After every election, the losing side usually engages in a combination of introspection and rationalization. Currently, the Republican Party is both acknowledging that it has a demography problem, while also continuing to insist that this election was a demographic fluke.
Republicans were shocked by the high percentage of African-Americans and Hispanics at the polls, but gave as much of the credit to Obama's superior turn-out operation as blame to their own inability to expand their base. Sean Trende of Real Clear Politics suggests that an unexplained seven million person drop in the white vote may be responsible for Obama's big win. His argument:
"Had the same number of white voters cast ballots in 2012 as did in 2008, the 2012 electorate would have been about 74 percent white, 12 percent black, and 9 percent Latino (the same result occurs if you build in expectations for population growth among all these groups). In other words, the reason this electorate looked so different from the 2008 electorate is almost entirely attributable to white voters staying home.
The other groups increased their vote, but by less than we would have expected simply from population growth. Put another way: The increased share of the minority vote as a percent of the total vote is not the result of a large increase in minorities in the numerator, it is a function of many fewer whites in the denominator."
"I'm not a trained demographer," Walter notes, "but I can say with certainty that: 1) This country is not getting any whiter and 2) older people die."
If winning an election depends on appealing to and then turning out a base of old, white people you are going to lose every presidential election from here on out. That model may still be enough to help Republicans win midterm elections -- older and white voters turn out at higher level than minorities and young people in off-year elections.
More important, demography alone wasn't the only trend working in Obama's favor:
--VOTERS WERE FEELING BETTER ABOUT THE DIRECTION OF THE COUNTRY: Last November, just 19 percent of Americans thought the country was "on the right track." Exit polls from Tuesday's election showed that number had climbed to 46 percent by Election Day.
--VOTERS WERE FEELING BETTER ABOUT THE ECONOMY: [W]while a majority of Americans still disapproved of the job the president was doing on the economy, they gave him higher marks today than they did just a year ago.
--ROMNEY NEVER OPENED A GAP IN 'TRUST TO HANDLE THE ECONOMY': Buoyed by a solid performance in the first debate, Romney opened up an eight point lead over Obama on October 24. But, just five days later, that lead shrunk to 2 points. Exit polls showed Romney ended the campaign with a measly one point advantage over the president on this question.
--OBAMA'S JOB APPROVAL CONTINUED TO CLIMB: [H]is job approval steadily climbed to the high-40-s. And, by October, he was regularly polling at 50 percent. The final ABC/Washington Post tracking poll put Obama's approval rating at 51 percent.