Political Strategy

In the 1990’s, Stanley Greenberg and Ruy Teixeira developed a Democratic strategy to win back the white working class voting bloc. However, today Mr. Teixeira has moved toward a new strategy to replace the white working class with well-educated socially liberal whites with less affluent minority voters, in particular, the Hispanic vote. For Democrats, the goal of 2012 is to keep losses among blue collar whites to a manageable level. Democrats lost this cohort by 30% in 2010, and Democrats need to reduce this deficit by 12-15% to increase their chances of winning and keep this group from overwhelming their other constituencies. By discounting the white working class, Obama's strategy is to keep losses among white voters at at least 17 percent, a level similar to what John Kerry received in 2004. Obama actually outperformed Kerry among white voters in 2008. Ruy Teixeira along with John Halpern just finished a paper called “Path to 270” that explains this new strategy.

So how can a strategy based on losing the majority voter bloc become a path to victory? The reason is simple, Teixeira begins with a premise that minority voter turnout will be at least 2% higher than in 2008 and 5% greater than in 2004. Even a small loss of minority share will not hurt the Democrat chances in 2012, something that Teixeira considers likely. A second part of the strategy is to hold court with upper mobile whites while keeping losses among the working class lower than 2010. The latter strategy views upper mobile white support of liberal environmental policies to go with liberal ideas on same sex marriage and abortion as a plus. Many upper mobile whites work for government as public school teachers and other members of public sector unions. As working class workers decline, so does the impact of private sector unions and the increasing prevalence of public sector unions means you have an important constituency to support government spending.

Obama's path to 270 includes Colorado, Nevada, Virginia plus North Carolina and hopes to retain Ohio and Pennsylvania to ensure the 270+ electoral votes. As one pundit noted, this is the FDR coalition being buried by the Democrats. Weekly Standard Jay Cost declared not so fast as he noted that throughout the Midwest, states like Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, white working class makes a significant impact in those states whereas states like Virginia and North Carolina, the new coalition of minorities and upper income Whites represent a possible winning strategy to expand Democratic reach into the traditional southern Red States.

So the question for Republicans is how does one thwart the left's strategy? The first key is recapturing the white working class, and one policy that would pay dividend is energy development. The Keystone Pipeline has allowed a fissure among private sector union workers and the environmental left since this pipeline means jobs for working class Americans. Obama is playing a waiting game until after 2012.  No one really knows what final decision will be made, but for Republicans, this is an opportunity. Keystone is but a tip of the iceberg when it comes to energy. The left has looked for green technology as a means for economic growth and appeal to the sensitivity of upper income whites, but the problem with green technology is that there is very little evidence that green technology creates jobs and most evidence shows the opposite, that it cost jobs! Nor does it help that many who received government aid were Obama’s donors. Green technology has become embroiled into the Crony capitalism for much of the green technologies can’t survive without government aid. The United States has plenty of energy within reach, and there is shale oil and natural gas throughout key regions in the United States, and not just in Texas. North Dakota shows the potential of energy development as unemployment is close to 3% and the state has a tight job market. Many of these jobs feature white collar jobs associated with engineering degrees and plenty of blue collar jobs. As for the upper income, Jay Cost observed, “But in the last five years that growth has slowed substantially. Nowadays, your average professional class Democratic-leaner can no longer count on an ever-rising level of comfort, and thus does not have the luxury of privileging 'self-expression' over standards of living."

It is the economy, stupid, and job creation will be important in the 2012, and energy development becomes a job creation asset. Energy development is spread across the country, and even blue states like Pennsylvania and New York have potential to become energy producers. This will give Republicans a step into what was considered strictly blue states. A strategy emphasizing economic growth can keep white working class votes near an all-time high and make it difficult for Democrats to reduce the margin of defeat among white voters.

Another area is minority voters, in particular Hispanic voters. Teixeira has conceded that the minority vote percentage will not match what they obtained in 2008. Conventional wisdom among the political class on both the right and left is that Hispanic voters are strictly property of the Democratic machine. Jay Cost disputes conventional wisdom as he wrote, “Democrats shouldn’t bank on doing as well with these voters as they did in 2008. In fact, Obama’s standing with Hispanics is quite tenuous at the moment… Hispanics move with the general population while African Americans stand roughly still. That’s what I mean when I say that Hispanics are a swing group with a pro-Democratic tilt.” Republicans captured close to 44% of Hispanic voters in 2004, and in 2010, Republican garnered between 34 to 38% of the Hispanic voters. In 1992, center-right contenders George Bush and Ross Perot obtained 39% of Hispanic voters, and Republican shares among Hispanic votes exceeded what Democrats got from evangelicals in 2004 and 2008, so the idea that any Republican strategist would ignore the fastest growing minority, a minority whose allegiance is still up for grabs, is not just political suicide, but the path toward irrelevance. Obama's margin among young voters can be significantly traced to the higher percentage of minorities among younger voters. Hispanics, as a group, have significant members of the low-income working class, but Hispanics also are entrepreneurs and small business owners. So there is a class of Hispanics ready to move into the GOP. In a Recent Resurgent Republican survey, Republicans can only count on less than 50% of Hispanic conservative voters in battleground states, so the first task for the GOP is to convince those minorities who favor our position to vote Republican. The situation is even direr among African-Americans as Jay Cost observed that the GOP would be lucky to receive 10% of black conservative votes. If the GOP could garner 50% of conservative black votes, then they could have at least 15% of black votes on that alone. That 15% combined with nearly 40% of Hispanic voters could be enough to ensure not just the White House for the Republicans but a shot at filibuster-proof Senate.

Democrats are counting on minorities to be a large percentage of voters in 2012, but even among Democratic strategists, they expect a drop in the actual percentage of minority voters, and if Republicans can add a few extra votes from minorities, this could be the difference of taking key battleground states and taking both houses of Congress or losing the White House and Congress. Republican strategy should be developing job creating plans that will strengthen white working class voters while making serious inroads into minority voters. If the latter strategy is successful, then the Democratic game plan will not only be thwarted, but Republicans can rebuild a new conservative majority for the 21st century.


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