Demography Not The Only Reason Romney Lost

Nov 8, 2012 2:32pm
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Image credit: David Goldman/AP Photo

Analysis: 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.

I’m not a trained demographer 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. But if I were running the RNC in 2016 I would work hard to try and embrace reality rather than trying to justify an alternate universe.

More important, demography alone wasn’t the only trend working in Obama’s favor:

1) 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.

2) VOTERS WERE FEELING BETTER ABOUT THE ECONOMY AND OBAMA’S HANDLING OF IT: The Bloomberg Consumer Confidence survey found a steadily rising optimism among Americans about the economy starting in early September and peaking last week to the highest level in more than four years.This isn’t to say that Americans feel completely positive about the current economic climate, but they have been feeling less negative about it for most of the fall.

And, 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.

In November of 2011, just 38 percent approved of the job Obama was doing on the economy. By the end of October of this year, forty-seven percent of American voters approved of his performance.

3) ROMNEY NEVER OPENED A GAP IN ‘TRUST TO HANDLE THE ECONOMY‘: In February of this year, the former Massachusetts Governor had a six point lead over Obama on the question of who voters thought would do a better job on the economy. But, if you are going to run a campaign focused almost exclusively on the premise that you are best suited to fix the economy, you’re going to need voters to believe it. By mid-October, it looked like Romney may have succeeded in doing just that. 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.

4) OBAMA’S JOB APPROVAL NEVER DROPPED AND CONTINUED TO CLIMB: Last November, just 44 percent of registered voters approved of the job Obama was doing as president – a political perilous position for any incumbent. By 2012, however, his 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.

At the end of the day, Romney lost this race not simply because he lost the demographic argument. He lost because he was never able to win the economic argument.

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