The first option is to run a campaign that amounts to 2008 on steroids, mobilizing huge numbers of upscale professionals, unmarried women, young adults, and minorities—the coalition that reelected Colorado Senator Michael Bennet in 2010. This approach implies a focus on “new majority” states such as Colorado, New Mexico, Virginia, North Carolina, or even Arizona and Georgia, which the Obama team reportedly regards as being within reach. Option two would focus on rebuilding support among Independents, which include large numbers of white working-class and middle-class families—an approach compatible with an all-out effort to win the heartland states stretching from Pennsylvania to Iowa that gave Obama one-third of the 365 electoral votes he ended up winning
For reasons that I’ve laid out at length in “One Year to Go: Barack Obama’s Uphill Battle for Reelection in 2012,” the latter is the course more likely to succeed in the end. Briefly: It won’t be possible to recreate the political context that permitted the extraordinary mobilization of young adults and Hispanics in 2008. And it’s no accident that no Democrat since JFK has won the presidency without carrying Ohio, which is a demographic, economic, and political microcosm of the country as a whole. Most Democrats remember that Obama’s share of the popular vote topped John Kerry’s by 5 percentage points. They are likely to forget, however that liberals contributed less than one point to that increase, while moderates contributed about two and a half points and conservatives, about one and a half. Reenergizing the party’s liberal base is a necessary but not sufficient condition for victory next year.