2012 US Presidential elections and the race factor

The overall picture about the candidates still remains blurred, with only a few months remaining for the 2012 US Presidential elections. It is more or less certain that the Democrat candidate will be Barack Obama.  But the uncertainty about the possible GOP candidate is still not getting any better. Right now Mitt Romney is the front runner, although Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich and Michelle Bachmann are fighting to remain in the picture. There is no doubt that Obama will face a tough re-election campaign, with his popularity ratings falling below the 50% mark, and more importantly howering around the 35-40% mark, among the white voters. In a normal scenario, the low popularity rating among the white voters will mean doom for any candidates, especially since they constitute for more than two-thirds of the American voting public. But the 2012 elections will occur in a slightly abnormal scenario, different from the past presidential elections, at least as far as the racial composition of the voters are concerned.

The American voting public can be largely divided in to four racial categories. The first one is non-Hispanic White (73.4% of all voters in 2008) and the second is non-Hispanic Black (11.8% in 2008). Percentages for these two categories have remained more or less same for 2012 also, with whites slightly declining (to around 70%) and blacks remaining unchanged. Then comes the two categories which have grown significantly during the 2008-2012 period. These are the Hispanics and Asians (9.5% and 3.4% in 2008). Estimates suggest that Hispanics will cross the 11% mark and the Asians will move pass the 5% mark by 2011. At first glance this change will seem marginal or insignificant (Asian/Hispanics increasing by 3% mark and Whites declining by a similar percentage). The GOP draws most of its support from the whites and a few other pockets of influence (like the Cuban section among the Hispanics and the Vietnamese section among the Asians).

Normally a 3% increase among the pro-Democrat groups will not make much news in the US, where large states like California and Texas are won with double digit points (by Dems and GOP respectively). But in many of the crucial states, this percentage is much more than 3.  We should take note that many of the states, including Ohio, Florida, Indiana, North Carolina and Missouri were won with less than 5% votes in 2008. And it is in states like Florida and Ohio, where the share of white voters are declining the most. Both Florida and Ohio are considered to be neutral states (unlike some other states for which the election results can be predicted with 99% confidentiality even days before the election). Florida carries 29 electoral votes out of a total of 435 in the 2012 elections. During the 2008-12 period, there was a marked shift in the demographics there. Pro-GOP groups (Whites and Cubans) declined considerably, while the pro-Democrat groups (Haitians, Mexicans.etc) showed very steep increase. Without the state of Florida, it is very difficult for the GOP to win any presidential election. So it would be interesting to see how they can minimize the Democrat advantage which was gained as a result of the demographic change.

Here are some suggestions for the Florida GOP that might help them avoid complete white-wash in 2012.

1. Target the non-Haitian and non-Mexican Hispanic voters, who are uneasy at the rise of criminal activity committed by the mostly Haitian gangs.

2. Ensure the turn out in white majority areas remain high (Considering the number of elderly white voters in Florida, making conveyance arrangements for the elderly would be a positive step).

3. Target the new voters among the Asian community (Highlight the tax policy and other things which can attract them).

In 2008, the Democrats won Florida by a margin of 2.8%. Considering the share of pro-GOP voters increased by around 7% since that time in Florida, it is an uphill task for the GOP to conquer FL in 2012.  In other states like Ohio, Indiana and North Carolina, the demographic shift is not as steep as in Florida, so there is a good chance for the GOP to reconquer them if they campaign well (with the right candidate off course).


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