In the short and medium-term, it is worth asking how much of this victory can be chalked up to Obama’s personal appeal and status as a historical figure, as opposed to fundamental shifts in the American electorate. The key question is whether future Democratic candidates will be able to command the type of margins Obama enjoyed among young voters and African-Americans. Although Republicans face long-term challenges with voter demographics, Romney’s problem in this election may not have been primarily structural.

Democrats have consistently dominated Republicans among black voters in the modern era. They have also had the edge with younger voters. Obama significantly outperformed his Democratic predecessors among these groups, for reasons that seem obvious. But he won’t always be on the ballot…

The story is similar with the youth vote. In past elections, the under-29 vote has gone to Democrats consistently. John Kerry won this group by 9 points in 2004. Obama’s great achievement was not that he turned out under-29 voters in significantly higher numbers but that he inspired so many of them. He won them by an astounding 34 points in 2008.