One demographic has plagued Obama since his primary duel with Hillary Clinton: white voters without a college degree. Although Obama ultimately won enough white non-college voters to win the presidency in 2008, his performance was underwhelming by historic standards. And over the last four years, Obama’s already tepid support among white voters without a college degree has collapsed. At the same time, the “newer” elements of the Democratic coalition—college educated and non-white voters—have continued to offer elevated levels of support to the president.
Wisconsin by the Numbers Scott Walker cruised to a 53-46 win in the Wisconsin Gubernatorial Recall, stunning Democrats expecting a tight race after early exit polls. Walker's victory was built on a GOP-friendly electorate, even whiter, older, richer, and less Democratic than the 2010 midterms, let alone 2008. Seniors represented 18% of the electorate, up from 16% in 2010 and 14% in 2008. The non-white share of the electorate fell from 11% in 2008 to 10% in 2010, to 9% in 2012. 20% of voters made more than $100,000/year, up from 16% in 2010 and 19% in 2008.
From messaging to ad placement, campaigns make critical decisions based on demographics and geography. Indeed, coverage of campaign decision-making and the ups and downs of the horserace are incomplete without accounting for these variables. That’s why I’ll be following the evolution of the electorate and how it shapes the campaign at TNR. Demographics aren’t quite destiny, but they’ll play an outsized role in the 2012 presidential election. The Obama campaign is counting on repeating an unprecedented performance among non-white voters.