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Obama Builds Diverse Coalition in Victory

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In the aftermath of Tuesday's U.S. presidential election, many Democrats believe Barack Obama's convincing victory could set the stage for a political realignment that could benefit the party for years to come. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

President-elect Obama won 52 percent of the popular vote, the largest share for a Democrat since Lyndon Johnson won in 1964.

But more importantly, Obama expanded Democratic support among key voter groups including Hispanic-Americans, women, young people and suburbanites.

Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg has been examining who voted for Obama in the election and why.

"Latino, African-American, Asian, the diverse country that is increasingly diverse from the lowest ages up, and which helped give us this new politics," he said. "It is not an identity politics. It is a new diverse country that is rallying the kind of message and leadership that Obama represented and the Democratic Party has represented in these elections."

Tom DeFrank, who has covered U.S. elections for decades and is the Washington bureau chief of the New York Daily News, says Republicans should take note of Obama's winning coalition.

"He really expanded the map for the Democrats, and that is something that Republicans, who are licking their wounds, have got to really think about hard between now and 2012," he said.

The makeup of the U.S. electorate has dramatically changed over the past several decades.

In the 1976 presidential election, about 90 percent of those who voted were white. In this year's election, only about 74 percent were white, an indication of the growing strength of minority voters.

Exit polls show Obama won roughly two-thirds of the Hispanic vote, a growing force with the U.S. electorate.

Obama also scored huge victory margins with African-American voters and Asian-Americans.

Norman Ornstein, political scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, told VOA's Press Conference USA program that Obama's success with minority voters bodes well for the Democratic Party in the future.  

"Hispanics have moved up to be about eight percent [of the electorate] and Asian-Americans about six percent," he said. "And it turns out that all three groups [including African-Americans] are voting very substantially for Democrats. If that continues, given what we know about our population trends, we are going to have a problem for Republicans. And it is a problem that, let's face it, on the Hispanic front was exacerbated by some of the rhetoric on the immigration issue."

Ornstein says that Obama also overwhelmingly won younger voters, giving the Democrats another advantage as they look ahead to future elections.

"But these younger voters voted en masse for Barack Obama," he said. "And if you are looking to the future, if you capture younger voters and you can hold them at all, there is a chance that you will capture them for a lifetime. That is the best way to build an enduring majority party."

Some Democrats see Obama's sweeping victory as a left of center political mandate for the party, given the party's expanded majorities in Congress as well.

"I think it is a mandate that the political class in this country has an obligation to young people in this country to stop fighting over stuff that might have been a big issue 25 years ago, but it isn't any more," he said. "There are a lot of things that have to be done here."

Predictably, most Republicans scoff at the notion that Obama and the Democrats have won a political mandate.

"What has changed since 2004 is not the national philosophy, but the national mood," said Mike Duncan, chairman of the Republican National Committee. "President-elect Obama leads a center-left party. But he now must govern a center-right nation."

Obama also did better with white voters, religious voters, especially Catholics, and suburban voters than Democrat John Kerry did four years ago. He also demonstrated an ability to attract support from upscale college-educated voters.

Winning over moderate suburbanites helped Obama win southern states like Florida, Virginia and North Carolina, and competitive states in the Midwest like Ohio and Indiana.
 

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