Will 'Angry White Seniors' Determine the 2010 Elections?

Election forecasters say they could be the next key electorate, but there are a couple of catches

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Identity politics are back! The 2008 presidential campaigns may have been all about African-American voters and female voters, but some think that the star demographic for the 2010 midterm elections will be "angry white seniors." Who are these people and how could they become the decisive electorate in 2010?

  • Democrats Have a White Seniors Problem   Ron Brownstein reads the electoral math, predicting big GOP gains. "In midterm elections, the electorate tends to be whiter and older than in presidential elections," he writes. "Small shifts in who votes can have big consequences on Election Day." Brownstein warns that Obama-dominated young and minority voters won't turn out. "Their place will likely be filled by white voters, especially seniors. And that possibility looms as a huge gray cloud over Democrats. In 2008, Obama won the votes of just 40 percent of whites over age 65 (compared with 54 percent of whites under 30). All surveys show that white seniors remain the most resistant to Obama's health care agenda and the most skeptical of him overall."
  • ...But It's Only a Problem for Midterms  Brownstein warns that Republicans pursuing white seniors now are setting themselves up for losses in 2012. "But that dynamic also means that Republicans could do very well in 2010 without solving their fundamental demographic challenges. In the 2012 presidential election, the young and minority voters central to Obama's coalition are likely to return in large numbers. The risk to the GOP is that a strong 2010 showing based on a conservative appeal to apprehensive older whites will discourage it from reconsidering whether its message is too narrow to attract those rapidly growing groups."
  • Democrats Will Lose Youth Support  Reihan Salam suggests that Republicans, in addition to picking up seniors, could erode a crucial Democratic electorate. "One wonders how many young voters will return. It's possible that 2008 saw an unusually high level of youth turnout that won't be replicated any time soon. If unemployment surpasses 10 percent and stays there for a prolonged period, youth unemployment will presumably be somewhat higher. These voters might not be inclined to actively and energetically support the party in power at that point. To be sure, it's not clear that Republicans will be able to win them over. A jobs-focused agenda would help."
  • Many Vulnerable Democrats, But GOP Strategy Lacking  Charlie Cook predicts quite a few Democrats risk being unseated, but says the Republicans lack the finances to sweep Congress. "Democrats could be ruing the 'year of the angry white senior' at the polling place, not just the town hall," he writes. But: "At the moment, the GOP's slate of candidates in potentially vulnerable Democratic seats doesn't look all that intimidating. Just 12 of the 66 House Democrats in the Likely Democratic, Lean Democratic, and Toss Up columns face Republican challengers who held $100,000 or more in their campaign accounts at the end of June. Still, there is danger on the horizon."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.