Americans are polarized like never before as we head into the 2012 presidential campaign, and the greatest dividing line of all seems to be age. Indeed, 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.
My new report with John Halpin, “The Path to 270: Demographics Versus Economics in the 2012 Presidential Election,” has generated a lot of comment, much of which focuses on the alleged need for the Obama campaign to “abandon” the white working class and embrace a coalition based on emerging demographics like minorities, Millennials, single women, and college graduates.
During Obama’s pivot toward deficit reduction after the 2010 election, culminating in the vain attempt to fashion a “Grand Bargain” with Republicans during the debt limit negotiations, pundits repeatedly asserted that his approach might tick off his base but would yield dividends with independents and swing voters. Instead, the strategy turned out to be a flop on both levels. His support did decline among base voters but even more among independent voters.
This article is a contribution to 'Is There Anything That Can Be Done? A TNR Symposium On The Economy.' Click here to read other contributions to the series. After innumerable false starts, it finally appears that President Obama will begin to focus his energy on the country’s unemployment problems. Unfortunately, the initial signs suggest that his pivot won’t nearly be strong enough.
The debt ceiling deal has been struck and the score looks to be in the neighborhood of Republicans: a zillion, Democrats: zero. It is perhaps the inevitable outcome of a process in which Obama treated GOP default-threatening tactics as legitimate and accepted the GOP framework that cutting debt, not creating jobs, was the country’s central problem. As a result, we have a deal that severely undercuts Democratic policy priorities and cuts government spending just as the economic recovery is showing signs of tanking. Just how, exactly, did it come to this?
I recently argued that an increased deficit among the white working class could sink Obama’s re-election chances. That’s particularly the case if Obama is already weakened by relatively poor support from his base. Right now, that looks like a distinct possibility. This can be seen by looking at Obama’s two key base demographics: the minority vote and the youth vote. Start with minorities, the heart of the Obama coalition. In 2008, Obama received 80 percent support from minorities, who were 26 percent of all voters. Can he replicate that performance in 2012? Consider first the probable minori
Each election cycle there occurs a tired ritual, in which pundits and reporters rediscover that yes, indeed, there are still a lot of white working class voters in America, and they represent a serious vulnerability for the Democrats.
From the Ryan plan, to the Obama plan, to the Gang of Six (now five), deficit mania has officially taken over Washington. Both Republicans and Democrats, while they have different preferred approaches, are single-mindedly focused on cutting budget deficits and relieving the long-term debt situation of the country. Yet unemployment remains at 9 percent and the modest economic recovery that’s underway has shown signs of sputtering.
During the grim days of 2010, it became common to worry that President Obama was throwing his electoral prospects into disarray. He failed to win over key groups like the white working class, even as his actions divided and demoralized his own core coalition: an emerging, but still fragile alliance of minorities, young voters, moderate suburbanites, and other growing demographic groups. "One hallmark of 2009 and 2010 was the demobilization of the Democratic base," wrote pundit Brent Budowsky in The Hill, explicating this view.