Looking at the polling data earlier this week, I noticed my longtime worst nightmare for the 2012 presidential election was becoming a distinct possibility — a cardiac-arrest-close Obama defeat due to his losing white voters by a historic margin. Ron Brownstein, my go-to source for big picture style analysis of 2012 demographics, recently noted that the president was not yet reaching the measly 40 percent of white voters he’ll need, along with 80 percent of minorities, to win reelection. And a new poll from ABC and the Washington Post offers further evidence of the highly racially polarized nature of this year’s election:
The 2012 election is shaping up to be more polarized along racial lines than any presidential contest since 1988, with President Obama experiencing a steep drop in support among white voters from four years ago…
Obama has a deficit of 23 percentage points, trailing Republican Mitt Romney 60 percent to 37 percent among whites, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC national tracking poll. That presents a significant hurdle for the president — and suggests he will need to achieve even larger margins of victory among women and minorities, two important parts of the Democratic base, in order to win reelection.
Overall, Romney has edged ahead in the presidential contest, winning 50 percent of likely voters for the first time in the campaign, according to The Post-ABC poll. As Romney hits 50 percent… from improvements against the president among white voters.
If you’ve forgotten, the 1988 election was H.W. Bush vs. Dukakis, and is generally considered to be one of the more shameful extended periods of recent American history. It was the most race-baiting presidential election since George Wallace shook up the 1960s. It’s ’88 that brought us Willie Horton; and it was 1988 when Karl Rove, Lee Atwater, and some guy named George W. Bush made their names or secured their legacy in big-time national politics.
Suffice to say, the atmosphere of ’88 is not one whose resurrection we should cheer.
Unless we’re diehard Republicans, that is. Matthew Continetti, founder and chief editor of the Washington Free Beacon, responded to the ABC/WaPo poll with something bordering on delight. (I don’t blame him; ’88 was a good year for his father-in-law, too.) Obama’s miserable showing with white voters is evidence, according to Continetti, of how he has betrayed those good white (real) Americans who gave him a chance in ’08:
The Obama coalition, piece by piece, has been disassembled. All that remains is the antiwar, anti-Republican core of the Democratic Party. There are more registered Democrats than Republicans, so Obama could still squeak out a second term. But he has forsaken independents and whites, the groups that swung to him definitively and significantly in 2008. He is losing independents, in some polls by double-digits. His opponent Mitt Romney is “winning the white vote by more than any GOP candidate since Ronald Reagan[.]”
Yes, I can just picture all those broken-hearted white voters somberly removing their huge, framed HOPE posters from their bedroom wall, each with a single tear rolling down their face as they cry, “Why, Obama? Why have you forsaken me?” When I recall those conservative Pennsylvanians I met four years ago who told me, “We’re voting for the nigger,” I can only ache as I imagine their profound heartbreak.