The Magic Is Gone: In an e-mail to Columbia University journalism professor Thomas Edsall, political scientist Larry Bartels of Vanderbilt University explains why the Obama campaign cannot afford to alienate white working class voters while pandering to minority voters:
If the Democratic Party can do something to win one more non-college white vote, without alienating anyone else, it is exactly one vote closer to winning. If it can do something to win one more college white vote, or Latino vote, or Asian vote, without alienating anyone else, it is exactly one vote closer to winning. If it wins one more non-college white vote and loses one college white vote, or Latino vote, or Asian vote in the process, it is not any closer to winning. The interesting strategic questions have entirely to do with the marginal shifts in vote probabilities produced in different groups by different sorts of appeals, and their collateral political costs (whether alienation or opportunity costs).
Unfortunately for Obama’s calculus, RealClearPolitics Chief Political Correspondent David Paul Kuhn reports that he “does not currently have enough white support to win re-election even if he retains his minority base from 2008”:
Pundits often note that Romney cannot win with his current level of Hispanic support. That’s likely true. But so is the converse: Obama cannot win with his level of white support unless white swing voters withhold their votes from Romney as well.
Today, fewer whites back Obama than any Democratic candidate since Walter Mondale. Romney does not need to emulate Ronald Reagan to win. Should he match Reagan’s share of the white vote in 1984 – presuming all else remains constant since 2008 – Romney would rout Obama.
Of course, America has changed since Reagan. Non-Hispanic whites were 89 percent of the electorate when Reagan first won the White House in 1980. They were 85 percent in 1988. By 2008, whites were 74 percent. That shift has upended the electoral landscape. But only so much. …
Should Romney win the whites Obama lost, Romney will only need to perform as well as John McCain with minorities to win. …
The white margin to watch: 61-39. That’s the rough break-even point. Obama likely needs more than 39 percent of whites to assure re-election. Romney likely needs at least 61 percent of whites to assure Obama’s defeat (or 60.5 in some scenarios).
Kuhn concludes that “diversity may not prove enough to save Obama.”