Obama isn’t just going for a win. He’s shooting for a “realignment.” Obama is trying to shape a new kind of electorate, creating a long-term Democratic majority that would allow him and his successors to stop catering to the center and finally govern decisively from the left.

We heard a lot about a left-leaning electoral realignment in 2008. That talk seemed to stop after the tea-party shellacking of 2010. Yet the truth is, Obama and his advisors never abandoned their quest to shape a permanent leftist majority, a coalition that would forever put an end to Clintonian triangulation and usher in unfettered leftist Obamaism instead. Obama’s frantic efforts to gin up the women’s vote and the youth vote aren’t only desperate attempts to secure his base. They flow from a deliberate decision not to fight for the center, but to build an independent majority on what is supposedly the “demographically ascendent” left…

Obama’s strategy, says Heileman, is built around the idea that he can win with a coalition of the “demographically ascendent,” African Americans, Hispanics, women, and young people. To a degree, the bad economy has pushed Obama toward this approach. The obvious hope is that economic weakness can be countered by appeals to socially liberal women and young people on cultural issues. But don’t underestimate the extent to which this strategy is a deliberate decision that could have gone otherwise, as the behind-the-scenes opposition of some Democrats indicates.