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The demographics of 2010

People too often forget the power of demographics in predicting elections. Nate Silver, for instance, got his start plugging demographics into a statistical model that proves eerily accurate at predicting primary votes. If the election itself was held among white men and women, John McCain would've won easily.

But you don't actually hear that much about demographics in the run-up to elections. So this post from Daniel Hopkins is a welcome reminder:

Last year, political scientists Stephen Ansolabehere and Charles Stewart pointed out that most of Barack Obama’s increased vote total over John Kerry came from black and Hispanic voters. Those two ethnic/racial groups together accounted for an increase of 7 million votes for Obama, as compared to 3 million added votes from non-Hispanic white citizens. So in thinking about the upcoming elections for the House of Representatives, it makes sense to ask about how blacks and Latinos are represented in the most competitive districts.

Consider the 42 seats currently held by Democrats that analyst Charlie Cook considers to be “toss ups.” As these races go, so goes the House in all likelihood. According to the Census Bureau, the median toss-up district’s residents in 2006-8 were 3.6 percent Latino and 4.8% black — as compared to shares of 15.1% and 12.3% nationally. Simply put, irrespective of turnout, the electorate that will prove decisive in which party controls the House has fewer voters of color than the electorate that proved decisive in electing Obama.

And I'd say Hopkins understates his case. Obama didn't just win because of the presence of young voters and minorities. He won because they turned out disproportionately for him. If they just vote at normal levels in 2010, that'll be quite bad for Democrats -- particularly if seniors or other conservative demographics increase their participation. That's why the poll result Democrats have to worry about isn't voter preference, where they're doing alright, but voter enthusiasm, where they're not:

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Hence Obama's recent speeches, which have been designed to fire up the Democratic base.

By Ezra Klein  |  September 9, 2010; 1:18 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Midterms  
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Comments

The Democratic base has been insulted and ignored by the White House and many in Congress for almost 2 years. It is too late to fire them up now.

Posted by: alvord1 | September 9, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse

I don't know how he's doing with his base, but he's got me all fired up to cast a straight Republican ticket.

Bill White is the sort of old school Texas Democrat I'd normally consider casting a vote for as Governor, particularly since I've never been all that enamored of Rick Perry. But all I want this year is to wipe the floor with the Democratic Party enough to terrify the lot of them for the next two years.

Posted by: bgmma50 | September 9, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

alvord1, if the White House's actions over the last two years have caused the Democratic base to favor a Republican majority to a Democratic majority, then they deserve to be insulted. The Dems passed financial regulation, healthcare reform, several stimulus packages, and withdrawn troops from Iraq. Yes, pretty much all of those would have been done differently/better had been Dictator of America, but I'm not. The Dems passed a lot of legislation against a Republican minority that obstructed them at every opportunity. If some liberals are so mad at not getting everything they wanted that they'd rather have Speaker Boehner, they're utter and contemptable fools.

Posted by: MosBen | September 9, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

No matter how enthusiastic a voter is, he or she can only vote once. So what we're really talking about here is good, old-fashioned get-out-the-vote. Hence, the narrative for this fall says the GOP has an easier time with GOTV.

The flip side is that demographically, the GOP-friendly groups -- whites and old people -- are shrinking as a portion of the population while Hispanics and other minorities are growing. That's been going on for a while, but the Democrats' GOTV efforts in 2006 and 2008 got those groups voting, in many cases for the first time.

The GOP gets a second tailwind from the demographic makeup of the 42 districts in play, as Ezra highlights from Cook's analysis.

So, where the outcome lies for this fall is at the answer to the question of whether the dual tailwinds driving GOP GOTV efforts can overcome the generational demographic shift working against it.

It's a tough year for the Democrats indeed.

Posted by: Rick00 | September 9, 2010 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Mosben - You sound like the White House. Insult your critics in the base. That will get results but not the kind you want.

Posted by: alvord1 | September 9, 2010 10:44 PM | Report abuse

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