What the AZ and MI Primaries Mean

Mitt Romney won big victories in Arizona and Michigan tonight.  As of this writing Mitt Romney led in AZ with 48%-26% over Santorum and leads in MI 41%-38%.  Both were called for Romney relatively early in the night, especially competitive Michigan.  Santorum’s hopes of stealing away Romney’s home state were dashed and even worse for Santorum are the results from MI (according to exit polls).  AZ seemed to be a foregone conclusion since after the debate in Mesa AZ on the 22nd.

What the exit polls tell us out of MI is that Romney’s ground game and massive ad buys paid off.  He won whites 43%-37% and narrowly carried both men and women.  Not surprisingly Paul carried young voters. Santorum and Romney fought over the rest however.  Santorum narrowly won 29-39 year olds but Romney dominated seniors and middle aged voters.

In terms of education and income in MI a familiar dynamic played out.  Romney lost those who only had a HS education but carried voters who had some college education, a college degree or graduate college degree.  Among the 34% of the electorate that made $49,999 or less he lost to Santorum.  But Romney won the 33% of the electorate that made over $100,000.  More importantly though, Romney did better among down-scale voters than he did in the past and that bodes well for the Romney camp.

Romney won narrowly among married men and women but also carried unmarried men and women, by larger margins than married men and women. 

In an indication that Democrats wanted Santorum to win a majority of union members backed Santorum.  Of the 9% that identified as Democratic over 50% went for Santorum.  Independents went narrowly for Romney 35%-33% but most important for Romney is he carried Republicans 46%-33%.  That is the more important number out of MI.

Ideologically moderates and somewhat conservative voters Romney dominated.  Romney won moderates 46%-30% and somewhat conservative 51%-31%.  The most liberal and conservative voters backed Santorum.  These numbers translate to Romney winning moderates/liberals and conservatives overall.

Even better for Romney among religious voters and Tea Party supporters Romney won among those who support the Tea Party 42%-41% and won Catholics.  Romney ran dead even among Protestants 41%-40%.  Romney won among those who valued leadership and experience and defeating Obama above all else by wide margins.  Santorum won among those voters who valued social issues and religion more.  Regionally Romney won metro Wayne, Oakland and Mac counties.  Romney and Santorum tied in Lansing.  Santorum won the Panhandle and the Grand Rapids Area.

The exit poll also indicates Santorum may have lost the election last night.  Romney dominated among early voters, but Santorum won among voters who cast ballots up to two weeks ago up to today.  Yet Romney won among voters who cast their ballots today (which goes against what polling had found prior).  It is notable that Romney played hard on a Santorum robocall urging Democrats to vote for him.

The AZ results are essentially victory after victoy for the Romney camp.  He won among men and women by over 20 points, won whites and even Hispanics, every age group, every education level, every income level, both Republicans and independents, moderates, somewha conservatives and even strongly conservative voters 41%-35%.  Romney also won every county.

What these results show is that Romney is back to being the frontrunner in the GOP race.  First off, Romney is going to get all 29 delegates out of AZ and depending on the Congressional District outcomes in MI will likely win or split MI’s 30 delegates. That means Romney nets a solid majority of the delegates from tonight.  More importantly for Romney is he won his home state and emphatically won Republicans.  Momentum has now shifted backed into his favor.  Even before tonight Gallup’s daily tracking poll found Romney regaining a 5 point lead nationally.  Third, Romney’s voting coalition is now well established ahead of Tuesday.  It is college educated and senior voters, Catholics and upper income voters. 

This sets Romney up to do well in VT, VA and MA on Super Tuesday.  Romney also can now claim he can compete in OH and if he wins OH (also likely to win ID) the night will go to him.  And with future contests further favoring Romney he could lock up the nomination soon after Super Tuesday.  Meanwhile Santorum and Gingrich will be fighting over not just the same set of voters, social and strong conservatives but also the same regions. Santorum will need to win some Southern contests to stay relevant on Super Tuesday (especially if he loses OH).  Gingrich has staked his continued candidacy on winning Southern states such as Georgia and Tennessee.

For Romney tonight was a great night.  His campaign has to be breathing a huge sigh of relief.  And if Romney does as well with certain voting groups he has been weak with on Super Tuesday it indicates another good night in a week.

Note: Never before have I seen this.  For the first time there is polling evidence that Democrats mad a concerted effort to swing the race.  They failed but it will further bring into doubt the idea of open primaries or caucuses.


Reports of the GOP’s demographic demise have been greatly exaggerated

Jonathon Chait has become the latest unhinged (but supposedly intelligent liberal) to believe in the “oh so feel good” liberal theory that the GOP is destined to become demographically extinct.  I guess it should not come as a surprise he would like this theory.  Especially as generic ballot polls show the GOP is likely to hold the House and the president cannot break 50% approval ratings or post more than mostly meager leads over his likely GOP challengers.  But just like other Democratic and left leaning demographers have found out, demographic predictions as well as how people vote is not an exact science.

Chait’s main argument (link to it at the bottom of this article) is that the GOP is so dead set on beating Obama because it may be their last chance.  Chait cites the predictions of two well-known leftist demographers, John Judis and Ruy Texiera.  These two demographers wrote a book back in 2002 predicting that an emerging Democratic Majority was coming.  Yet in 2004 Hispanic turnout was only 2% over 2000.  Furthermore Bush won 44% of their vote.  But Judis and Texiera also saw Democrats doing better among college educated whites and women while the GOP was confined to older and rural, socially conservative white voters.

Certainly to a degree in 2006 they were right.  But Hispanic and black turnout actually shrunk from 2002 (the last midterm election) and Democrats inroads came almost exclusively from white voters.  In 2008 Judis and Texiera’s predictions were thought to have been proven true. Blacks came out in massive numbers and women and college educated men backed Obama.  Hispanics voted 68%-30% for Obama but there vote share barely grew 1% from 2004.  But move forward to 2010 and women (for the first time since 2002) backed Republicans and the gains Obama made among college educated whites evaporated.  Worse, the 2006 and 08 gains Democrats made among blue-collar, rural whites disappeared.  So the prediction of Texiera and Judis is at best only half right and has not sustained itself over a long enough period of time to be called anything more than a theory.

But beyond the fact that Texiera’s and Judis’s theories have a troubled, short record there are other reasons to doubt that there theory will become reality. 

The first would be that our political system is designed for two parties.  And that means that if one party over steps another will take its place.  Furthermore, the GOP and Democratic Party are constantly remaking themselves.  To predict the GOP will continue to only appeal to one set of voters when they know they cannot win elections with that group is the heighth of foolishness.  For both the left and right being highly ideological currently benefits both so of course they would both do so.  As more and more Hispanics (and other minorities) become accustomed to the American political system and further integrate into our society they way they vote could also change.  It is worth noting there is evidence that Hispanics in majority-white areas vote for like whites (which means more Republican) than Hispanics in majority-Hispanic areas.

Another reason why this prediction has yet to come true (and likely never will) is that coalitions come and go.  Sean Trende, an analyst at Realclearpolitics.com and author of the new book, “The Lost Majority,” presents some interesting thoughts on why predictions of a permanent majority never came true.  Subtle shifts in voter behavior (especially as we have seen since 2006) can have significant impact on a party’s enduring control.  Trende contends, and I agree, that the reason why the Democratic Party controlled the House for forty years (as they were being slaughtered in most presidential elections) was because the Democratic Party was essentially two parties in one at the time.  The Southern Democratic Party was a mix of black and white interests with a few Republicans.  The national Democratic Party was white, liberal and generally looked down with disdain at Southern Democrats. This enduring majority in the House is often cited as an example why long-term majorities are possible.

As coalitions fade, whether they are founded on the basis of support for an issue, candidate or party, voters shift their support from one party to the other.  Again, the last three elections highlight his trend.  In 2006 minority turnout was no larger than 2002 and Democrats won based on a coalition of rural whites, women, minorities and college graduates.  In 08 minority turnout increased but the GOP took back rural whites.  In 2010 the GOP turned the tables and established a narrow coalition of rural whites, women, college graduates and a third of the Hispanic vote.  This indicates that one of the supposed cores of the “Emerging Democratic Coaliton,” college educated whitr voters, are really the knewest swing voters.

Yet another reason why Judis and Texeiera’s theory is at best possibly right is that the emerging Democratic Coalition is incredibly unstable.  One of the advantages of a political party being able to appeal to one particular group (as the GOP did to rural whites in the 80’s) is that the group’s views are fairly homogenous.  This allows the party to craft a simple party platform and stick to it.  The GOP still largely appeals to whites today, but it now is balancing rural and suburban interests, growing it’s share of the vote in the Hispanic community and holding onto social conservatives in the South.  But for all this, the GOP is largely white and thus the party’s supporters interests are fairly homogenous.

Not so the Democratic Party. The Party is essentially balancing metro and suburban interests, minority interests (which are numerous and often opposed to each other) as well as liberal environmental and welfare programs.  These interests are far more diverse than the GOP’s interests.  And that makes the Democratic Coalition as it stands now extremely fragile. Just look at ongoing fights between Hispanics and African-Americans in the party’s power struggle.  African-Americans have long held lofty positions but with black population growth stagnant and likely half a dozen to a dozen new Hispanics expected to enter the halls of Congress in 2013 this struggle is likely only to intensify.  Look at how women abandoned the party in 2010 only to come back.  But as women have come back younger voters have left over isses such as wars and drugs.  As Democrats have started to appeal heavily to the urban poor and minorities left leaning suburban whites have started to turn to the GOP on fiscal issues (just as Democrats thought this group was a lock with the birth of the Tea Party).

Internal frictions in parties ar nothing new.  But they do show yet again why permanent majorities are virtually impossible to achieve in a democratic, two party electoral system. These three reasons (and many more I could mention) show why the GOP’s demographic extinction has been greatly exaggerated.  Sorry Chait.


Santorum must win Michigan on Tuesday!

Rick Santorum appeared to have it all nearly a week ago.  He had a solid national lead in the GOP race, was leading in MI by double-digits and was even narrowing Romney’s lead in AZ.  But Santorum’s momentum has come to a screeching halt.  Santorum’s missteps on social issues, his weak debate performance in AZ and lack of cash have allowed Romney to fight back and make MI a toss-up again and fortify his lead in AZ.  Worse for Santorum are rumors of wheeling and dealing behind the scenes where Gingrich’s Super PAC donor and Ron Paul are taking it easy on Romney.  In other words they are targeting Santorum.

Santorum came onto the national scene late.  Sure his initial second-place finish (later confirmed the winner by 34 votes) in IA was impressive but he was a non-factor in NH, SC and Florida.  His victories in the Febuary 7th Caucus in MN and CO, straw poll in MO.  But his win in MO was a straw poll win (meaningless except for talking heads).  His win in MN did not net him any delegates.  In CO Santorum won by 6%. Yet Romney won the most populous counties and won a couple Congressional Districts thus netting almost as many delegates as Santorum did.

Since Santorum’s rise over two weeks ago and Romney’s steady decline the narrative has been how once again Romney is struggling and how he must win, win, win.  And by win I mean MI especially.  But Romney has always held advantages that Santorum could never match.  Romney is a better debater (less so on the stump), has and still does have a much greater financial advantage and has the party’s backing.  All these things have begun to take their toll on Santorum.  Talking heads can feel better because they did not say if Romney lost Michigan he would lose the nomination, just that it would be much harder.

Now it looks like for Santorum to stay relevant must win MI.  Consider these facts.  First, Santorum has fewer votes in the overall contest than either Romney or Gingrich.  Second, Santorum has only won TWO states where he has received delegates.  Third, he is still in third place in terms of the number of allocated delegates.  Fourth, both Gingrich and Romney now have more cash on hand then his campaign does.  This all adds up to Santorum needing to win MI to stay relevant in the week leading to Super Tuesday as AZ is certain to go to Romney by a big margin.

Virtually every challenger to Romney in the topsy-turvy GOP race has risen on pure momentum alone.  The only exception was Perry and he fell because of poor debate performances.  But Bachmann, Cain, Gingrich and now Santorum all challenged (or still are) Romney on momentum.  No candidate has been able to come close to the cash advantage Romney has had, nor such a rock-solid national floor of 25% or so support.  Instead, they have needed to keep challenging Romney simply through winning and Santorum appears to be no exception to the rule in this race.

All these factors point to Santorum desperately needing to win Michigan on Super Tuesday.  Romney’s money advantage is already turning the corner in the state.  His campaign and affiliated Super PACs have reportedly spent over $10 million in the state. Thousands of volunteers have been canvassing the state daily for the last two weeks.  And the most recent surveys on the race, conducted by Rasmussen and PPP, which use interesting likely voting screen models find Romney ahead 40%-34% and 39%-37%.  The Rasmussen survey found Romney even led among the most interested voters.  The PPP survey found only 16% of voters had cast their ballot but Romney led among them 62%-29%. 

Santorum’s entire campaign strategy should now lie on winning Michigan.  Spending six figures in the state is not going to be able to combat Romney’s war chest.  If Santorum loses Michigan his claim to being able to win blue-collar voters and maximizing white turnout would be severely limited.  And for key states like Ohio that vote a week later that could be significant and provide Romney the boost in credibility and momentum he needs to dominate the delegate count on Super Tuesday.  Gallup’s lateest tracking poll now has Romney recapturing the national lead over Santorum 31%-29%. 

If Santorum loses Michigan on Tuesday his challenge to Romney could effectively be over.  And by the process of attrition that could mean there will be nobody else remaining to challenge Romney.  In fact the only candidate left to challenge Romney would be Paul and national polls consistently show he is unacceptable to a majority of GOP voters.  Perhaps Gingrich can rise for a third time.

America does not have just a partisan divide

Most Americans lament the fact that politics has become so partisan.  Rarely can the left or right come together on issues, and usually only at the last instant through shady backroom deals.  But buried under this divide is another division that is only covered up by partisan politics. 

Dig through the poll numbers on a number of social and economic issues and the split becomes clear.  There is an age divide in terms of stances on these issues.  And this age divide points to a deep generational divide.  This divide tends to split the Depression and Baby Boomer generation against Generations Y and the millennial Generation.

This divide can easily be seen on key economic issues.  While the baby-boomer generation and elderly seniors see the debt as a major issue there is quite a drop-off in concern among millennials and Generation Y.  On entitlement reform many Baby-boomers and seniors, regardless of their partisan affiliation or ideological beliefs, want to preserve Social security and Medicare.  These voters express deep concern on any idea to reform or fix these programs.  By contrast, younger voters do not see reforming these programs as paramount.

On social issues this divide can be seen as well. Baby-boomers and seniors tend to take hard left or right stances on abortion.  But since 2000 the millennial generation has started to enter the political scene as a voter bloc and they have taken more libertarian views on the issues.  Younger voters are more likely to say they are pro-life than pro-choice (the number has been going up since 2000) but they are also less likely to say they would ban abortion in all instances.  They are also less likely to say they wanted government involved in the institution of marriage as well.  By contrast seniors and baby-boomers have more entrenched and absolutist views on the issues of abortion and marriage as an institution.

Gay marriage defines the generational divide on social issues.  As more and more millennials enter the political scene they have started to shift the debate on gay marriage.  Over half a dozen states have legalized gay marriage since 2000 and NJ, Delaware and WA state are on the cusp of joining the club.  The movement on gay marriage has been especially dramatic in 2008.  Over 50% of the public according to numerous polls show support for gay marriage.  And the President and his AG have basically said they would not defend the Defense of Marriage Act perhaps reflecting this shift.

Lastly, on foreign policy there is  deep generational divide.  Many seniors and baby-boomers express strong support for the military, protecting Israel and not wanting to see the military cut.  In contrast younger voters seem to be more libertarian to liberal on foreign policy.  These younger voters do not have the same connection to Israel that baby-boomers and seniors do nor the context of the Cold War.  Younger voters want to see a diminished or at least more limited role for the US in the world.  They also want the US to keep its distance from Israel especially on the issue of Iran and if Israel attacked Iran.

Partisan divisions tend to cloud these differences.  But these differences are real and generational.  While younger Americans, just like their older counterparts are likely to fall into the same traditional partisan camps, the generational divide could perhaps help the country.   If younger voters feel less connected to entitlements perhaps politicians can reform them.  Likewise, if social issues become less contentious than perhaps the country can begin to find a consensus on these issues.  Foreign policy however is the one issue where the generations may eventually come together.  Experience shapes views of the world and if younger Americans feel the brunt of a major terrorist attack or a nuclear Iran they may rethink their libertarian views on foreign policy.

The GOP’s diversity problem

On February 22nd, 2012 four GOP presidential candidates met on a debate stage in Mesa, AZ.  If there was one striking takeaway from the event, from the four candidates on stage to the crowd in attendance it was the lack of diversity. All four of the remaining GOP presidential candidates are white males (Herman Cain and Michelle Bachmann were the only two non-white male candidates once in the race) and the crowd was a sea of white faces. 

The GOP’s lack of diversity is not a new problem. Since the dawn of the 20th century the GOP has never won the minority vote in any presidential or midterm election.  The 2012 presidential election looks to be no different.  The GOP’s fierce language on governmental social and economic equality programs, illegal immigration and even education appears certain to drive these voters into the waiting arms of an undeserving Democratic Party.

Until recently the GOP’s lack of diversity was not an issue.  Elections were not won and lost on the minority vote.  Instead they were won and lost on the swings of blue-collar, middle class whites.  Since 1980 the GOP has had unparalleled success in courting this group.  In 1980 Ronald Reagan was the first GOP president of the modern era to win these voters.  In 1984 he won them again, even more decisively which led to these voters being called “Reagan Democrats.”  Both HW and GW Bush followed up on Reagan’s successes with these voters.  In 2008, even as John McCain was being crushed in the presidential election he was still winning these voters 57%-41%.

If there ever was an election that showcased the GOP’s diversity problem it was 2008.  As the GOP was winning whites they were losing the minority vote by over 80%-20%.  In the 2008 election the minority vote made up 24% of the populace (the highest in electoral history).  This loss came after the 2004 presidential campaign where GW Bush won 44% of the Hispanic vote, 10% of African-Americans and 40% of other minority voters.

Current estimates put the minority vote at being 24%-26% of the vote in 2012 (even bigger than 08).  And thus the GOP finds itself in a bind.  Most of the GOP’s recent electoral successes, including most recently 2010, came from winning blue-collar whites and upper class suburbanites (they lost these voters in 2008 as well).  Unfortunately for the GOP, the issues that drive blue-collar voters to pull the lever for the GOP do not translate to minority voters doing the same.  In fact, it likely makes minority voters pull the lever for Democrats.

The GOP hopes to court the growing minority vote, especially the increasing Hispanic and Asian vote through social issues and the economy.  In 2004 many analysts attributed Bush’s successes with courting Hispanic voters to social issues and a softer stance on illegal immigration.  Social conservatism the GOP can do, but a softer stance on illegal immigration not so much. 

Since 2011 several GOP controlled states, most notably Arizona and Alabama, have passed strict illegal immigration laws.  Right or wrong, these laws have caused the DOJ to come down on the states hard and Latino Rights activists to cry foul.   Combine this with the flap over TX’s recent redistricting map (currently tied up in court) and the GOP is seriously in danger of becoming the “Anti-immigrant party.”

On the stump every current GOP presidential candidate has staked out a stance on illegal immigration.  Libertarian Republican Ron Paul’s (TX) stance traditionally was to allow illegal immigration.  That is until he realized it was a death knell to have that stance in the GOP primary.  Rick Santorum is ardently anti-illegal immigration and has staked out a claim to being the farthest right on the issue.  Mitt Romney did not put to rest the idea he supported mass deportations of illegals until recently.  Newt Gingrich has voiced support for some sort of phased in citizenship period.  All candidates do support some sort of path to citizenship but they disagree in terms of the details in how to make it happen.

The GOP cannot hope to win the presidential election with less than 30% of the Hispanic vote.  That was the percentage John McCain received in 2008.  But if Hispanic turnout increases in 2012 (not all say it will however) then the GOP would need to possibly win over 60% of the white vote.  This would mean the GOP would not only have to overperform among blue-collar whites but also single, white women and upper class suburbanites (perhaps beyond 2010 levels).  For this to happen the situation would need to dramatically improve in the GOP’ favor over the next several months. 

Going forward the GOP continues to look likely to suffer from a diversity problem.  The GOP does have a number of highly visible minority candidates such as Cuban-American Senator Marc Rubio (FL) and Governors Brian Sandoval (NV) and Susanna Martinez (NM).  But having appealing candidates can only do so much to fight a national image and platform that simply does not appear to appeal to minorities.  Until the GOP finds the right balance between appealing to minorities and its white base the party will continue to suffer from a diversity problem.

Payroll tax extension is raw deal for Americans young and old

Both Democrats and Republicans are taking a victory lap this week after recent passage of the Payroll tax cut extension.  Democrats and Republicans are telling the American public how they will be able to keep an average extra $80 a month in their wallet.  But is the short-term gain vs. the long-term cost of the program?  If several Democratic and Republican Senators are any indication of where seniors stand the answer is a definite no.

The payroll tax cut was devised as a short-term bipartisan stimulus by Democrats and Republicans.  The cut passed both the House and Senate by wide margins in late 2010.  Intended to last only a year and incentivize consumer spending instead the majority was saved according to surveys. But if there is one thing that politicians both left and right do, it is use the tax code to buy votes. 

With an election year looming in December of 2011 both Democrats and Republicans agreed it would be politically beneficial to extend it.  Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid in the Senate negotiated a two month extension of the packge but in a politically risky move House Republicans pushed for a full year-long extension.  The result was a disastrous PR fiasco. House Republicans backed down.  The only thing the GOP could take solace in was that they forced the administration to choose yes or no on the Keystone Pipeline in 60 days.

Since Congress returned from its Christmas Recess the appointed Conference Committee hammered out the details and of course issues ensued.  Democrats balked at not extending unemployment benefits under 70 weeks and off-setting the costs of the $100 billion plan.  Republicans were on the opposite side of these issues.  In the end the Committee hammered out an agreement, extending federal unemployment benefits 73 weeks, but not pleasing House Republicans and containing no off-sets to the cost of the extension.

Process and cost aside though the short-term benefits of extending the payroll tax cut extension are outweighed heavily by the long-term costs.  After the House had passed the plan (with multiple GOP and Democratic defections) 36 Senators voted no.  Democratic Senators such as Tom Harkin (IA), and Bernie Sanders (VT) and GOP Senator Orrin Hatch (UT) took the Senate to task for extending this cut at the cost of social security.

Payroll taxes fund Social Security and if reports are right if the program is not reformed it will be effectively bankrupt by as early as 2017.   Under the extension not only is SS losing substantial funding for another year but it also has to pay for new federal unemployment benefits.  For decades politicians have robbed the SS Trust Fund to pay for whatever they wanted.  This appears to be no different.

For almost as long as there has been SS politicians have used the tax code to buy votes.  And this has never stopped.  And if there is one off-shoot of this trend that holds true it is that once there is a tax cut it is permanent.  The debate Democrats and Republicans have over raising or lowering income taxes are not really where the real costs of the tax debate are. Instead the solvency of SS, Medicare and rising insurance premiums are.  Yet politicians refuse to acknowledge this.  Instead, politicians seek to mollify a worried public with new tax cuts elsewhere to off-set the increase in costs somewhere else.  Call me crazy, but come the end of 2012 I truly doubt many Republicans or Democrats will be willing to start off the New Year with a tax increase (or what some might call one).

While many Americans benefit in the short-term from the payroll extension almost every American is hurt in the long-term.  Those most hurt are seniors under 70 and baby-boomers just entering or nearing retirement.  There generation was reared on believing SS would be there for them.  Now it looks less and less likely that is true.  And with the American savings rate at a all-time low since 2000 this spells disaster for America’s ageing population.

Gender-gap in voting not going away anytime soon

In 2008 the gender gap in American elections continued to showcase itself.  As Barack Obama was trouncing John McCain among women 56%-43%, he was losing men 49%-48%.  And as Obama was winning over 70% of the unmarried female vote John McCain was winning well over 50% of the married women vote. It is obvious that without the strong support Obama received among women, particularly unmarried women, he would have lost the election.

The gender gap in voting is said to have started in the 1980s.  It is more likely though this is when it was first noticed with new tools for exit polling becoming available.  That year Reagan ran ahead with men than he did with women.  Ditto in 1984.  In 1988 this trend only accelerated with H.W. doing better among men.  This trend has continued well into the new millennium and it has a decidedly partisan bent.

The only time in the last seven presidential elections this partisan bent could be said to be broken was when Clinton came close to carrying the male and female votes in 92 and 96.  Up until that point the GOP had dominated among the male vote for three straight presidential elections.  In 2000 this partisan bent came back with a vengeance when Presidential winner George Bush carried the male vote 53%-42% but Gore won the female vote 54%-43%.  By comparison in 92 Clinton narrowly lost the male vote as he did in 96.  Yet in 92 Clinton trounced HW among women and in 96 this trend was even more pronounced.  That year Clinton was the first Democrat to carry the married female vote since Carter in 76.

The gender gap in voting however does not just include the differences between men and women.  It also includes the differences within women, particularly in regard to their maritial status.  According to the 2010 Census the number of unmarried women has risen to 20.9% of the total population.  The median age of marriage has also risen to over 27 years (men and women averaged).  And for the first time in US history less than half the US population is reported to be married at 48% of households.  This bodes well for Democrats, not so much for Republicans in 2012. 

The very issues the Democrats stand for, equal rights, wage equality, income inequality, job security, education, choice are tailor-made to appeal to single women with/without children.  The issues the GOP speaks to of fiscal security, family values and economic prosperity speak to married women.  And here we come into the gap with the female vote.  As the percentage of single, unmarried women with an education has risen in the US so has the Democrats vote share among the group.  The exceptions to this would be 2004 and 2010 when Republicans ran strongly among women. 

But even as the GOP was narrowly winning the female vote (for the first time since 2002) in 2010 they continued to underperform among unmarried, single females with and without children.  Democrats certainly did not get the numbers they received from the group in 2008 but they continued to get over 50% of their vote.  Meanwhile, married women overwhelmingly backed GOP candidates nationally.  The one consolation for the GOP was they did win approximately half of the single, white female vote.

However, if there ever was a race in 2010 that highlighted the gender gap it would be the CO Senate race.  There a Tea Party Republican was running against a weak incumbent Democratic Senator.  For most of the race the Republican led but near the end of the race Senator Michael Bennett (D-CO) unleashed his secret weapon.  A barrage of ads were launched targeting women’s issues, contraception, abortion, and the like.  In the end Buck won men with well over 50% but Bennett strongly overperformed among women 56%-39% (compared to Dems getting 48% nationally) and narrowly won election.  Not surprisingly, Bennett ran strongest in metro Denver where many single women are located.

It has been written that Democrats went overboard in 2009-2010, passing legislation that was so “Mommy” orientated it turned off single, female voters because it failed to address the economy.  Certainly to a degree that is true.  And certainly it helps explain why the married, female vote went so solidly to the GOP.  But the malaise among single, unmarried women was a warning shot across the bow to Democrats that they needed to return to speaking specifically to their issues.  Healthcare and energy are great and all, but it is not what educated, single women care most about.

Democrats seem to have taken those lessons to heart.  Nor have they been blind to the Census findings which show that married women are shrinking as a percentage of the populace.  While unmarried men with/without a college degree continue to be a swing vote the single female vote remains Democrat.  The question is in what kind of numbers? 

Since the 2010 drubbing the Democrats message has been crafted to specifically appeal to single women.  During the budget debate in Summer 2011 several prominent Democratic Congresswomen were front and center lamenting the cuts made in vital women’s services.  More recently Democrats crucified Komen for cutting funding to Planned Parenthood.  And most recently Democrats have painted their assault ( I use the word on purpose) on religious institutions regarding the mandate on contraception as a women’s health issue.  It is no wonder why they would.

As the 2012 election moves closer Democrats have made these moves to appeal to a growing segment of the electorate.  The president’s and Democrats recent bounce back in the polls appears to largely have come from new-found support among women, especially independent women (of which many single women identify themselves as).  Democrats need to keep these women as men continue to remain cool to the president.

Moving beyond 2012 however the Democrats may find a continuing obstacle in appealing to this group.  The single, female vote is by its very nature not growing.  Many single women with children only have one or two and many more single women have no children.  Furthermore they are waiting even longer than the rest of the populace to have kids.  Meanwhile, married women continue to have children and in greater numbers.  It is noticeable that the areas of the country with the largest single female vote are in major metro areas (meaning they help more in presidential and Senate than Congressional races) with the least growth while the major metro areas with the most married women and population growth are Republican (think South and Western cities such as Salt Lake).

One other little tidbit the Census points to that spells trouble for this being a continuing crucial bloc in the Democratic coalition is that many single women continue to aspire to be married, live in suburbs and have children.  If the Democrats speak to their issues now, when they have one or no kids, how will it speak to them when they get married, live in the suburbs and raise kids?  As life and experiences change they alter political views.  What may have been a key issue for a single women could be pushed to the backburner once married.  For Democrats this spells trouble beyond 2012.