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    Much has been written about the role of demographics in the 2012 election, specifically, the decreasing percentage of votes cast by non-Hispanic Whites, and what it portends for the future of American politics. To illustrate the importance of these trends, and the crippling disadvantage they are likely to inflict on the Republican Party in the coming decades, I decided to see whether the result of the only (relatively) undisputed Republican presidential win since 1988 would have been changed if the ethnic characteristics of the 2012 electorate had been in place in 2004.

     What I have done is to take the 2004 election results in four states, and add to them the increase in votes cast by each of five ethnic groups in 2012 over their 2004 votes in each state, divided among the parties in the same way as they were divided in 2004. So this assumes that Kerry gets exactly the same percentage of votes in each group as in 2004, and gets more votes only if that group cast more votes in 2012.

     I have used the 2004 and 2012 exit poll breakdowns for each of the ethnic groups.

     The best way to illustrate the methodology is to work through the easiest of the four states, Nevada.  

     In 2004, there was a total of 815,880 votes cast for Bush or Kerry. Bush got 418,690 to Kerry's 397,190, for a margin of 21,500. That year, the ethnic breakdown of voters in Nevada, according to the exit poll, was 77% White, 7% African-American, 10% Latino, 3% Asian, 3% Other. Whites voted 56.5-43.5 for Bush (throughout this I'm using only the two party votes, not the total including other candidates); African-Americans 86.9% for Kerry, Latinos 60.6% for Kerry, Asians 51.5% for Bush, and other 56% for Kerry.

     In 2012 according to the last numbers listed, there was a total of 531,373 votes for Obama and 463,567 for Romney, a total of 994,940 votes. That's an increase of a whopping 179,060 votes, nearly 22% above the 2004 level. The 2012 exit polls tell us that the 2012 electorate was 64% White, 9% African-American, 18% Latino, 5% Asian, and 4% other.

     Applying those percentages, we get the following numbers for approximate totals of votes cast by each ethnic group in the two years.  

          White                 American      Latino               Asian                 Other      Total
2008  628,228 (77%)  57,112 (7%)   81,588 (10%)  24,476 (3%)  24,476 (3%) 815,880
2012  636,762 (64%)  89,545 (9%) 179,089 (18%)  49,747 (5%)  39,798 (4%) 994,940
Diff.       8,534            32,433           97,501            25,271          15,322         179,060

     What we're going to do here is take those extra 179,060 votes and distribute them among the ethnic groups. First we find the totals for all ethnic groups in 2012, and then we apply to those figures the 2004 exit poll figures for each group, so that our final figure reflects what the result would most likely have been in 2004 if every group and every person who voted then had voted exactly the same, but the extra voters in each ethnic category had been added.

                        Increase   2004 Breakdown  Kerry Add   Bush Add
Whites                  8,534      .435-.565          3,712        4,822
African Americans 32,433      .869-.131        28,184        4,249
Latinos                97,501      .606-.394        59,086      38,415
Asians                 25,271      .485-.515        12,256      13,015
Other                  15,322      .560-.440          8,580        6,742
  Total New      179,061                             111,818      67,243
  2004 Totals                                            397,190    418,690
  Adjusted 2004                                        509,008    485,933

     And that's just common sense, when you think about it. Bush won the state in 2004 by a little over 20,000 votes, but since then 179,000 new voters have been added, and only about 8,500 of them are Whites. Even at 2004 levels where Bush was getting nearly 40% of Hispanics and almost 14% of African-Americans, that large increase among non-Whites would have been sufficient to change the final result by about 45,000 votes, from a Bush win by 21,500 to a Kerry win by 23,000.

     Next, Ohio:

     In 2004 in Ohio, Bush received 2,859,768 votes, and Kerry received 2,741,167, for a two party total of 5,600,935, and a Bush margin of 118,601. That year, the ethnic breakdown of voters in Ohio, according to the exit poll, was 86% White, 10% African-American, 3% Latino, 1% Asian, and 1% other. African-Americans broke 84-16 for Kerry. No breakdowns by candidate are available for Latinos, Asians, and others.

     In 2012, according to the latest numbers available, Obama received 2,819,454 votes to Romney's 2,655,117, for a total of 5,474,571, so that there were actually 126,364 fewer votes cast in Ohio in 2012. The 2012 exit polls tell us that the 2012 electorate was 79% White, 15% African-American, 3% Latino, and 3% other.

     Those numbers seem to me adequate to prove the point without a great deal of further analysis. The White share of the vote dropped 6.15 points, the African-American share rose by five. With a total vote of about 5,600,000, those changes would indicate a decrease of 344,000 White voters (due to death, migration, or apathy) and an increase of 280,000 African-Americans. In 2004 African-Americans in Ohio broke 84 to 16 for Kerry, so those 280,000 votes would have been expected to break 235,200 for Kerry and 44,800 for Bush. In addition to that, the reduction of White votes by 344,000 would have trimmed another 41,280 votes off Bush's margin, as he led that group by 12 points, 56 to 44.

     So we can conclude that if Ohio voters in 2004 had been 79% White and 15% African-American, instead of 86.15% White and 10% African-American, it would have been Kerry, rather than Bush, who carried the state by about 115,000 votes.

     That's two states which cast 25 electoral votes in 2004. As you may recall, Kerry received 252 electoral votes (well, 251, as one Minnesota elector voted for John Edwards), and the addition of Ohio's 20 would have elected him.

     Since this one was rather lengthy, I'll post the figures for Colorado and New Mexico in the next couple days, after the final 2012 results are certified.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Uh no. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    karmsy, Dretutz, Anne Elk

    Kerry had issues that rub people the wrong way. Plus, people were not that passionate about him.

    I hate this anybody-could-have-won b.s.

  •  Kerry Would Have Won If (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    karmsy, jennyp

    He had Obama's charisma. Maybe.

    We will never have the elite, smart people on our side. - Rick Santorum

    by easong on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 01:29:06 PM PST

  •  Interesting analysis (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pistolSO, Ron Thompson, radarlady

    I think, though, that you cannot discount the fact that Obama ran a much better campaign, and had a much better apparatus to turn out supporters. He is also a more appealing candidate, and he got more black votes than Kerry (or any other white Democrat) would have gotten. Although Bush's 16% among black voters in Ohio in 2004 was unusually high.

  •  Uh. Romney would have won if he had Reagan's (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    demographics and Obama's charisma and some character--maybe. A platform that appealed to middle class might have helped too

  •  In Reply (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bush Bites, chuco35

    Dear readers, this is not meant to denigrate President Obama's achievement in any way, or to say that Kerry was a better candidate than he was. He was a lousy candidate. But lousy candidates sometimes win, if the electorate is predisposed toward them because of their party.

    All I'm doing here is showing what the effect would have been if the 2004 electorate had had the same ethnic composition as the 2012 electorate. It does not assume that Kerry would have received any votes which would have gone to Bush. It simply tries to imagine what would have happened if the electorate in 2004 had been the same as it was in 2012.

    •  And, Too (0+ / 0-)

      And I should of course add that HOW President Obama ran among these groups does not enter into my reasoning, except in the sense of turnout. I'm not assuming that Kerry gets Obama's percentages of the African-American or Latino votes--on the contrary, I'm assuming that he gets exactly the same percentage from all groups as what he got in 2004. I think it's a fair criticism to say that Kerry might not have been able to produce the turnout Obama did. At the same time, I think it's fair to say that not all of the increase in the percentage of votes cast by African-American and Latino voters is attributable solely to President Obama's superiority as a candidate.

    •  The same composition (0+ / 0-)

      and the same drive to get them registered,and the same drive to march their collective tails to the voting booth. yes I think I could have won too.

    •  You're right. (0+ / 0-)

      And I'm saying that as a dyed in the wool Obama guy.

      But, as the commenter below says, the big question now is how we build on this moving forward.

      Show us your tax returns !!!!!!

      by Bush Bites on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 05:33:34 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Be thankful (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I doubt that a Kerry administration would have had a chance to change the loose oversight of the finance industry before the 2008 meltdown.

    If the crash had come on Kerry's watch, the Democrats would have been blamed, and Republicans elected in 2008.  And it's a pretty good bet that a Republican administration would have followed party orthodoxy to drive us into a deeper depression.

    So personally, I'm relieved that Kerry lost in 2004.

    Reality is just a convenient measure of complexity. -- Alvy Ray Smith

    by John Q on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 01:46:40 PM PST

    •  There'd Have Been No Roberts and Alito. 2 Dem (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      aztecraingod, NYFM

      seats on the Court and it would have been out of reach for the Republicans for years.

      No Citizens United.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 01:53:47 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Carter and the rest of our defeated nominees (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NYFM, Bush Bites

    ..could have won too if they had the same demo.

    I'm much more interested in holding the coalition and expanding upon it. I don't want nominees that are caught having to win Ohio or any other single state.

    We need to play in every large and diverse state in every region of the country.

    "There is nothing more dreadful than the habit of doubt. Doubt separates people. It is a poison that disintegrates friendships and breaks up pleasant relations. It is a thorn that irritates and hurts; it is a sword that kills.".. Buddha

    by sebastianguy99 on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 02:12:55 PM PST

  •  Kerry didn't set out to expand the electorate (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Obama did, starting from the primaries.

    He couldn't win the Dem nomination without doing that, it was pretty much item #1 on his agenda once his team went over the initial numbers.

    So the 2008 and 2012 demographics are the result of expanding the electorate, not just mere population change.  It is getting more of the people ALREADY inclined to like democratic ideas to register and vote than prior Dems did.

    This didn't happen in 2010.   It needs to happen in 2014.   Hopefully we learned something.

  •  I don't agree at all (1+ / 0-)

    Bush won in 2004 partly because he won 44% of the Hispanic vote. What you are saying is that, if things were different, they would have provided a different outcome. But the problem is that you just can't selectively stick today's demographics with the 2004 contenders and come up with this kind of outcome. Kerry didn't win because he didn't get the Hispanic vote down below 25%, which Obama did. And he didn't do that because GWB was well aware of how important that sector was. In a backhanded way, you have a point and it is this: If Kerry had put sufficient effort into wooing Hispanics the way he should have, he might have won. But he didn't because he sucked as a candidate. He was the Democratic Mitt Romney. Really tone-deaf to how things looked (Martha's Vineyard windsurfing), chose a really awful running mate, had a strangely pompous air about him, and was the predictably bad product of a weak primary field. Obama, on the other hand, came out of a furiously competitive primary against a fantastic alternative, Hillary, and had built a true grass-roots campaign that changes the political landscape in ways that people are still grasping to understand. So, demographic matter but some things matter more.

    For if there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life. - Albert Camus

    by Anne Elk on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 04:51:27 PM PST

    •  No (0+ / 0-)

      You have completely misunderstood my methodology.

      What's relevant here is not how Bush did among Hispanics nationally, but how he did among Hispanics in individual states. What I have written assumes that Kerry gets the same percentage of Hispanic votes as he got in 2004, but that the number of Hispanic votes increases because of the increased percentage of the vote cast by Hispanics.

  •  Or if he had a Veep who could carry his own state. (0+ / 0-)

    Show us your tax returns !!!!!!

    by Bush Bites on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 05:29:55 PM PST

  •  Kinda circular (0+ / 0-)

    Obama had the electorate he did largely because he and his team were able to turn those voters out, while Romney couldn't.

    It seems a little circular to say, if he had had more Democratic voters, Kerry would have won. Most of those people were there, but many didn't vote when Kerry was the only option on the ballot. The turnout we had is related to the candidates we had.

    •  Yes, Point Well Taken (0+ / 0-)

          In 2004, the Kerry campaign failed to register Latino citizens born after 1993 and get them to the polls. The Obama campaign, on the other hand, was able to do so.

           There are proportionally more Hispanic eligible voters in 2012 than there were in 2004. In Nevad, about 97,000 more of them voted in 2012 than in 2004, so a state which was red in 2004, is now permanently blue. That seems to me to be a good thing, but the reaction among some commenters seems to be that to say so is somehow to denigrate the 2012 Obama campaign.

           This is not a criticism of Obama. It is not an apology for Kerry. It is simply an attempt to identify changes in the electorate, and to explain how we would have won the only election we actually lost in the past quarter-century if the electorate then had been like the electorate is now.    

    •  Except for the demographics. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ron Thompson

      Certainly Obama's ground game tweaked the numbers, but there was a much, much larger pool of potential Hispanic voters to work with in Nevada, for example, in 2012 than a mere 2 cycles before.

      "Force is as pitiless to the man who possesses it, or thinks he does, as it is to its victims; the second it crushes, the first it intoxicates.” Simone Weil

      by chuco35 on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 09:35:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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