Throughout the campaign, Obama has been depicted as having two advantages: the incumbent advantage and the demographic advantage. Since 1948, only three incumbent presidents have failed to be re-elected, with seven successful bids. As an incumbent, the candidate has already gone through the necessary amount of selection to become president in the first place and has four years’ experience doing the job. At the moment, with a dismal economy and gridlocked administration following the GOP takeover of the House of Representatives, many voters are disillusioned and even disappointed with Obama, reducing the momentum that carried him to victory in 2008. The demographic advantage, however, is most certainly playing its part in securing electoral votes.
The American electorate is changing, at an increasing pace. The white proportion of the electorate has been declining since 1992. This year, more than half the babies born in the country were from minority parents, especially Latinos. Every month, nearly 50 000 Latinos become eligible to vote. And they tend to vote Democrat. Polls have shown that a resounding 65-72% of Latinos support Obama, with only 20–25% supporting Romney.
This change in demographics has sent states swinging. Florida, Colorado and Nevada have become battlegrounds. New Mexico, where almost half the population is Latino, used to be viewed as a swing state but since 2008 is almost considered as a safe state for Democrats. And this is only the beginning. Texas, and its 38 electoral votes, has a growing Latino population. The Republican stronghold is now being eyed by Democrats.
The strong lead Obama holds within the Latino community is rather astonishing. They are one of the worst hit groups by the economic crisis and Obama’s administration reached record numbers of deportations. Higher unemployment than the national average and the house price crash, it is no surprise that the Latino electorate is focused on economic policies for this election. Even after a rise in support in 2010 and Senator Marco Rubio’s stardom, Romney and the GOP have failed to take advantage of the situation. The Republicans have a strong and negative rhetoric on border control and illegal immigrants that alienates Latino voters. Romney’s policies on a double layer border fence with Mexico, “self deportation” and an electronic system to verify the legality of workers is not helping. Latinos are not necessarily directly concerned by these matters, however they feel targeted. When Obama declared in June that he would not deport undocumented immigrants who arrived in America as children for two years, the deal was sealed. The Republican Party is risking the creation of an unfriendly political identity within the Latino community.
The GOP’s second problem is the youth. More than a third of GOP voters are over 58. An Azimuth Research Group poll has shown that Republican voters aged 18-27 have different priorities than older members. Half of young voters ranked government spending as their main interest, compared to 36% older voters. Unemployment and individual liberty have similar scores for both groups. The main other difference was that younger voters showed little or no interest in family, immigration and the right to life. The Republican Party may be out of touch with Latinos on questions like immigration, they are also out of touch with most Millenials, the most liberal generation. GOP membership is expected to decline drastically over the next 20 years, with a third of its members effectively just dying away. The GOP is on the brink of a major demographic crisis. Its core voter base, white, blue collar men, will no longer be sufficient to win an election. After 2012, the Republicans will have to adapt their policies to the new majorities and younger generation, without whom they risk political extinction. The Democrats also need to provide more social and economic opportunities for Latinos in order to keep their support.
Concerning this coming election, the die are still rolling. Romney has the bad economy on his side. Obama, even though he is backed by an astounding majority of Latinos, is playing a dangerous game, as their voter turnout is not always high. And completely random factors can still affect the race. A local college football win could boost the incumbent’s support by an average 1.6%.