BY JIM MALONE – President Barack Obama won re-election Tuesday, thanks in large part to the same political coalition that helped him first get elected four years ago – women, minorities and young voters.
The winning Obama coalition is a reflection of the evolving nature of the U.S. population; less white, more diverse and constantly shifting.
American University historian Allan Lichtman long ago predicted the president would win a second term because of the voting coalition he first put together in 2008 and expanded on this year.
“Women and minorities put Barack Obama over the top and there should be a big, huge red-letter warning sign for Republicans that they can not win just with their white-Protestant base. We are increasingly becoming a non-white nation. Women are the majority of the electorate today,” said Lichtman.
The Obama campaign won most of the key battleground states where the election was fought because it did an effective job of identifying supporters and making sure they got out to vote.
Exit polls of voters leaving the voting booths found whites made up 72 percent of the electorate this year, a drop from four years ago. African-American voters remained at 13 percent, while the Hispanic vote grew from nine percent in 2008 to 10 percent this year.
With their growing power within the Democratic coalition, Hispanic activists are likely to demand action on comprehensive immigration reform in a second Obama term, something that fell by the wayside in the first term.
Republican strategist Ford O’Connell is among those who believes his party must do a better job of reaching out to Hispanic voters to keep his party viable in the future.
“I think the Republican Party would be very wise to take part in that conversation about immigration reform, because I see a real opportunity here for the Republican Party to make inroads with Hispanics, particularly Mexican-Americans,” said O’Connell.
The Democratic coalition may have carried President Obama into a second term, but Washington remains politically divided. Democrats did keep their hold on the Senate, but Republicans held their majority in the House of Representatives, and in some ways the political battle lines appear little changed from what they were before the election.
Democratic strategist Christy Setzer says it is likely some form of political gridlock will continue.
“I am not sure that really affects what the Republicans are going to do in Congress. I believe that they have seen a strategy of obstructionism that they think is effective in ginning up [rallying] their base [supporters]. So at least in the short term I do not see too much changing in terms of [political] polarization,” said Setzer.
But now that the election is over, some analysts believe there is at least a chance both sides will be more willing to give bipartisan cooperation a try.
Historian Allan Lichtman says he saw a message in the election results for both parties.
“If there is any one mandate that has come out loud and clear from this election it is that people are sick and tired of gridlock, and the country is facing big problems, and it is not going to be solved by the Republican House [of Representatives] and the Democratic president bickering and quarreling with one another,” he said.
Congress and the president must find common ground by January in order to avoid the enactment of severe budget cuts and tax increases that could result in another unwanted shock to the nation’s economic recovery.