The next America is arriving ahead of schedule. And it could rattle assumptions about the coming presidential election.
Last week’s release of national totals from the 2010 census showed that the minority share of the population increased over the past decade in every state, reaching levels higher than demographers anticipated almost everywhere, and in the nation as a whole. If President Obama and Democrats can convert that growth into new voters in 2012, they can get a critical boost in many of the most hotly contested states and also seriously compete for some highly diverse states such as Arizona and Georgia that until now have been reliably red.
Some of the data Brownstein cites is fascinating:
* the overall share of the non-Hispanic white population dropped from 69.1 percent in 2000 to 63.7 in 2010
* the minority population grew from 30.9 percent in 2000 to 36.3 percent in 2010
* in the new census, 46.5 percent of people under 18 were minority, a dramatic jump from 39.1 percent in 2000
* the census found that the number of whites under 18 declined by more than 4 million over the past decade, even as the number of minority young people increased by more than 6 million
* four states are now majority minority: Hawaii, New Mexico, California, and Texas
* in eight other states, minorities make up from 40 to 50 percent of the population
* Latinos now represent one in six Americans, or nearly 50.5 million in all. That’s up from one in eight, about 35.3 million, in 2000
* exit polls have found that the percentage of nonwhite voters in presidential elections has more than doubled, from 12 percent when Bill Clinton first won the White House to 26 percent in 2008
Brownstein took this data and did some projections for the 2012 Presidential election based on Obama maintaining the same percentage of minority votes from 2008 and looking at what share of the white vote he would need to win the state.
Obama, for instance, won Florida last time with 42 percent of the white vote; under this scenario, if he maintains his minority support he could win the Sunshine State with just under 40 percent of the white vote. With equal minority support in Nevada, the president could win with only 35 percent of the white vote, down from the 45 percent he garnered in 2008. Likewise, under these conditions, Obama could take Virginia with just 33.5 percent of whites, well down from the 39 percent he captured last time. In New Jersey, his winning number among whites would fall to just over 41 percent (compared with the 52 percent he won in 2008). In Pennsylvania, under these circumstances, 41 percent of white votes would be enough to put the state in Obama’s column, down from the 48 percent he won in 2008.
We already know what the Obama campaign plans to do with this information and David Axelrod confirmed that to Brownstein.
“One of the strengths of our candidacy in 2008 is, we had a broader battlefield; what these numbers suggest is that those same opportunities are there [for 2012], and there are new ones to consider,” David Axelrod, who is expected to be Obama’s senior campaign strategist, told National Journal.
But what will the Republicans do? Adam Sewer shares his thoughts.
The Republican Party had a choice after 2008. They could continue to rely on a dwindling but still decisive share of the white vote to prevail, or they could try to bring more minorities into the party. While I'm not entirely sure how much of the decision was made by party leaders and how much is merely the unprecedented influence of Fox News, but whether it's pseudo scandals of the past two years, from birtherism to the NBPP [National Black Panther Party] case, the GOP's nationwide rush to ban sharia and institute draconian immigration laws, or characterizing nearly every administration policy as reparations, the conservative fixations of Obama's first term indicate that the GOP will end up relying at least in part on inflaming white racial resentment to close the gap.
While this approach doesn't make any rational sense as a long-term strategy, I have to agree with Sewer that it seems to be the direction the Republicans are going. Given what I said in the previous post about the already escalating racial tension in this country, this could mean that they're playing with fire. So as we begin to gear up for the 2012 campaign, I suggest we keep this in mind.