I've been thinking about two things in the aftermath of this election. The first is the utter incompetence displayed by Romney's campaign advisors. The second revolves around the question of Obama's mandate. Both involve a sense of what America looks like. I tackle the first item above the fold and the second below it.
AN EPIC, COLOSSAL FAILURE OF THE MATH
Mitt Romney never saw it coming.
An epic, colossal failure of simple math led his advisors to model 2012 as a 2004 redux.
When the Romney campaign talked about 2004-type turnout, they were talking about the white vote as a share of the total vote. In 2004, exit polling indicated the white share of the total vote was 77%. This compares to 74% in the 2008. The Romney campaign believed that minority turnout in 2012 would be lower than in 2008 due to a lack of enthusiasm. They figured they could move the share of the white vote from 74% back up to 77%.
But this assumption showed a complete lack of understanding of The Math. A cursory glance at Census data regarding voting and registration should have pointed them to a 2012 electorate that was 72%, white - just as the exit polls showed.
The above chart shows Census data for the racial composition of voters. You can plainly see the white share of voters declining over time. Exit polling data shows a similar share of the vote over time. And its trend is clearly declining, too.
I create two variables to help predict the white share of voters in 2012. The first is the rate at which the white share of all voters decays. I calculated the annualized decay rate over periods of 16, 12, 8, and 4 years. The second variable is an adjustment factor between the Census data and exit polling data.
From these data points, I constructed a matrix showing a range of decay rates and adjustment factors. These numbers point to white voters comprising 72% of the 2012 electorate.
What this meant was the Romney campaign had a much steeper hill to climb to push the white share of the vote to 77%. Their starting point wasn’t 74% from 2008; it was 72%. To get a sense of the Sisyphean task at hand, just take a look at the net new registered voters between 2004 and 2008. That's a 7.3 million registered voter gap.
Here is a chart of voter participation rates based on Census data for white voters, black voters, and Hispanic voters. I've included an estimation of voter participation rates the Romney campaign needed to hit their 77% target.
Based on national polling data from the week prior to the election, this miscalculation meant Romney’s campaign overestimated their total vote by 4 points. Instead of 47.8%, Romney’s team believed him to be at nearly 52%.
As you case see, Romney needed ahistorical levels of white enthusiasm and minority pessimism to meet his turnout targets. I’m no quant jock, but it was plainly clear to me that we’d never see a 2004-type electorate again. Romney’s pollster ought to be sued for malpractice.
(If you've made it this far, thank you. My take on the mandate, below the fold, is much shorter.)
THE QUESTION OF A MANDATE
Conventional wisdoms now holds that Hispanics, single women, African-Americans, and the young swept President Obama back into office in a show of demographic might that the GOP never saw coming.
Listening to the post-mortem discussions by conservatives, I was struck by how foreign this seemed to them. I heard lots of talk of two Americas and the impending white minority. Hell, even Politico lamented just prior to the election how, if President Obama somehow pulled off getting re-elected, this coalition wouldn't provide Obama a sufficiently broad mandate to govern.
I'm tired of hearing Republicans claim that we're a center-right nation. What this really means is that we've been a center-white nation, blind to white privilege. We're near a tipping point demographically that begs the question, what about the rest of us?
The chart below shows the racial composition of Romney voters, Obama voters, and the American public (not just voters). If we truly practice a representative form of government, whose voting coalition looks like America?
And this isn't just an Obama phenomenon. Here are the major party voter compositions over the last 4 elections.
Obama's coalition doesn't just represent the racial make up of America. Look at age, income, marital status, and religion. Again I ask, whose coalition looks like America?
Obama's coalition reveals the full diversity of our nation. It can start building our nation toward a truly representative government. With all voices taken into account, this is what a mandate looks like.