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The Persuadables

» Politico: The fight for 'the persuadables'

Another worthwhile read since some of us are going into the direct heat of Primary Election season. I'm reminded of a handful of election history projects that I've been meaning to get to since candidates started filing and my dance card started filling up. But this story serves as an interesting national overview of the shift that Anglo Dems might take on the Presidential contest.

Consider it an exercise in symmetrical warfare: a campaign in which the two parties’ nominees are equally hobbled with the sliver of voters who are actually persuadable.

“Whites as a group are leaning Republican. … The subgroups of whites that seem to be really divided are the higher-education whites,” said Mike Dimock, associate director of the Pew Research Center. “College grad[uate] whites are split today. They were split in 2008. While Obama seems to have lost some ground among whites overall, he hasn’t lost ground among these higher socioeconomic whites.”

Pew’s most recent data bears that out: among white college graduates, Obama had 47 percent of the vote to Romney’s 48 percent. In all other education brackets, Romney wins white voters by double-digits.

Pivoting to the local example, I'll preface my remarks with a pointer over to the Harris County political tribe mapping that I'd done in 2007/08 here. It's worth pointing out that when we reviewed prior elections, the Anglo Dem area in Harris County actually swung Republican in 1994. I'm too far behind on free time to do a precise overview of 2010, but a cursory view indicates that the numbers did not swing much, if at all, for 2010 in this area. Again - 2010 was not an election where a lot of people changed their mind about what party they supported. It was an election where a lot of people on one side were motivated to come out and vote in a non-Presidential election. While the conventional wisdom in losses such as these is that "Democrats didn't turn out to vote", that's not really the case throughout much of Texas. And certainly not in Harris County.

What that means for 2012 is still open to a lot of interpretation. For the time being, I think any national polls are worth an extra helping of grains of salt when you look at the sub-demographics as this Politico story does. Vote shares are one thing. Turnout levels are something different.

I think its entirely possible that Obama can perform exactly the same in terms of vote shares among any slice of demographic you want to look at ... and still register a few points worse than he did in 2008 due to lower turnout. But polls aren't great at capturing turnout differentials - that's why we get so many off-the-wall polls during midterm years. Presidential years are still going to be big turnout elections - at least, in general terms. But given the massive turnout growth seen in 2008, I wouldn't be surprised to see turnout go south this year. And whether that comes disproportionately out of Obama's or Romney's hide ... nobody knows right now.

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