Democrats should have been more suspicious of the notion propagated by many partisan analysts over the last six years which postulated that the president’s electoral coalition of minority voters, young people, and single women is the new Democratic base.
Surveying the four national elections that have occurred in the Obama-era, analysts will find virtually no evidence to suggest that the Obama coalition is synonymous with the Democratic coalition. When Barack Obama is on the ballot, his coalition of voters shows up at the polls. When he isn’t, they don’t; even despite his personal appeals.
While there are no exit polls from these states to breakdown the voters who showed up on Tuesday, it seems clear Barack Obama could not mobilize even base Democrats to turn out in deep blue states like Maryland and Illinois. In the Old Line State, a candidate the president personally campaigned for lost by 5 points. The Democratic governor of the Prairie State has the dubious honor of being the first incumbent governor of a president’s home state (for whom he personally campaigned and voted) to lose reelection since 1892.
Obama won Maryland and Illinois in 2012 by 26 points and 17 points respectively.
Just as they did in 2010, the GOP’s voters showed up and Democratic voters stayed home on Tuesday. With the caveat that midterm electorates are not representative of their presidential counterparts, it seems clear now that Obama’s voters are not necessarily Democratic voters. At least, that seems clear to the White House.
“If the Obama coalition can become the Democratic coalition, it will shape the contours of the debate for years to come and pave the way for a lot of things we feel strongly about, that may not get done in our last two years,” White House senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer told The Washington Post in an article detailing how Team Clinton is executing the transition from the Obama administration to the Hillary administration in waiting.
…”If”. That’s quite an admission, and one which Democratic operatives have carefully avoided making up to this point.
GOP strategist Stuart Stevens framed the Democratic Party’s problem more bluntly:
“When the Obama campaign won in ’08, it was a hostile takeover of the Democratic Party,” said Stuart Stevens, chief strategist for Republican Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. “With two historic back-to-back midterm defeats, all of their operations, their technology, have proven to be ineffective when Barack Obama is not on the ballot.”
Now, the Democrats are in the unfortunate position of having to convince an electorate fired up by a young, African-American raconteur to get energized by the prospect of turning out for a white, clumsy, sexagenarian grandmother. Obama’s party has their work cut out for them.