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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Dems’ White Male Problem: How Critical for 2014?

David Catanese’s “The Democrats’ (White) Male Problem: The party’s problem with males may be even worse than the GOP’s troubles with women” at U.S. News is one of those articles that spotlights a significant problem, but offers no solutions. Nothing wrong with that, if the analysis of the problem is sound, it can be useful for the problem-solvers.
As for the nature of the problem in the short run, Catanese says it well: “In a campaign cycle set to see a handful of margin-of-error races that determine U.S. Senate control, it’s an often overlooked and undervalued element of the election.” Further,

An early August Wall Street Journal/NBC News national poll crystallized the canyon that exists between men and women’s views on the midterm elections. While women prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress by a 14-point gap, the difference is even larger among men. Males want a Republican-led Congress by a full 17 points.

As Catanese notes, however, there is some debate among Democrats about whether the problem is worth solving, given demographic realities and trends:

Above all, women are more coveted voters because of simple mathematics: There are more of them. In the 2012 presidential election, 53 percent of the voters were female while just 47 percent were male, according to the Pew Research Center. In 2010, the breakdown was slightly narrower, with women making up 4 percent more of the midterm electorate than men. Fewer younger women come out to vote in nonpresidential years, but women as a whole still outnumber men.
Republicans won men by 14 points in their banner 2010 midterm year, and this off-year Democrats could face a similar staggering deficit. But largely, their focus remains on increasing their margins with women rather than attempting to persuade men.
“You don’t need to,” says Benenson, dismissing the importance of carrying the male vote. “They won men in the presidential election and they lost. They win white voters in the presidential election and they lost. There’s no absolute rule that you have to win this group or that group.”

Catanese also argues, with only a generalized reference to data backing him up, that males are just more, well, stubborn:

…Men, in general, are just less likely to be persuaded, according to Democratic pollster John Anzalone…In some ways, men dig in. You see it in the numbers where generically they’re just much more Republican and they dig in,” he says. “It’s just much more difficult to move them. Women are more open-minded to the dialogue between Democrat and Republican candidates and I think men have shut themselves off to hearing a lot of messages.”

But maybe Dems can get back some white male voters with specific reforms in cherry-picked races, notes Catanese. “Anzalone believes hammering home a message on protecting entitlements like Medicare and Social Security can snag the attention of a sliver of silver-haired males.”
Catanese doesn’t address the role of class in the GOP’s edge with white males. Yet, the GOP has little to offer working class whites in terms of economic policy, while Democrats offer a range of reforms. Catanese leaves it to others to decide whether or not there is a broader strategy that can win more male support for Democrats. With so many races narrowing as we near the midterm elections, it’s a challenge that demands more attention.
It may be that Dems can hold the senate without assigning more resources to winning white male support. But if Democrats can figure out a way to cut into the GOP’s edge with white males across the nation, even by just a few percentage points, the GOP will have to start worrying about it’s House majority as well.

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