After two years of warnings about Republicans’ woeful performance among nonwhite voters in 2012, the midterms showed that Democrats have their own significant demographic vulnerability: working-class white voters. Republicans won white voters without a college degree by 30 points, 64 percent to 34 percent, according to exit polls, equal to their margin in the wave election of 2010. Polling data show that support for President Barack Obama among working-class whites has dropped 8 points since 2010.
“Democrats have chosen to focus on issues that the liberal base of the party really likes, but the working-class person in West Virginia or Arkansas or Louisiana or Alaska doesn’t necessarily identify with,” said political analyst Charlie Cook.
Cook pointed to those four states — where Republicans captured Democratic-held Senate seats this year — to argue that Democrats are a “marginalized party” across much of the country.
“This is more than just a bad year for Democrats,” he said. “The challenge that the Democratic Party has in parts of the country appears to be even more formidable than it was two years ago.”
Added former Rep. Dan Glickman (D-Kan.): “Democrats really gave up on small towns and exurban America.” [emphasis added]
And even though Republicans have yet to make significant inroads among minorities, the GOP could make up for those losses by further enhancing its performance among white voters.
“Given what’s happening with working-class voters and how disenchanted they are with the Democratic Party … Republicans still have a chance to win the presidency without [making] significant changes to policy,” said GOP consultant Ford O’Connell.
Democrats won’t necessarily be able to count on the same level of minority turnout in 2016 without Obama. At the same time, Mitt Romney in 2012 won a larger share of the white vote than any GOP nominee since George H.W. Bush and still lost the presidency.