The minority vote, the blue wall, and the mandate: the key figures that will determine the outcome of the presidential race
After a campaign of unprecedented expense and duration, the third presidential contest in the past four to divide America almost exactly in half is now almost in the hands of the voters. With polls showing President Obama holding a small lead over Mitt Romney in key battleground states, but locked in a virtual dead-heat nationally, here's a look at the factors that could decide who gets the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the race for the White House on Nov. 6.
1. What is the minority share of the vote?
Key number: 26% or more
Obama is likely to win about twice as large a proportion of the non-white as the white vote. How many whites and non-whites vote is therefore the single most important question in the election, both nationally and in the key swing states.
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Since 1992 the non-white share of the vote has grown steadily at about three percentage points with every election, from 12 percent when Bill Clinton was first elected, to 26 percent for Barack Obama's election in 2008. If the trend has continued this year, it will make Obama's path to reelection much easier. But if minority turnout lags, or turnout among older conservative whites soars -- as it did in the 2010 mid-term election--it will make the math much more favorable for Romney. Youth turnout is critical here too, because about 40 percent of the Millennial Generation are non-white, compared to only about half that among seniors.