Republicans need more than a 4% national swing

by: Chris Bowers

Mon Jun 01, 2009 at 17:58

I have been following the interesting discussion at fivethirtyeight about what further losses among Latino voters would mean for the Republican Party. Andrew Gelman sums it up by arguing that all Republicans really need is a 4% national swing by 2012. For a couple of reasons, I have to disagree with this assessment, and argue that Republicans actually need more than a 4% national swing. Here is why:
  1. Republicans have lost ground since the election: Across every poll measuring party favorability, Republicans have lost ground since late October of 2008. Over the past three months, the average decline for Republicans has been 8.5% (across four polling firms). By contrast, Democrats have gained ground in the majority of such polls, moving up an average of 5.8% over the last three months compared to late October. Overall, Republicans have seen their net favorable gap on Democrats increase by more than 14% since later October.

  2. The nation still moving away from Republicans demographically, too. It can't be emphasized enough that Michael Dukakis would have won the 2008 election. His exit polls of 40% among whites, 89% among African-Americans, and 70% among Latinos is enough to reach 50%+1 now, even in the event that African-American turnout was only 12% of the vote instead of 13%. That is an 8% shift toward Democrats in just twenty years, leading to a crude rate of 0.5% a year, or 2% every four years. Demographic trends are so bad for Republicans that Dukakis would be able to win a landslide in 2012. That's pretty bad.
As such, moving the country 4% isn't enough right now. They are viewed less favorably then they were just before losing by 7%+ in the Presidential election, and by 8.90% in the House elections. On top of it, they are pretty much guaranteed to lose even more. From where the country stands right now, they need a minimum national shift of 6% just to tie, and possibly even more.

It is a deep, dark hole they are digging for themselves.

Chris Bowers :: Republicans need more than a 4% national swing

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great post -- i'd love to see some discussion (4.00 / 1)
of how electorally significance immigration reform might be, both in terms of how it might affect the political affiliations of current voters and whether it might change the makeup of the electorate.  

also, is there any chance that the dems might pick up formerly republican (white) women (i.e. the folks who favor sotomayor's nomination)?  would healthcare reform bring these folks on board?  are there other actions that the dems could take to make inroads with this group?  

one thing Matt Yglesias has pointed out... (4.00 / 1)
is that our definition of "white" could change. In the 20th Century, it didn't originally include Italians, or Irish, etc. But eventually the idea of races congealed around the white/black/asian/hispanic distinctions we tend to use today. But you can imagine a future in which the salient distinction is not between white and non-white, but between black and non-black, so that hispanics and asians would be considered "white," and they might then be open to Republicans' appeal to a more inclusive appeal to "white" racial identity.

But of course, for that to happen, Republicans would have to go along with the idea that Hispanics could be considered "white," and based on their reaction to Sotomayor is any indication, they are obviously a long, long way from doing so.

[ Parent ]
i don't see that happening; not because of racial prejudice, but (4.00 / 2)
because of the waning power of such prejudice.  no longer do most people reflexively consider whiteness to be superior, and the idea that large numbers of asian and latina/o people would want to be considered 'white' is ludicrous.  


[ Parent ]
well, it's not really about what anyone wants (0.00 / 0)
I used "white" in quotation marks, because I don't mean it in the sense that it's often used now. I mean it as a stand-in for something like "ethnically identifies with the majority of the country." In 1910, I doubt most Irish would identify themselves, or were identified by others, with the ethnic majority of the US. But that changed over time.

Like I say, I don't see it happening anytime soon. But it could happen.

[ Parent ]
yeah, again, i would say that i don't think (0.00 / 0)
the example of the irish in the early 20th century applies, because most people now see a pluralistic society as an ideal.  moreover, the idea that latina/os and asians are going to line up with white folks against black folks is not plausible (and this is what would have to happen for it to make sense to apply the case of the irish to the present day situation of non-black people of color).  

[ Parent ]
"White" used to mean Protestant (0.00 / 0)
White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. Redundant, or simply emphatic.

In the 1920s the revived Ku Klux Klan rode around in their sheets protesting against immigrants, disproportionately Roman Catholic, and Jewish, as much as against blacks, who didn't have enough potential power to count anyway. Then Catholics got pretty well assimilated over the years, highlighted by the election of John F. Kennedy. Later conservatives, including evangelicals, tried to form an alliance with Catholics on social issues. That got us five white male Catholics on the Supreme Court. (But a female Latina Catholic may be just too much!)

Meanwhile many younger Protestants, and some Catholics, are drifting into the unchurched or secular category. I'm a backsliding Methodist, the great-grandson of a Confederate Colonel, and a gay male. Not sure I'd be considered exactly "white" by the holy rollers back in my small town home town.

[ Parent ]
2009 (0.00 / 0)
Virginia Republicans did very well in recent special elections in Northern Virginia. If Republicans do well in the state elections in NJ, Virginia, and Kentucky, it will be a sign that they could be headed for a come back. Local elections are much better indicators than cable chatter.

Special elections are very low turnout affairs... (0.00 / 0)
Especially local ones immediately after an extremely emotional presidential race...

I don't think those results mean much now...

Jersey and Virginia this year might... but, again, these are unique situations in both states that might not extrapolate...

REID: Voting against us was never part of our arrangement!
SPECTER: I am altering the deal! Pray I don't alter it any further!
REID: This deal keeps getting worse all the time!

[ Parent ]
i don't understand the 4% national swing argument (4.00 / 2)
Gelman's discussion seems to be in the context of what Republicans need to do if they're giving up on winning back the Latino vote.  If we assume for the sake of argument that the Republican share of the Latino vote doesn't slip and merely stays constant (an unlikely assumption), then to get to 50%+1, they would need more than a 4% swing among the rest of the alternative.  Will that be among AA's?  Not likely.  Asians?  Perhaps but not likely.  That leaves white people.  White people made up 75% of the electorate in 2008.  To get to 50%+1, the Republicans would need a shift of 5.3% among them.  Of course, if we take into account the fact that the demographics are becoming less and less white, that they are digging themselves holes with minorities, etc., then they will need a much greater shift among white people.

yes, and the problem there is the fact that young (4.00 / 4)
white folks are much more democratic than any other age group of whites.  so, they are running against the clock there as well.  

[ Parent ]
The base doesn't care about "winning." (0.00 / 0)
Some Republicans may recognize reality, but the GOP base is completely out of touch with it. They insist on a purity test and eschew political expedience.

It really comes down to this: a faction of Americans is convinced the "end times" are upon us, and that if they go down to defeat in 2010 and 2012 in a noble "last stand" then it is God's will.

The problem is that they think that the rest of America... (4.00 / 1) like their exurb community, and can't understand how democrats get elected.  After all, no one they know is a democrat... it must be a fluke!

REID: Voting against us was never part of our arrangement!
SPECTER: I am altering the deal! Pray I don't alter it any further!
REID: This deal keeps getting worse all the time!

[ Parent ]
It's voter fraud! (4.00 / 1)
Of course, in the real world there is not any voter fraud. There is only election fraud committed by Republicans who can't understand why the rest of the country doesn't vote just like them.

[ Parent ]
WOW! Twilight Zone Math! I do LOVE how (0.00 / 0)
people take social / political issues, and they string together 'analysis' as if you ...

have a quadratic function, and you're finding the vertex with algebra (or with calculus), and finding the y intercepts, and finding the x-intercepts, and finding which way the parabola opens ... all by putting the function in a standard form and fiddling with coefficients... like I show scores of high school kids how to do EVERY year.

Dukakis could have won, as could have Mondale, Carter, Kerry, Gore, Clinton in health care, Pelosi / Reid Vs. Bush,


The fascists have done NOTHING but shit on and piss on us bottom 95% of peee-ons since BEFORE Nixon's silent majority - and it doesn't matter if you're black, brown, yellow, purple or zinc.

How about that 40% ++ who don't vote cuz they see a bunch of crooks and incompetents? How about 95% of the idiots who vote republican who will NEVER be anything but asswipes, doormats and kleenex to cheney & rummy & bush?

keep handing TRILLIONS to wall street to rip us all off, keep letting savings and loan money go into leveraged buy out pension rip offs, keep letting enron and exxon and haliburton rip us all off

and your % of % of the latina-black-irish-lesbian vote is as gone as ANY subgroup.


It is too full o' the milk of human kindness To catch the nearest way

How much would Dukakis have won by? (4.00 / 1)
I'd love to post that data on Facebook to taunt my Republican family members.

John McCain won't insure children

Nate Silver says he wouldn't have (0.00 / 0)

He analyzes it on a nationwide basis (Duke's vote share would go from 46.1% to 48.7%), so it could have been that Chris was saying that Duke nevertheless would have won enough electoral votes state by state.  

Saxby Chambliss  

[ Parent ]
Pet Peeve (4.00 / 1)
It was Andrew Gelman at FiveThirtyEight, not Nate. It's not a big deal, but sometimes I have to be anal about things like that.

Then again, we're all actually Jerome Armstrong anyway.

[ Parent ]
Whoops, my bad, good point n/t (0.00 / 0)
[ Parent ]
Nate's original comment (4.00 / 1)
The figure of 4% doesn't sound big (it is pretty large because it needs to come from a narrow band of voters moving much more than 4%), but it is insurmountable if there is no strategy to get there.  Nate said:

"If you could gain ground in the Midwest or the South by pursing an anti-immigrant, anti-NAFTA, "America First" sort of platform, you really wouldn't be putting all that much at risk by losing further ground among Latinos."

Leaves a lot of open questions:

Are there really very many more votes to be fished out on an anti-immigration platform?  Neither Bush nor McCain appeased the anti-immigration crowd - is there any reason to think that the powers that be will do so in 2012?

Is there any reason to think that any Republican can seal the nomination on an anti-NAFTA platform?  A "buy American" platform?

I could just as well theorize that the Republicans can gain that 4% by advocating for gun control, increased contributions to the UN, and proclaiming celery the national vegetable.  Without any real prospect that these positions could be advocated by the party or actually will sway voters, it's meaningless.

Anti-NAFTA would work well in the midwest... (0.00 / 0)
...very well... in fact, most Goopers were anti-Nafta in the 90's...

But, that was a different time... Being anti-Nafta would not fare well with the powers that be that run the party, so it isn't going to happen...

REID: Voting against us was never part of our arrangement!
SPECTER: I am altering the deal! Pray I don't alter it any further!
REID: This deal keeps getting worse all the time!

[ Parent ]
Age Difference (4.00 / 2)
     How can we figure the difference being caused by older voters, uh, leaving the voting pool, and new voters coming in?
    It's a very blunt tool, but I'd suggest the following as a starting point:
    Voters 18-29 cast 18% of the approximately 130 Million votes for President last November. That equates to 1.5% of the vote cast by persons born in each year 1979-1990, or 1,950,000 voters for each birth year. So let's assume that the same participation rate holds in 2012 for persons born 1991-1994, giving us 7.8 Million new voters. The younger age group voted 66-32 for Obama in 2008--if the 2 to 1 proportion holds, that 5,200,000 more votes for Obama and 2,6000,000 more votes for the Republican.
    Voters 65 and older cast 16% of the vote in 2008, or 20,800,000 votes. If we assume:
    a) that half of that group is people age 70 or under, and half is people over age 70;
    b) that the older half is equally as likely as the younger half to vote Republican;
    c) that all of the younger half will vote in 2012; and
    d) that 15% of the older half will not vote in 2012;
    then that's an overall loss of 7.5% of the group, or 1.56 Million voters. Older voters went for McCain 53 to 45; if those proportions hold, that's 826,800 fewer votes for McCain, and 702,000 fewer votes for Obama.
    Combining the results for the young and old age groups, we would expect that in 2012 just by the demographics of age Obama would gain 4,498,000 votes, and the Republican would gain 1,773,200. Adding those to what they actually got would produce totals of 73,922,000 for Obama and 61,705,000 for the Republican, a 54.5 to 45.5 split.
    So leaving aside any changes in the electorate in racial demographics or party ID or the fact that McCain might have been more attractive than any other candidate the Republicans could offer, the Republicans would need a 4.5% national swing just to cover that.
    And, of course, all that would do would be to get them a tie in the popular vote. And since they won the 12 Southern states in 2008 by a margin of 54-46, but lost the rest of the country 57.3 to 42.7, a uniform swing of 4.5% everywhere would still leave them with a 52.8% to 47.2% deficit in the rest of the country.  

4% swing needed by Rs (0.00 / 0)
The Republicans could build strong electoral support by:

1. Ensuring that elected Republicans governors do a good job on fiscal responsibility, or record exactly where their initiatives for fiscal responsibility have been frustrated by Democratic state legislators.

2. Run the Congressional/Presidential races on a theme of "Don't turn Washington over to Democratic misrule and fiscal irresponsibility." Then point to the rather poor Democratic performance, especially in one Party Democratic states.

Over time this could evolve into a credible position.

Of course state politicians do not have to deal with the oversized defense budget. And defense is something Republicanss would be afraid to be "against."

Instead the Republicans let the ignorant likes of Rush Limbaugh set not only their agenda but their tone (ugly). And their devotion to "free market" capitalism is a joke, given all the government coddling of certain industries.

It's time for a national Moderate Party to come into existence, starting at the state level and dedicated to making state government fiscally responsible. The extremists can stay with the Republican Party. The Democrats would eventually split, with many joining the Moderate Party, as will many Republican leaning people who do not care about the issues of gay marriage or abortion and have no use for creationism.


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