I’ve got egg on my face. I predicted a Romney landslide, and instead, we had an Obama squeaker.
The key reason for my bum prediction is that I believed, mistakenly, that the 2008 surge in black, Latino and young voter turnout would recede in 2012 to “normal” levels. Didn’t happen. These high levels of minority and young voter participation are here to stay. And, with them, a permanent reshaping of our nation’s politics.
In 2012, 13 percent of the vote was cast by blacks. In ’04, it was 11 percent. This year, 10 percent was Latino. In ’04 it was 8 percent. This time, 19 percent of the vote was cast by voters under 30 years of age. In ’04 it was 17 percent. Taken together, these results swelled the ranks of Obama’s three-tiered base by 5 to 6 points, accounting fully for his victory.
I derided the media polls for assuming what did, in fact, happen: that blacks, Latinos and young people would show up in the same numbers as they had in 2008. I was wrong. They did.
The more proximate cause of my error was that I did not take full account of the impact of Hurricane Sandy and of Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) bipartisan march through New Jersey arm in arm with President Obama.
A key element of Romney’s appeal, particularly after the first debate, was his ability to govern with Democrats in Massachusetts. Obama’s strident one-party approach, so much the opposite of what he pledged in his first national speech in 2004, had turned voters off. But by working seamlessly with an acerbic Republican governor like Christie, Obama was able to blunt Romney’s advantage in this crucial area.
Sandy, in retrospect, stopped Romney’s post-debate momentum. She was, indeed, the October Surprise. She also stopped the swelling concern over the murders in Benghazi and let Obama get away with his cover-up, in which he pretended that a terrorist attack was nothing more than a spontaneous demonstration gone awry.
Obama is the first president in modern times to win reelection by a smaller margin than that by which he was elected in the first place. McKinley, Wilson, FDR, Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan and Clinton all increased their vote share significantly. Obama’s dropped from a 7-point margin over McCain to a 1-point margin over Romney.
That he could get reelected despite his dismal record is a tribute to his brilliant campaign staff and the shifting demographics of America. This is not your father’s United States, and the Republican tilt toward white middle-aged and older voters is ghettoizing the party so that even bad economic times are not enough to sway the election.
By the time you finish with the various demographic groups the Democrats win, you almost have a majority in their corner. Count them: Blacks cast 13 percent of the vote and Obama won them 12-1. Latinos cast 10 percent and Obama carried them by 7-3. Under-30 voters cast 19 percent of the vote and Obama swept them by 12-7. Single white women cast 18 percent of the total vote and Obama won them by 12-6. There is some overlap among these groups, of course, but without allowing for any, Obama won 43-17 before the first married white woman or man over 30 cast a vote. (Let’s guess that if we eliminate duplication, the Obama margin would be 35-13.) Having conceded these votes, Romney would have had to win over two-thirds of the rest of the vote to win. He almost did. But not quite.
If Romney couldn’t manage this trick against Obama in the current economy, no Republican can. To avoid a permanent Democratic majority, Republicans have got to review their positions on key social issues and on immigration before they drive themselves into political oblivion.
Morris, a former adviser to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and President Clinton, is the author of Outrage, Fleeced, Catastrophe and 2010: Take Back America — A Battle Plan. To get all of his and Eileen McGann’s columns for free by email or to order a signed copy of their latest book, Revolt!: How To Defeat Obama and Repeal His Socialist Programs — A Patriot’s Guide, go to dickmorris.com.