You see lots of articles about demographics and presidential elections. You see lots of articles about what percentage of what demographic the president needs to win in order to get a second term. I find these articles interesting and they often help inform my analysis of American politics. It’s also helpful to see statistical analysis of past presidential elections. Census data is interesting. But none of it means a thing in a race between President Obama and Newt Gingrich, or President Obama and Herman Cain. There’s an assumption that people will vote one way or the other because that’s the way they voted the last time around. But the last time around Latinos were faced with a Republican candidate who tried and failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform, not one who wants to build an electrified fence along the Mexican border. The last time around, John McCain had a Cap and Trade program on his website, not a delusional plan that assumes that more carbon burning will solve our environmental problems. Some people voted against Obama over fears that never materialized, others for him based on hopes that have been dashed. Obama did poorly in 2008 among uneducated whites. The Democrats did very poorly among uneducated whites in 2010. The assumption is, apparently, that they will do very badly with them in 2012. That could be true. But it could also not be true.
In 1980, how many people do you think predicted that Massachusetts would vote for Reagan in 1984? In 1988, how many people predicted that the Democrats would win Montana and Georgia in 1992?
Here’s the deal. The Democrats aren’t targeting uneducated whites for a simple reason. It’s not because they don’t want their votes. It’s because they’ll have already won a crushing victory by the time they’ve converted uneducated whites. In a matchup between Gingrich and Obama or Cain and Obama, almost every swingable vote in the country will swing to the president. And that includes a lot of uneducated whites. It probably includes most of them. But they’ll be the hardest to convince and the last to make up their minds.
In a matchup against Romney, it should be a more traditional election. But, even there, Obama will clearly outclass his opponent. My point is that statistics and models don’t mean much if one party doesn’t nominate a plausible president.