tomasky continues,

Demographically, everything is moving Obama’s way. The study largely splits the electorate into three groups: minorities; white college-educated voters (WCEs); and the white-working class (WWC), which is defined here and usually as whites without a college degree, which for a range of reasons is the best way to identify that group for voting purposes…
The minority share of the electorate was 26 percent in 2008. It’s likely to be 28 percent in 2012. The white working class will continue to shrink. It will make up 3 percent less of the electorate than it did in 2008, dropping from 39 percent to 36 percent. White college graduates will gain 1 percent, from 35 to 36.
…Obama took 80 percent of the minority population (26 percent of the country) in 2008. Teixeira and Halpin “conservatively” estimate that his share of the minority vote will go down to 75–basically from less enthusiasm, especially from nonblack minority-group voters. But that decline still translates into an ever-so-slightly-higher percentage of the overall vote (21 percent to 20.8 percent), because the voting pool has expanded. So Obama can suffer some decline in margins among minority groups without it being remotely fatal.
More strikingly, he can absorb significant WWC losses and still win the popular vote. …The authors write that he could replicate John Kerry’s 2004 numbers–losing WCEs by 11 points and the WWC by 23, both more or less smack-dab between the 2008 and 2010 results–and still win the popular vote by 50 to 48.

Turning to the electoral college, Tomasky notes that “The authors say that Obama’s core states add up to 186 EVs, and the GOP’s, 191. They identify 12 states that are going to decide the winner…” Tomasky adds,

…He did better among white working-class voters than among white college-educated voters–that’s right, better!–in Michigan and Iowa. And he won them in Wisconsin. Yet he lost WWCs horribly in Pennsylvania (but in 2012, WWCs will make up 5 percent less of the electorate). In the new South states, meanwhile, he did nearly as badly among WCEs as among WWCs–for example, in North Carolina he got 33 percent of the WWCs and 38 percent of the WCEs. Only a huge minority vote won him those states.
…He is going to have to assemble different coalitions from battleground state to battleground state around a message that can rally segments of all three groups. For all their differences, there is one thing almost all members of those three groups have in common. They’re part of the 99 percent. The authors want to see “a sustained posture of defending the middle class, supporting popular government programs, and calling for a more equitable tax distribution.” Sounds good to me.

And with the Republican presidential candidates doubling down on their image as rigid enemies of all three of those priorities, the President’s strategy for re-election now clear.

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