Notes on the Virginia/North Carolina losses

A lot of commentary has been focusing on the fact that the GOP lost Virginia for the first time since 1964 and North Carolina since 1976. This is treated as absolutely unprecedented, and to a certain extent it is.

But consider the demographics. The last Republican loser, Dole, won Virginia by a tiny 2 point margin while McCain lost it by 5.5. However, in 1996 the Virginia electorate was 81% white and 16% black while in 2008 it was 70% white and 20% black. Dole won white voters 53-39 while McCain won them 60-39--a substantial improvement. The problem was, of course, that the black vote in 2008 was larger and more monolithic than in 1996. The same lesson applies to 1992, where the elder Bush won the state by 4 points while obtaining an identical margin among whites than McCain did.

Similarly, in North Carolina whites were 80% in 1996 and Dole won them by 24 points, carrying the state by 5. McCain did better at 29 points but barely lost the state because whites only constituted 72% in 2008.

The point is that we lost these former Republican strongholds not necessarily because parts of the state have more white liberals, but rather because the white share was lower (and the black share correspondingly higher) than in the past elections we lost. We can look forward to these states being purple for as long as these turnout trends hold up.

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The same principle applies to Georgia and New Mexico; McCain performed just as well among white voters in both states as Bush but whites made up a far smaller percentage of the electorate than in 2004.

The thing that worries me most is Obama's dominance among Hispanics; if a republican like McCain couldn't attract more support, it's difficult to see who will be able to do so.  I think going after African-American voters and moving Obama's support down from 95% to 85% may be the better route to go given their socially conservative views as evidenced by their support for Proposition 8.  It'll be a challenge but bush was able to hold on to Ohio partially because he won 16% of support from blacks.  Electing the first-ever black president won't be a storyline in 2012 so the Republicans could conceivably pick off some support from Obama.

Gaining the Hispanic vote is NOT that challenging

The result this year was actually encouraging since McCain topped off at the 31% mark, much higher than the 21% Dole received in 1996.  It is on par with the 33% Bush received in 2000.  I say if Latinos can suck-it-up and vote GOP in much higher numbers historically for a GOP nominee and with a minority candidate on top, I think it has a solid ground of support.  Don't take it for granted of course, but it's one heartening result. 

McCain was for amnesty

That's a big reason, I believe, for McCain's success with Hispanics. I'm not really a supporter of amnesty, though, so I'm not sure how this vote will play out in 2012.