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Obama and Blue-Collar Voters

9:00 AM, Feb 11, 2010 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
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Ron Brownstein has an interesting piece in National Journal about President Obama’s problems with blue-collar voters. His argument is that the cross-tabs in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, in which Democrats bled working-class white voters, resemble the key characteristic of the 1994 election.

For Democrats, these results should trigger an ominous sense of deja vu. The 1994 landslide that swept Republicans to their House and Senate majorities was powered almost entirely by another revolt among whites who work with their hands: Democrats, in effect, were hit in the head with a 2-by-4. Exit polls showed that from 1992, when House Democrats won a comfortable majority, to 1994, when Republicans captured the chamber, the GOP's share of the total House vote actually declined slightly among minorities and remained almost unchanged among college whites. But Republicans surged from winning 47 percent of noncollege whites in 1992 to grabbing 61 percent in 1994. That was the majority-maker.

The $64,000 question is whether Obama’s problems with these voters are an aberration, or if they’re the norm (meaning that the 2008 general election was the outlier).

And while we’re talking numbers, Nate Silver has an interesting analysis of Sarah Palin’s path to the 2012 nomination. It’s interesting because Silver tries to quantify matters, rather than simply projecting his personal preferences out into the future. I’d argue (and I think Silver would agree) that this is an exercise largely being fought using the rules and assumptions from the last war. That probably makes it limited in its purely-predicitve value; but it’s certainly worth your time.

One quick note: Silver has a scenarios which depends on a candidate (Mitt Romney) winning both Iowa and New Hampshire. That’s hard to do. Since 1972, only three non-incumbents have pulled off the double (Kerry, Carter, Muskie). Two of them went on to win the nomination. No non-incumbent Republican has ever won the pair. And in any event, I’d guess that Palin has a better chance to pull that off than Romney. Granite State Republicans occasionally go for the anti-establishment candidate (Buchanan 1996, McCain 2000), and Palin will almost certainly not be the first choice of the establishment GOP.

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