For perspective, I asked William H. Frey, a demographer and census expert at the Brookings Institution, as well as Republican and Democratic strategists of past campaigns, for their assessments of trends in the battleground states, based on demography and internal politics.
Frey analyzed nine states and found little good news for the Republicans. He found five — Colorado, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina and Virginia — definitely moving toward the Democrats because of their growing diversity. Obama won all but North Carolina in both of his presidential races.
Frey cited Ohio as one state that could become more hospitable to Republicans, because aging white baby boomers continue to make up a large part of the population there. Noting that candidate quality can make a difference, he wrote in an e-mail, “Democrats would have to be lucky and much more pro-active with blue collar whites to continue success there.”
He sees some glimmers of hope for Republicans in Michigan and Pennsylvania, if the GOP can find the right candidate. But he also envisions potential problems for the party in states such as Arizona and Georgia, which he said could be toss-ups by 2016 and could lean Democratic in the long run.
Frey said three states — Iowa, New Hampshire and Wisconsin — probably will continue to be toss-ups, in large part because of smaller minority populations. But none can be said to be moving in the GOP’s direction.The underlying problem for the GOP is that it has carried the popular vote only once since 1988. Al Gore actually had a popular-vote plurality in 2000. George W. Bush did win the popular vote in 2004, but by a very narrow margin.
After the 2012 election, some suggested that the Democrats have built a structural advantage in the electoral college. If a uniform national shift in the popular vote had given Romney a 2-point margin, Obama still would have carried the electoral vote. The trouble here is that one cannot really extrapolate from a single election. Obama had unique strengths (e.g., an ability to inspire high black turnout) that the next candidate won't replicate, so voting patterns will be different.