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Allan Lichtman: Diverse Coalition Helped Obama Win Election

Jim Malone

November 09, 2012

President Barack Obama won a second four-year term in office this past week thanks in large part to a strong voter turnout from the same Democratic coalition that helped first elect him four years ago -- women, minorities and young people.

The diverse and youthful voting coalition behind President Obama was on full display at an election night watch party at a nearby bistro. Historian Allan Lichtman says the president benefited from a strong turnout among women, African Americans, Hispanics and younger voters.

“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’t win just with their white Protestant base," notes Lichtman. "We are increasingly becoming a non-white nation.”

Republican base

The crowd at the Romney election party in Washington was predominantly white and universally disappointed.

While Romney won a majority of white voters in the election, he had less success in winning over women, younger people and minority voters.

Republican strategist Ford O’Connell says that will have to change.

“I think the Republicans have to recognize that they have to get beyond their echo chamber and actually help make inroads with other groups," O'Connell says, "because there are a lot of pre-conceived notions about Republicans that some minority groups harbor, and it’s up to Republicans to reach out and sort of change that perception.”

When Ronald Reagan won the presidency in 1980, white voters made up 85 percent of the electorate. This year they only made up 72 percent.

Generation gap

In addition to minority voters, Republicans face a major challenge in drawing more support from younger voters, pollster Scott Rasmussen says.

“There is a huge generation gap in American politics. People over the age of 40 strongly prefer Governor Romney. People under 40 strongly prefer President Obama,” Rasmussen explains.

Republicans must either adapt to the changing U.S. demographics or brace for more defeats, says analyst Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution.

“And the so-called youth vote that was going to fall off was actually, according to initial estimates, a higher percentage of the electorate than in 2008, and African Americans stayed where they were at 13 percent," Mann says. "It is a long-term losing strategy, so conversations are going to be taking place.”

Unless the Republican Party can broaden its appeal beyond older white voters, diverse Democratic celebrations like this one could become routine.

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