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African Americans turned out in Virginia yesterday at levels equal to 2012. No other core Democratic groups did.
As I've oft-written, the Democrats biggest problem heading into 2014 is the poor turnout performance of its core base groups: Single women, young voters and people of color. And in case you were wondering why Virginia was as close as it was, and why our hoped-for wave in the state legislature didn't materialize, it's not hard to see why.
Here is a voter turnout chart of the key demographic groups based on the exit polling from 2009, 2012 and 2013:
Look at that youth turnout—down to 13 percent of the electorate compared to 19 percent last year. Sure, that was an improvement from the 10 percent in 2009, and likely meant the difference between a McAuliffe victory and defeat, but it hurt us down ballot where we came up short by a hair in eight different House seats.
Single women were down significantly—a real problem for Democrats given that they voted for McAuliffe by a 67-25 margin. Liberals were down, while conservative turnout was significantly higher. They turn out in midterms. Latinos and Asians—two communities joined together by recent immigrant experiences—were down from eight to five percent of the electorate.
About the only good news was African American turnout, which is now proving itself hyper resilient. Barack Obama wasn't on the ballot. But years of community outreach and education, likely reinforced by GOP voter disenfranchisements efforts, is keeping black voters energized and active.
Given the razor sharp losses in the legislature, an extra point from single women might've made the difference. Or young voters. Or liberals, in general. And that's what will determine our success (or lack thereof) in 2014. Demographics are destiny, and the fastest growing demographics are still ours. Any party that depends on 65-year-old voters and above is in trouble.
But I'm more interested in winning short-term than waiting for demographics to render the GOP irrelevant. I want the House back next year. So Democrats have to figure out how to motivate our core groups to turn out and vote. Because if they don't, we'll be left with lingering regret at yet more missed opportunities.
Update: I added 2009 numbers to contrast with the last gubernatorial bid. At the time, the Dems nominated a conservadem who tried to run the old "I'm not a liberal" playbook and lost big. So McAuliffe's explicitly liberal campaign certainly brought more people to the polls, and enough of them to win. Activating the base worked in this case. We just need more of that base to activate.
Originally posted to kos on Wed Nov 06, 2013 at 11:34 AM PST.