How rising minority populations can reshape U.S. politics and carry Obama to victory in 2012
Voters in Miami Beach wait to cast their ballots in the 2008 presidential election. credit: Hans Deryk/Reuters
The next America is arriving ahead of schedule. And it could rattle assumptions about the coming presidential election.
Last week's release of national totals from the 2010 census showed that the minority share of the population increased over the past decade in every state, reaching levels higher than demographers anticipated almost everywhere, and in the nation as a whole. If President Obama and Democrats can convert that growth into new voters in 2012, they can get a critical boost in many of the most hotly contested states and also seriously compete for some highly diverse states such as Arizona and Georgia that until now have been reliably red.
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"One of the strengths of our candidacy in 2008 is, we had a broader battlefield; what these numbers suggest is that those same opportunities are there [for 2012], and there are new ones to consider," David Axelrod, who is expected to be Obama's senior campaign strategist, told National Journal.
Even as the growing minority population creates new opportunities for Democrats, however, the party faces persistent challenges within the majority-white community. In November's midterm elections, Republicans won 60 percent of white voters--the highest share of whites they have attracted in any congressional election in the history of modern polling. Since May, Obama's job-approval rating among whites has exceeded 40 percent only twice in Gallup's weekly summary of its nightly polling. Unless the economic recovery accelerates, many analysts in both parties believe that Obama could struggle to match the modest 43 percent of white voters he captured in 2008.