Early Preview of Dem Leadership Council Report

24 Sep

Politico has a fascinating article on a new report coming out from the Democratic Leadership Council. I’m still absorbing what it all means but one point is clear:

“In an election year where Barack Obama pledged to change the electorate, the centrist Democratic Leadership Council has weighed into the debate with a detailed report arguing it will be difficult for Obama to earn enough African American and youth support to compensate for enduring Democratic failures with white voters.

The report, titled “Who Are The Swing Voters?“, finds that the party must make historic inroads with working class whites in order to create a sustainable presidential majority.”

Recently, Obama surrogates have increased their calls of ‘racism’ as a likely reason Obama might lose this election. Yet, as this report makes clear, Democrats have failed to win a majority of white vote for years

It’s hardly news that the Democratic Party has struggled with white voters. Democrats have not won a majority of whites since 1964. Since 1980 though, Democrats have struggled to even remain competitive among whites, particularly men, and that has allowed Republicans to dominate the last quarter century of presidential politics.

Interesting huh! Dems have had difficulty attracting a majority of white voters to any of their candidates since 1964. It’s not just Obama.

The DLC set out in its analysis, an early draft of which was provided to Politico, to investigate the most influential swing blocs for Democrats. It concluded that slight but significant gains with working class whites— who constitute four in ten voters and were defined by the DLC as white high school graduates without a four-year college degree—is the best means to enlarge the Democratic coalition.

So much for all the hype of the ‘creative class’ voters Donna Brazile touted as the new makeup of the democratic party.

Sure, they might have the fanciest wine and best imported brie, but they’re not the key to a Democratic victory. It’s a small gain in white working class voters that would boost the base. The same group that favored Hillary during the Dem Primary. She could have increased the base with white working class voters. 

Obama did poorest in the Democratic primaries with white working class voters. Like Gary Hart, Paul Tsongas, and Howard Dean, Obama was most popular with what are sometimes referred to as “wine track Democrats,” college educated, while Hillary Clinton eventually coalesced those commonly called “beer track Democrats,” working class.

It was Obama’s capacity to add the near-uniform support of the black vote to his coalition—something Democrats like Hart and Dean could not accomplish– that polling indicates earned him enough voters to narrowly defeat Clinton.

An increase in black voters helped Obama in the primaries, but according to this report, it’s not enough to carry Obama to a general election victory:

“There has been so much emphasis on new entrants in the electorate, and this report is historic and not predictive, but history tells us it would be an unusual circumstance if we witnessed a massive shift in the electorate,” the DLC analysis reads.

The report calculates that a 10 percent increase in black voter turnout amounts to a 1-percentage point uptick in the overall electorate, assuming all other groups remain constant.

That means that if the black voting rate rises from 60 percent to 67.2, the level of whites as measured by the Census Bureau, it amounts to 1.7 million votes— less than George W. Bush’s margin of victory in 2004.

“None of this means that the 2008 election could not be decided because of a radical shift in the electorate—by a dramatically increased turnout among critical constituencies or by a sharp shift in party identification, for example,” the report reads, “But historical voting patterns say that would be an unusual occurrence.”

More from the report:

The DLC study looked at the exit polls of the last five presidential elections as well as the 2006 midterm election.

The report, authored by Al From and Victoria Lynch, described black voters, self-identified liberals, and “strongly pro-choice” voters as the most influential legs of the Democratic coalition.

The DLC calculated that about four in ten voters in presidential elections are part of this Democratic base. John Kerry won 80 percent of these voters, meaning Democrats only amounted to about a third of the electorate. That number will likely be higher in 2008 as Democrats enjoy a newfound party identification advantage, though one that multiple polls show lessened in late summer.

The report strongly suggests, however, that it will be difficult for the Obama campaign to win if he does not improve Democrats’ appeal to the white working class.

The report also paints two blocs of working class whites:

“A typical male voter in that category will likely be between 30 and 59 years old, live in a suburb or small town in the South or Midwest, and be married with no children living at home. He’s likely to be a Republican or independent, moderate or conservative, not a member of a labor union, pro-life, and in favor smaller government. Finally, he’s most likely to be Protestant but not a weekly churchgoer.”

“His female counterpart has an only slightly different profile. She’s also likely to be between the ages of 30 and 59, married with no children living at home, a Republican or independent, moderate or conservative, not a member of a union, pro-life, and for smaller government. She’s most likely to live in a suburb in the South and have a gun in her household. Finally, she’s more likely to be Catholic and a weekly churchgoer.”

A weekly churchgoer who is pro-life and likes smaller government? I think that group is now completely locked for McCain with his crafty decision to add Sarah Palin to the Republican ticket.

In 2004, Democrat John Kerry lost working class white men by 30 percentage points and working class white women by 19 points–using the DLC’s definition. In 2000, Bush won working class white men by 31 points and working class white women by 9 points.

Again, I think in the face of increasing chatter from Obama surrogates of ‘racism’, it’s important to note that John Kerry was unable to win white votes when he ran for President.

According to the DLC’s definition of the white working class, the most recent poll by the Pew Research Center for People & the Press finds that McCain is winning women by 18 points and men by 23 points. It appears some traditional GOP white voters remain undecided, leaving Obama’s support low but also McCain’s.

These voters are not only larger portions of the electorate in key swing states like Michigan and Ohio, but as the DLC emphasizes the white working class gap matters nationally because they remain roughly 40 percent of voters. In 2004, working class white men were 18 percent of the electorate while working class white women were another 22 percent.

By comparison, all Latino voters amounted to 8 percent of the electorate in 2004 while blacks accounted for another 11 percent.

It’s this electoral math that the Obama campaign is now forced to face down.

“The challenge for Democrats to find a political formula that appeals to the compassion concerns of base voters and the toughness concerns of swing voters,” the DLC report concludes. “That challenge is daunting, but not impossible.”


One Response to “Early Preview of Dem Leadership Council Report”

  1. Andy September 24, 2008 at 7:22 pm #

    LOL. I keep hearing the dem rants on how the ‘creative class’ will win this election for the dem party. Guess that isn’t happening anytime soon.

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