I’ve got egg on my face. I predicted a Romney landslide and, instead, we ended up with an Obama squeaker.
The key reason for my bum prediction is that I mistakenly believed that the 2008 surge in black, Latino, and young voter turnout would recede in 2012 to “normal” levels. Didn’t happen. These high levels of minority and young voter participation are here to stay. And, with them, a permanent reshaping of our nation’s politics.
In 2012, 13% of the vote was cast by blacks. In 04, it was 11%. This year, 10% was Latino. In ’04 it was 8%. This time, 19% was cast by voters under 30 years of age. In ’04 it was 17%. Taken together, these results swelled the ranks of Obama’s three-tiered base by five to six points, accounting fully for his victory.
I derided the media polls for their assumption of what did, in fact happen: That blacks, Latinos, and young people would show up in the same numbers as they had in 2008. I was wrong. They did.
But the more proximate cause of my error was that I did not take full account of the impact of hurricane Sandy and of Governor Chris Christie’s bipartisan march through New Jersey arm in arm with President Obama. Not to mention Christe’s fawning promotion of Obama’s presidential leadership.
It made all the difference.
A key element of Romney’s appeal, particularly after the first debate, was his ability to govern with Democrats in Massachusetts. Obama’s one-party strident approach, so much the opposite of what he pledged in his first national speech in 2004, had turned voters off. But by working seamlessly with an acerbic Republican Governor like Christie, Obama was able to blunt Romney’s advantage in this crucial area.
Sandy, in retrospect, stopped Romney’s post-debate momentum. She was, indeed, the October Surprise. She also stopped the swelling concern over the murders in Benghazi and let Obama get away with his cover-up in which he pretended that a terrorist attack was, in fact, just a spontaneous demonstration gone awry.
Obama is the first president in modern times to win re-election by a smaller margin than that by which he was elected in the first place. McKinley, Woodrow Wilson, FDR, Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, and Clinton all increased their re-election vote share significantly. Obama’s dropped from a 7 point margin over McCain to a 1 point margin over Romney.
That he could get re-elected despite his dismal record is a tribute to his brilliant campaign staff and the shifting demographics of America. This is not your father’s United States and the Republican tilt toward white middle aged and older voters is ghettoizing the party so that even bad economic times are not enough to sway the election.
By the time you finish with the various demographic groups the Democrats win, you almost have a majority in their corner. Count them: Blacks cast 13% of the vote and Obama won them 12-1. Latinos cast 10% and Obama carried them by 7-3. Under 30 voters cast 19% of the vote and Obama swept them by 12-7. Single white women cast 18% of the total vote and Obama won them by 12-6. There is some overlap among these groups, of course, but without allowing for any, Obama won 43-17 before the first married white woman or man over 30 cast their vote. (Lets guess that if we eliminate duplication, the Obama margin would be 35-13) Having conceded these votes, Romney would have had to win over two-thirds of the rest of the vote to win. He almost did. But not quite.
If Romney couldn’t manage this trick against Obama in the current economy, no Republican could.
But that doesn’t mean we just give up. Obama barely won this election and we still have a Republican House of Representatives. We still have the ability – and more important, the responsibility – to fight to keep this great country as we know it and love it.
We must stop Obama’s socialist agenda. That’s our job for the next four years. We cannot allow Obama to magnify his narrow victory into a mandate for larger government, bigger spending, and less freedom.
This is not a call for gridlock. If Obama moves to the center and proposes moderate measures, we should support them. But that’s unlikely.
So we have our work cut out for us.