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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Teixeira: ‘Generational Pincer Movement’ Key for Obama Win

In the New Republic, TDS Co-Editor Ruy Teixeira has an important analysis of recent polling data as it relates to generational differences, illuminating a clear path to re-election of President Obama. As Teixeira sets the stage:

…President Obama has astoundingly consistent support from Americans less than 30 years old, the so-called Millennial generation. In a recent Pew survey, this cohort favored Obama over Romney by 24 points, 61-37. The generation least likely to support Obama, on the other hand, is the “Silent generation”–the generational group slighter older than Baby Boomers, and the group now dominant among the ranks of seniors. He trails Mitt Romney in this generation by 13 points, 41-54. This is the same generation that moved so sharply against Democrats in the 2010 election, contributing heavily to the GOP wave that swept the country.
Those polling numbers clearly dictate an electoral strategy: What Obama needs to do is perform a kind of generational pincer movement on the GOP, driving up support and turnout among the Millennial generation while breaking into GOP support among the Silent generation. There’s also a straightforward way for him to accomplish both goals.

Even better, President Obama’s campaign is on the right track for implementing this strategy, as Teixeira explains:

Fortunately, the White House already seems to be thinking along these lines. On the Millennial side, Obama’s recent Osawatomie speech may be read as an opening bid to establish a campaign narrative with special appeal to this generation. Millennials are exceptionally sympathetic to the Occupy Wall Street movement and its goals. Obama’s attack on inequality and the way that an unfair economy thwarts economic mobility strikes a very responsive chord among these voters.

The millennials also want government to play a “strong role” in the economic recovery, explains Teixeira. “…Indeed, they believe spending should be a higher priority for the federal government than deficit reduction.” They want more government services and “a whopping two-thirds of this generation believes the Affordable Care Act should either be expanded or left as is, rather than repealed.”
To win a healthy share of high-turnout seniors, Teixeira argues also that President Obama should “draw a very strong contrast between his approach and that of the GOP, which proposes to replace the current Medicare system with underfunded vouchers.” He notes that 64 percent of “silent generation” voters prefer keeping Social Security and Medicare benefits “as they are,” while only 27 percent say reducing the budget deficit should be more of a priority. Crunching the latest poll number, Teixeira adds:

This pincer movement will be key to Obama’s chances, both nationally and in a wide variety of target states. Nationally, he could break-even or a bit worse among middling age groups (30-64) but still win if he carries 18 to 29-year-olds by significantly more than he loses seniors, as he did in 2008, since the two groups tend to be of roughly similar size in presidential elections. But if he carries 18 to 29-year-olds by significantly less than he loses seniors, as congressional Democrats did in 2010, he will lose. Hence the need for both parts of the pincer movement.

In bellwether Ohio, for example, Teixeira notes that “Obama carried 18 to 29-year-olds with 61 percent against John McCain’s 26 percent in 2008, while losing seniors 44-55. Both groups were 17 percent of Ohio voters.” If Obama can split the 30-64 year-old age group and carry a strong majority of the youth vote, argues Teixeira, he should take Ohio’s electoral votes. As for Virginia, “Obama carried 18 to 29-year-olds by 60-39 while losing seniors 46-53 in Virginia. Keep that relative relationship, fight the GOP candidate to a draw among middling age groups, and the state is his.” As Teixeira concludes,

All over the country, in other words, from the Midwest to the New South to the new swing states of the Southwest, Obama’s generational pincer movement could be key to his electoral prospects. Motivate and inspire youth while giving seniors second and third thoughts about the GOP. It’s a good game plan and Obama’s already made an excellent start at implementing it.

With such a favorable intersection of demographics and polling in place, It’s critical that Obama’s messaging and turnout mobilization rise to the challenge. With that assured, Dems can hold the white house and do better than expected in the House and Senate.

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