Monday, March 24, 2008

Democratic Coalition Analysis

 Jerome Armstrong at MyDD is misreading my argument that Clinton's demographic base is about maxed out. I wrote:

Clinton's demographic base within the Democratic Party is facing a much weaker version of the shrinking core demographic problem that the Republicans are facing. With the exception of her strong support among Hispanic voters, her coalition is maxed-out. [emphasis added for this post]

Jerome argues something that I am not quite sure as to what he is responding to as I am arguing that there is not a whole lot space for the Clinton coalition to grow and he is arguing that it is a large base. Two very different points.

calling Clinton's base "shrinking" while she's energized the biggest bloc of growing voters in Latinos, and increased the turnout of women to about 60 percent on average of the total vote, seems very odd

Clinton's base is older, more female, more white, more Hispanic, less black, less 'Creative Class' and more likely to self-identify as Democrats than the entire Democratic primary electorate. Hillary Clinton currently has support of roughly 45% of the party, Barrack Obama has the support of 45% of the party and 10% don't know or are floating between candidates.

So what are the trends moving forward and where is there room for Clinton's coalition to expand to fifty percent of the party in 2012? That is the question that I am asking and not the one that Jerome is responding to. We both agree that Hillary Clinton has done an excellent job of mobilizing her core support demographics. The question is where are those demographics in four years. The data will be pulled from the Open Left composite primary exit poll.

The Democratic Party is getting less white every year. This means for Clinton to expand upon the net margin provided by her winning the white vote 50:42 she would need to add several additional points just to stay even as the white slice of the Democratic pie has gotten smaller. She may be able to reduce the net margin in 2012 within the African American vote but given the premise of the scenario is a murder-suicide pact to take down Obama, or at least the perception thereof, this would be difficult. She is winning the Latino vote by large margins, so it would be difficult for her to increase her margins here. However if she holds her margin steady, she picks up a net point or two due to changes in Democratic Party composition.

Women make up 58% of the Democratic primary electorate. Hillary Clinton is doing very well here, but again where is the space for net margin growth if she has already effectively maxed out her support here? What is the probability that women will make up 61%, 62%, 63% of the Democratic electorate in 2012?

The Baby Boomer age cohorts are not a particularly friendly age cohort for Democrats while the Millenial cohort (of which I am an old borderline member) is a very Democratic friendly cohort. The oldest members of the Millenial cohort are just beginning to enter their prime voting years, and in 2012 will make up a proportionally larger share of the Democratic Party electorate. And right now they are voting for candidates other than Hillary Clinton. This will probably produce a net negative of a point or two in this analysis for Hillary Clinton in 2012. The same applies to people who identify as Creative Class individuals --- urban, highly educated, white collar workers; this is a growing sphere that Clinton has been losing.

So in this relatively static analysis, Hillary Clinton has assembled a large coalition within the Demcoratic primary electorate that is roughly 45% of the party in 2008. Her opponent has done the same thing. The difference is that the Clinton coalition, all else being equal, has much less demographic space to grow, with the exception fo the Latino vote, while the Obama coalition should grow in relative size within the Democratic primary electorate in 2012.

Yes, of course, we can assume that political operatives can read demographics as well or better than I can, so campaigns will change their pitches and priorities, but the Clinton coalition is more vulnerable to shrinkage than the Obama coalition over the next couple of cycles.

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