Published December 15, 2016
Barack Obama is a winner in more than one way.
Both the President and Republican nominee Mitt Romney made different bets on who would vote this year—and Obama won.
It turns out that Americans who cast ballots looked collectively much more like what Obama envisioned—which reflects a diverse, changing America—than what Romney had banked on. The Republican Party anticipated a more monolithic voting body sending them to the White House, an assumption they based their polling on. However, younger voters and minorities came to the polls at levels not far off from the historic coalition Obama assembled in 2008.
The outcome revealed a stark problem for Republicans: If they do not broaden their tent, they will not be able to move forward.
“Clearly, when you look at African-American and Latino voters, they went overwhelmingly for the president,” said John Stineman, a Republican strategist from Iowa. “And that’s certainly a gap that’s going to require a lot of attention from Republicans.”
In an exit polling Tuesday, voters mirrored the overall voting public of four years ago when Obama broke minority voting barriers, prompting young voters to the polls. This is unlike any other candidate from previous generations.
While white voters made up 72 percent of the electorate, the number is less than four years ago. Meanwhile, black voters remained at 13 percent and Hispanics increased from 9 to 10 percent. That flew in the face of GOP assumptions that the fierce economic headwinds of the past three years and the passing of the novelty of the first African-American president would trim Obama's support from black voters, perhaps enough to make the difference in a close election.
However, Obama carried Virginia, known as the heart of the old South, partly by increasing his record support from black voters there in 2008, which, according to Obama campaign internal tracking polls, reached to more than 20 percent. The reflection was also seen in a turnout that matched 2008 totals in places, like Cleveland, which helped Obama carry Ohio despite Romney’s efforts there in the campaign’s final weeks.
“Republicans have been saying for months that Obama’s black support would slip,” said Democratic pollster Paul Maslin. “And what happens? When African-Americans had the chance to affirm him, they came out in droves.”
In 2008, Obama won by carrying several long-held Republican states, such as North Carolina, Virginia and Indiana. While Romney carried Indiana and peeled back North Carolina this year, Obama held Virginia, which points to a long-term demographic shift that survived the pressures of a poor economy. Obama carried each contested state, except North Carolina, by aggressively registering first-time voters. He matched his share of youth votes from 2008 and nearly matched his support from seniors.
The 2012 electorate mirrored 2008 in terms of party identification and racial makeup, with Democrats topping Republicans and independents.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white, or Hispanic or Asian, or Native American, or young or old or rich or poor, able, disable, gay or straight,” said Obama during his victory speech Tuesday in Chicago. “You can make it here in America if you’re willing to try.”
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.