Looking at next year

10 Jun

vote_for_me_sticker02-sizedWe’re staying away from this whole PRISM thing for now and wait for it to play out a bit.
It’s obvious the big internet companies are fibbing, so let’s see what the next of days brings.

Meanwhile, politics remains our sandbox of choice.

Let’s look ahead to the 2014 mid-term elections.

Republicans have a problem with young voters.

Democrats have a problem with young nonvoters.

This applies also to minority voters, and that helps explain why Republicans could have another strong midterm election without solving any of the many problems that threaten them in the 2016 presidential race.

Next year’s election will probably mislead Republicans by giving them hope they have overcome the trends that allowed Democrats to win the popular vote in five of the past six presidential elections.

It could also point out one of the forces that is making it difficult for either party to gain and hold control over Washington.

In simplistic terms, it’s the tendency of young and minority voters to turn out in smaller numbers during midterms than in presidential elections.

Add to that changing voting patterns have raised the stakes in those trends, creating challenges for Democrats in midterm elections and for the GOP in presidential years.

The midterm turnout slump for young people has been established for decades.

Looking at the seven presidential elections from 1984 to 2008, voters under 30, on average, made up a healthy 19 percent of all voters, according to exit polls.

But in the midterm elections two years later, they dropped to just 13 percent of the vote.

One reason Democrats were routed in 2010 is that the minority share of the vote dropped 3 full points from its 26 percent level in 2008.

Over time, minorities and the young generation will continue to grow but these patterns make it virtually certain that in 2014, both groups will recede compared with 2012, when each led to President Obama’s victory.

That means 2014 will likely feature an older and whiter electorate at a time when older whites have become the core of the GOP vote.

Add in a second trend: the decline of split-ticket voting.

This matters more now because congressional candidates find it much tougher than before to separate themselves from attitudes about their national party.

For Democrats, this means that winning the House in 2014 will be difficult unless they can motivate more members of their presidential-year coalition to vote.

The odds look somewhat better in 2016 when the millennial generation and minorities will likely return in larger numbers.

But even if Democrats win the House then, they would face the risk of losing it two years later unless they can change these turnout and allegiance patterns.

The concern for Republicans is that a good 2014 election could provide some delusion about their prospects for 2016.

A couple of days ago the College Republican National Committee released a report that, while identifying opportunities, mostly documented the party’s challenges with young people.

When participants in one focus group were asked “what words came to mind when they heard ‘Republican Party,’ ” the answers were brutal: closed-minded, racist, rigid, old-fashioned.

The GOP can thrive in 2014 without solving that problem—but not in 2016.

Or we could be wrong.
We frequently are.

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