Looking at the exit poll a few things stand out in this election. I am sure by now you have heard of how singles, women and minorities heavily stuck with Obama. But in the Midwest this had particular effect. The media and many pundits are talking about how the auto bailout handed Obama Ohio and Wisconsin. But in truth minorities in Ohio and Wisconsin would have stuck with the President regardless. In Ohio Obama only did 2 points better (41%) with whites than he did nationwide (39%). By contrast Romney only did two points worse (57%) than he did nationwide (59%).
In Wisconsin the President certainly ran much better among whites than he did nationwide. In Wisconsin the President won 48% of whites while Romney won 51%. A few other points of contrast that share similarities with Ohio and Wisconsin bear mentioning. In Iowa the President actually won a slim majority of the white vote with 51%. In PA where Romney was banking on winning 60% or more of the white vote he only garnered 57%, likely because he barely won some PA suburbs and was unable to win Eastern PA by a big enough margin to offset increased turnout in Philly.
So if Obama really did not do that much better among whites than he did nationwide (excluding Ohio and IA here) what handed the President the Midwest. Simply put, minorities and women but particularly minorities. In not one Midwestern state did Romney win over a combined 10% of the minority vote. In Ohio the President won over 90% of the minority vote. The same occurred in PA and Wisconsin. In Wisconsin and IA where the President ran well with whites this did not matter. But in Ohio and Pennsylvania this mattered much more.
Now as mentioned in a prior post if Romney had been able to increase turnout he likely would have won the race. Evidence points to millions of white voters sitting out this election. When comparing results from Ohio from 08 to 012 we find that in many rural counties Romney did not even hit McCain’s margins in many strongly GOP rural counties. The President saw a drop-off in support in Hamilton and Cayuhoga counties but that did not stop him from winning the state. In metro Philly the President actually ran better than he did in 08 (accusations are know flying off mass voter fraud in the county).
For Republicans this has profound implications. Basically, if the GOP is going to accept they will struggle with minorities, in one particular minority group in particular, blacks, they will have to continue to run up wide margins with white voters. Yet, if the GOP is to court Hispanics and Asians for example they may alienate some older white voters in the Midwest. This puts the GOP in a predicament. That said, the GOP now knows it certainly has an issue with rural, Midwestern whites who simply do not seem to feel like they belong to the GOP anymore. Or perhaps, the party does not belong to them. Courting these voters could off-set GOP weaknesses among minorities in 2016 until the GOP finds a new, winning message to court an increasingly diverse electorate.
President Obama’s strength with whites in the Midwest is thus a fallacy. Certainly, he ran better among whites in the Midwest than he did with whites in the South. To put this into context consider that the President only won 37% of the white vote in Florida and he still won there. In Ohio and PA he barely did better than in FL and also won. In Florida whites were only 67% of the electorate whereas in OH and PA they were close to 80% of the electorate and yet Obama still won in both states. Obama won the Midwest on the strength of his margins with minority voters.
Younger voters and women also contributed to the President’s victory. But in every state mentioned above, minus IA, the President lost white women. It was minority women that gave the President his victory margins. Thus we can also easily conclude the gender gap is not really the gender gap as much as it is a symptom of America’s deeply polarized racial electorate. Whites did not stick with the President in the Midwest. Rather minorities handed Obama the Midwest.