Democrats and Hillary Clinton have a problem, a white men problem. Key to Clinton’s long run in the 2008 primaries these voters have turned away from Democrats and their likely 2016 nominee in droves since the turn of the new decade. The reasons are fairly obvious and have been written about ad nauseum-relentless focus on social issues, fiscally liberal policies aimed at redistribution of wealth and a lack of concern for male issues (like jobs).
But neither party seems to be paying much attention to this particular facet of our politics. Republicans are intensively focusing on courting minorities and Democrats are continuing to work on wooing women. White men who on their own are shifting to the GOP at every age level. And these white males hold the keys to electoral victory in significant swing states, especially in the Midwest.
White men fueled GOP victories in 2010 and 2014. In 2010, white men voted 64% for Republicans candidates in Congressional races. In individual races in key swing states such as Wisconsin, Ohio and Iowa their margins provided the GOP big victories. Fast forward to 2014 and those margins continued. Take the case of the Iowa Senate race. White men favored Joni Ernst 58%-40% while white women only 51%-47%. This made up for Democratic favoring higher turnout among women. In Colorado, turnout among white men (and men in general) won Republican Corey Gardner the election. Depending on the exit poll men made up 48%-53% of the electorate and they favored Gardner by 54%-56%. Among white men Gardner won by a whopping 20%-23%. Gardner lost white women meaning he needed this increased turnout and strength among men.
These results do not bode well for Hillary. If she cannot match Obama’s margins among whites and white men she will need increased support among minorities to make up the difference. And even though she theoretically a 4% popular vote cushion created by Obama it is predicated on strong minority and single women turnout (Obama coalition). Put thusly by Steve Schale, a Democrat who has worked on three campaigns, “Take Hispanics alone: Every point of white share you lose, you have to win Hispanics by 4 to 5 points more” to make up for it, Schale said. “In ’08, we knew if we really focused on keeping whites above 40 (percent), we couldn’t lose. To me, that makes more sense than always trying to cobble out a tight win. And at some point we are going to max out (with) Hispanics.” That maxing might have already come and gone. Democrats did not even come close to hitting their 2012 numbers among minorities last year.
Of course, Republicans built a 27 point edge among white men in 2012 and they lost the election. But in the crucial swing states that margin was much narrower. Such strong GOP strength among men could be attributed to strength among white Southerners. Republicans proved in 2014 they can make inroads with white men in swing states. They also proved they could do it among white-collar men (MA, IL and MD) which could make the difference in rapidly diversifying Mid-Atlantic states (NC, VA).
This could have serious repercussions come 2016. If Republicans do improve their margins among minorities, turnout drops and white men come into the GOP fold or any combination of the aforementioned Democrats could find themselves fighting in uphill battle across the country.
Clinton has telegraphed her campaign strategy by tailoring her message to the progressive grassroots. In other words, a relentless focus on abortion, income inequality and the plight of minorities in America. Left out of the campaign pitch are appeals to men in virtually every form. Men don’t want to revisit the culture wars but they also want to hear their concerns over manufacturing and blue-collar jobs disappearing addressed.
Male discomfort with Hillary shows in the Democratic nominating contest. In Iowa and New Hampshire, Clinton has commanding leads among women but among men her leads are much narrower or non-existent. Part of it might be the issues she talks about or maybe it is just the crowd she attracts. Clinton’s message is heavy on subtle themes of the country is sexist and if you don’t agree/vote for me you are as a result. Unlike women, men are likely to more assimilate these subtle messages and respond accordingly. Accordingly being voting for the other candidate.
Regardless, Clinton needs to find a way to fix this problem or she will have an issue. Relying on Obama level turnout and unprecedented support among women to make up for huge deficits among men is not the stuff Presidential campaigns are built on. But maybe Clinton is going for another first.