Real Clear Politics’ Sean Trende has an excellent discussion of the election demographics, pointing out that white voters simply didn’t show up in 2012 as they did in 2008. Trende estimates that up to 6.6 million fewer white voters showed up at the polls this year.
Why? Trende dismisses the idea that it was simply white evangelicals refusing to vote for a Mormon – pointing out substantial voters in the South with high evangelical populations – but instead a result of negative advertising.
My sense is these voters were unhappy with Obama. But his negative ad campaign relentlessly emphasizing Romney’s wealth and tenure at Bain Capital may have turned them off to the Republican nominee as well. The Romney campaign exacerbated this through the challenger’s failure to articulate a clear, positive agenda to address these voters’ fears, and self-inflicted wounds like the “47 percent” gaffe. Given a choice between two unpalatable options, these voters simply stayed home.
Karl Rove was widely mocked by the media yesterday for suggesting that Obama campaign had successfully “suppressed” the vote with negative advertising. But after examining the data, it’s clear that Rove had a good point.
Part of the reason Rove understands the successful effort is that it’s a similar strategy he pursued through Crossroads GPS in 2012. By repeatedly running ads criticizing the President for failing to fix the economy, Rove hoped that this would turn off voters from showing up to vote for the President.
Arguably Rove was practicing the same strategy that he successfully deployed in the 2010 mid-term elections. By running ads criticizing the president for his unpopular policies, Rove helped suppress Democratic supporters and turned out Republicans to win in 2010. (This is why many Republican political analysts believed that Democratic turnout would be lower than it was in 2008.)
But while this worked in 2010 – vote FOR my candidate, because Obama is failing – it failed in 2012. Obama’s popularity among Democrats brought out his supporters in important states, which trickled down to Democratic congressional candidates.
This doesn’t mean, however, that outreach to Latinos and other demographics isn’t important for Republicans. As Megyn Kelly explained to Rove yesterday – Obama still “won” – thanks to a boost of non-white and young voters in important states.
As Phil Klein noted yesterday, the Hispanic vote has steadily increased; from 2 percent of the electorate in 1980, to 7 percent in 2000, to 10 percent in 2012.
But it is shocking to discover that when given the choice to vote for or against President Obama, a large group of white voters simply chose not to participate in the elective process. Perhaps it serves as an additional warning to the Romney campaign and Republicans. Not only did they fail to properly defend their candidate, they were unable to make their party platform appealing enough to attract the same amount of voters as they did in 2008.