Political Animal


February 15, 2012 10:20 AM 2008 Obama Coalition Returning

By Ed Kilgore

Putting all political science aside, I’d say the reason a lot of progressives have been pessimistic about Obama’s reelection prospects in the fairly recent past has been pretty simple: how could he possibly reassemble his 2008 electoral coalition? I mean, given conditions in the country, how many disillusioned young people, disappointed liberals, beaten-down minorities, and unhappy independents could he lose without slipping below a majority of the vote, right?

But as Ron Brownstein (who has been focused all along on tracking the direction of that 2008 Obama coalition) demonstrated in an important article yesterday for The Atlantic, the latest general election (he especially utilizes Pew’s) polls show Obama hitting his marks among element after element of his 2008 coalition to a degree that is truly remarkable, at least in a trial heat against Mitt Romney.

Whether the electorate is viewed by race, gender, partisanship or ideology (or combinations of the above), Obama’s numbers against Romney now closely align with his support against McCain, according to the 2008 exit polls. Overall, the Pew survey put Obama ahead of Romney by 52 percent to 44 percent, close to his actual 53 percent to 46 percent victory over McCain.
On the broadest measure, Pew found Obama attracting 44 percent of whites (compared to 43 percent in 2008) and 79 percent of non-whites (compared to 80 percent in 2008). In the Pew survey, Obama attracted 49 percent of whites with at least a four year college degree (compared to 47 percent against McCain) and 41 percent of whites without one (compared to 40 percent in 2008).
Looking at ideology, the reversion to 2008 is almost exact. Against Romney, Pew finds Obama attracting 89 percent of liberals, 20 percent of conservatives (each exactly his share against McCain), and 61 percent of moderates (compared to 60 percent in 2008.) On partisanship, the story is similar: against Romney, Pew finds Obama attracting 9 percent of Republicans (exactly his 2008 share), 51 percent of independents (compared to 52 percent last time) and 94 percent of Democrats (up from 89 percent in 2008). In the Pew survey, Obama wins 46 percent of white independents (compared to the 47 percent he drew against McCain).

This is obviously just a snapshot of public opinion more than eight months from Election Day, before we know how the economic numbers stack up, what the general election campaign is like, or even whose name is on the ballot under the sign of the elephant. It also doesn’t factor in turnout patterns, or to put it another way, what segment of the electorate all those categories Ron discusses actually represent, as compared to 2008 (though it’s worth incessantly reminding ourselves that the variations between 2008 and 2010 turnout patterns had much less to do with the relative “enthusiasm” of either party than with the eternal differences in the composition of presidential and midterm electorates).

But it’s getting easier to imagine an Obama victory, not just as a general, abstract possibility, but in terms of the flesh and bone of an actual majority coalition of voters.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • K in VA on February 15, 2012 10:26 AM:

    I'd hold off on the optimism for now. I expect the last few months of the campaign to be overwhelmingly dominated by post-Citizens United carpet bombing of America with incredibly filthy ads against Obama (stuff so vile it will make the Swift Boat ads look like LOL Cats videos).

  • Danp on February 15, 2012 10:28 AM:

    What if there were no great horse race this fall? Would cable news focus all their energy on extreme weather and mothers who murder?

  • stormskies on February 15, 2012 10:37 AM:

    The corporate media will do all they can to undermine Obama until the day of the election itself. They will continue to manufacture 'narratives' and 'story lines' to that end. Just this morning the new narrative, mouthed by Senator Jeff Sessions on CNN, is that the national debt, we all remember this one, is the biggest threat to our country's future. Then on Morning Asshole, err Joe, we are treated to, of all creatures, Jim Crammer telling us that Obama care will derail our economy.

    This will continue right up until election day itself. It is a coordinated plan by the corporate media just like the bullshit created by them over the Obama attacking the freedom of religion crap. One after the other, one manufactured narrative after the other, will happen in order to undermine Obama: and our welfare of our country.

  • Danny on February 15, 2012 10:38 AM:

    So most people who voted for Obama the last time around are satisfied enough to vote for him again, as soon as they get just the slightest sliver of good economic news. That's not a bad place to be.

  • schtick on February 15, 2012 10:41 AM:

    I wonder what the election season and numbers would be like if the tealiban wasn't self-destructing?

  • zandru on February 15, 2012 10:47 AM:

    Morning in America

    Well, things are definitely looking up for Obama and America, and down for the formerly G-OP. Optimism is NOT unwarranted at this point, and anyone who considers themselves a lib/prog ought to start getting involved in helping Dems from the Democratic wing of the party, registering voters, working to block "voter fraud" movements by their local governments, and getting out the vote for the primaries and the general.

    I mean, really - all you need to do is look at the unending and deeply depressing run of the weekly "Republican Debate" reality show to realize that none of these bozos must be allowed to become President.

  • rea on February 15, 2012 10:49 AM:

    Obama '12--Because the alternatives are too awful to contemplate.

  • T2 on February 15, 2012 10:49 AM:

    Stormskies, the Media has done everything they can to undermine President Obama since day one....the TeaParty was essentially a Media creation, steady stream of radical Republicans on the Sunday Talk shows, the faux "Both sides do it" meme, and so on. Yet Obama is actually rising in the polls now.
    When given the choice of Mitt Romney or Richard "Rick" Santorum, voters will go with Obama. Good thing the GOP didn't have anyone vaguely decent to run..such as David Petraeus.

  • j on February 15, 2012 10:56 AM:

    Looking at the republican field, we have a serial liar (with a ton of cash) A serial adulterer who also happens to be a slimeball crook, we have a leftover from 2 centuries ago who thinks women should stay home, and have their bodies managed at every turn by old white men and then there's a crazy old coot that no-one in his party mentions, it is as if he is running in another country.Love the comment by Norquist about Romney 'we don't need a fearless leader, just someone who can use a pen and do as he is told'.

    And then we have the President -Work hard folks, the alternative is so scary I cannot think about it.

  • SYSPROG on February 15, 2012 10:57 AM:

    Fine but how does all the voter suppression efforts factor in? REA is correct. A Republican win is to make the United States Michigan on steroids but can they STEAL the election?

  • Mimikatz on February 15, 2012 10:57 AM:

    I've been flogging this idea for days. The 66% of singles and 66% of people under 30 who voted for Obama aren't going to go for a candidate or party who wants to take us back to the Middle Ages. Nor will women in general. Black people have a huge stake in reelecting Obama, and he is certainly more friendly to minorities in general than Mitt or Little Ricky. Faced with eier of them, liberals will of course support Obama.

    There is really only one way for the GOP to win, and that is to drive down turnout with voter ID laws and restricting vote opportunities for Obama's people to vote, and depressing people with a flood of negative ads. The first requires constant vigilance from local Dems and the DOJ but my guess is that there will be a backlash from an excess of negative ads about Obama just like what is happening with Romney. Certainly voters in CA who were overwhelmed with negative Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina ads just tuned them out, prayed for the end and voted Democratic. I see this happening in enough of the country to reelect Obama.

    And the brokered convention idea? The idea that an unsullied savior will emerge in late August to hit the ground running and barnstorm the country? Are we talking about Christie, who will lack the stamina and look ridiculous on stage with Obama, or Mitch Daniels, who lacks any charisma at all, or Jeb-not-another-Bush here? Who, really?

  • memekiller on February 15, 2012 11:01 AM:

    I always found the idea liberals were simply upset Obama didn't meet unrealistic expectations elitist and condescending. My wife went to UC Law where he taught, and he was my representative. My concerns formulated when Obama's team chose to ingratiate themselves with the opinion-makers by picking a fight with Krugman. That, for me, predicted every mistake Obama would make. Ultimately I genuinely like him but worried his post-partisan speeches were naive. My greatest disappointment came not because of what he didn't accomplish, but that he had too many Clinton people advising triangulation. As a Clinton fan, this was a different moment and Obama, worse than trying and failing, didn't even try to sieze the moment and let a once-a-century window slip by.

    However, I'm not surprised he's kept his coalition because he never lost me, completely because I never held him to God-like status or expected the impossible. ACA alone grants him the right for re-election. And frankly, after his debt-ceiling awakening, I am excited about voting Democratic in a way I was not in 2008.

  • SadOldVet on February 15, 2012 11:02 AM:

    Unfortunately, I am in 100% agreement with rea...

    Regardless of the many issues we/I have with The Obomination / The Capitulator-In-Chief, it is critical to work as hard as in 2008 to show others why they must relect Obama. I wish like hell that Guantanamo was closed; I wish that Bush's wars were completely over; I wish that there had been investigations and prosecutions of the Bush Criminal Enterprise and their crimes against humanity as well as their crimes against the amerikkkan sheeple; and I wish that Obama was not following the Bush pattern of disregard for the civil liberties of the amerikkkan sheeple.

    If the candidate of the 1/10 of 1%ers is 'selected' as the next president, the american worker is screwed. If the candidate of the 1/10 of 1%ers or the candidate of the theocracy is 'selected' as the next president, war against Iran is 'inevitable'.

    Lack of enthusiasm by the democratic base may have been part of the issue in the 2010 elections. We cannot afford to let it be this year!

  • bdop4 on February 15, 2012 11:29 AM:

    As rea and others have noted, only the total nutjobs are voting republican this cycle. That still garners 40% of the vote at a minimum. I can only hope that most people have reached the saturation point on their bullshit-o-meter and the media's attempts at manipulation backfire.

    Obama will win in November, but the tenor will be much different going into his 2nd term. The big question is whether popular sentiment will result in a functioning Congress, either through Dem majorities in both houses or a return to sanity by a segment of the GOP.

    For my part, Obama's reelection will be the beginning of my efforts. Time to hold everyone's feet to the fire.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on February 15, 2012 11:32 AM:

    stormskies on February 15, 2012 10:37 AM said: "This will continue right up until election day itself.

    I hope you mean the 2016 election. Somehow I doubt the anti-Obama news media ticker tape will stop after he's re-elected. I'd wager one dozen krispy kreme donuts that if he wins, the spin will be on all the support he lost, that his win wasn't as big a landslide, or how he failed to win over the Cracker Coalition...

  • RT on February 15, 2012 11:33 AM:

    I like to think that Obama has a silent majority who like the fact that someone in the federal government is actually governing.

  • exlibra on February 15, 2012 11:49 AM:

    Obama '12--Because the alternatives are too awful to contemplate. -- rea, @10:49AM

    You know... I thought about it and it's not how it works for me. The horror of the alternative is what motivates me to support Tim Kaine in his pursuit of the Senate seat for Virginia. I don't particularly like Kaine, I'm appalled at his recent support for the bishops, etc, etc, etc. But, having Macaca Allen instead? A thousand times worse, and not to be contemplated. So, Kaine it is, for me.

    With Obama, it's different. I *like* the guy, both a human being and as a president. He can (and does) piss me off every now and then, till I want to shake him, but, overall, I've been happy with him. So, for me, it's not an issue of the lesser evil; it's an issue of actual, positive feeling. Perhaps not as euphoric as it had been in November of '08 but one cannot live on euphoria forever; it's not healthy.

  • T2 on February 15, 2012 11:54 AM:

    its really about the Supreme Court. What kind of justices do you think Santorum would nominate?

  • N.Wells on February 15, 2012 12:41 PM:

    When one side doubles down on its fanaticism, they are not going to attract additional new support, so their for and against numbers may well start similar to the previous election. The question becomes, can fervid support from the fanatical supporters (plus vote suppression and vote fraud) exceed those who actually show up to vote for Obama, after massive demoralization of moderately pro-Obama voters by a blitzkrieg of vicious negative advertising, outright lies, and media bias?

    Like exlibra, I like Obama, and I admire what he has been able to do, against political opposition unprecedented in my lifetime. I hope enough other people think like that too.

  • TCinLA on February 15, 2012 12:56 PM:

    Re-electing Obama is fine, and getting back a House majority is wonderful, but what we really need are 61 real Democrats in the Senate (not counting that worthless DINO traitor Manchin) - given we won't have LIEberman or legend-in-his-own-mind Ben Nelson to kick around any more, we really need to focus on the Senate. It wouldn't matter if the GOP was thrown out of every House seat outside the South, the wingnut fools in the Senate will be unstoppable if the filibuster stands. Of course, the Democrats could do the intelligent thing (but asking Senators to be intelligent is one of those things that will never happen) and get rid of the filibuster.

  • SadOldVet on February 15, 2012 1:20 PM:

    re TCinLA...

    You way under estimate the number of corporately owned dumbocrap (COD) senators! Probably need to have 70+ senators who caucus with the democrats to overcome the rotating pools of CODs.

  • Jimo on February 15, 2012 2:33 PM:

    What is compelling about this is:

    (A) This is a snapshot of what people are thinking during a particularly bad period for Obama (the last 6 months have been the worst public attitudes of his term),

    (B) As is often the dilemma in running against an incumbent, what is the opposing candidate going to say that will resonate with voters that hasn't already been said (and already resonated)?

    In short, absent some dramatically negative turn of events, this snapshot is the low end of the range for the Obama re-election effort. The upper end is anyone's guess.

  • Patango on February 15, 2012 2:39 PM:


    ""Stormskies, the Media has done everything they can to undermine President Obama since day one....the TeaParty was essentially a Media creation, ""

    Exactly , why is it we do not see the MEDIA asking them selves how and why they got it so wrong on the MINORITY tea bagger fest??


    "" how could he possibly reassemble his 2008 electoral coalition? ""

    And people need to wake up to the fact that holding obama and the dems accountable does not add up to not voting for them ...If we do not , who will? I find it perplexing that some how asking The President to act like a democrat , equals " Your helping the GOP win " , to some folks ...

  • Peter Principle on February 15, 2012 3:28 PM:

    Brownstein had a longer version of his article in the National Journal last week. To me, the key takeaway line was this:

    "it's worth remembering that if the minority share of the total vote increases in 2012 at the same pace it has grown since 1992, and Obama holds just-three-fourths of those voters, he could win a national majority with as little as 40 percent of the white vote."

    For the GOP, those words are like the opening notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony -- the sound of fate (or, in their case doom) knocking at the door.

  • Danram on February 15, 2012 3:36 PM:

    If the economy continues to improve, Obama will be tough to beat. That's the way it's always been.

    But the GOP right wing's reluctance to embrace Mitt Romney is playing right into the Democrats' hands. Romney is the only candidate they have who can beat Obama. But they've spent the last 6 weeks tearing him down, with the predictable result that Obama has now opened up a 5-6 point lead on him in the polls when they had been virtually tied earlier.

    Thankfully, Romney still as plenty of time to address those attacks and sharpen his attacks on Obama. The election doesn't happen for nine more months and that's an eternity in politics.

    BUT ... if the GOP is actually stupid enough to nominate a homophobic Bible-thumper like Rick Santorum, a guy who lost his last election by 17 points, then they will get absolutely clobbered by the Democrats in the fall. There are millions of moderately conservative voters like me out there who would happily vote for someone as sensible and well-qualified as Mitt Romney but who will NEVER vote for Rick Santorum.

  • PSpengler on February 15, 2012 4:12 PM:

    Obama's chances are looking up and that's too bad. He's a poor excuse for a chief executive, but he's a masterful political campaigner and demogogue. He appeals to the fanatical zeal of his liberal base the same way Newt Gingrich appeals to the right wing base of the GOP. Hillary Clinton would have made a good president in 2008. Mitt Romney would make a good president today. Unfortunately, we will probably be stuck with four more years of the Pied Piper of Hawaii.

  • Josh Brown on February 15, 2012 4:29 PM:

    I mean as long as obama doesn't talk about his last 3 years the health care law he should do great ...........

  • Ruth on February 15, 2012 4:56 PM:

    Note to Ed: No one wants this arrogant socialist in chief re-elected. He has done enough harm to this country. Besides he is holding out to be a Dictator or King.

  • Quiet Dowell on February 15, 2012 5:04 PM:

    Ron Paul, M.D., for President!

    Anyone thinking they will vote to re-elect Barak Hussein Obama in 2012 should read this, and many other, articles.


  • Dirk on February 15, 2012 5:35 PM:

    Obama has by his own standards been a failure. He promised to cut the deficit and it has ballooned to the largest in history. He promised to be a uniter and no one could honestly claim that he has down anything, but further divide the country. People don't like being lied to at this point I think the republicans could run a dead cat against Obama and win and frankly the dead cat would probably do a better job.

  • tpaine on February 15, 2012 5:51 PM:

    Anyone or any poll that tells you Obama doesn't lose Herbert Hoover sized - and for pretty much the same reasons - is simply, in the immortal words of the "high tech lynched" Herman Cain: "SIMPLY INCORRECT."

  • moderateGuy on February 15, 2012 6:33 PM:

    K in VA you mean the truth...

  • Dan on February 15, 2012 6:34 PM:

    This is so interesting because I am not a supporter of President Obama. Reading the posts makes me wonder how our country got so far away from each other. How could we ever bridge the gulf that currently exists. I simply can't force myself to see things the way people posting here see them and I suspect the same is true in reverse. What if we created 2 countries with shared services? One where people want lesser government and states rights and one where they want more government and programs. We could set up a "craigslist" like thing so if you lived in Michigan and it was blue (for lack of a better term) you could swap your house with someone in Texas if it was red. Certain services could be shared, like interstates and FAA, but other things like the DoE could only exist in the blue and not in the red. Sounds crazy, but short of another civil war I don't see how we ever bridge the gulf that has come due to 24-hour media and propoganda from both sides.

    Very sad as I do try hard to view each of you as my fellow Americans for whom I would pledge my life if it was asked of me. May God bless us to resolve this in a peaceful and appropriate way.

  • Rob S on February 15, 2012 10:06 PM:

    Gas prices to be at all-time highs by summer. Will not bode well for Obama, regardless of all other factors.

  • charles on February 15, 2012 10:39 PM:

    It is hardly a suprise. Hardly any first time party is defeated after one term in rich country national elections. Anglo parties have a 90%+ first election re-election rate since the depression. Only 5 have lost and 4 were the result of Opec cries the otherleader was too old. All full country democracies (judged by the Economist) re-elected after the last change of party power.More than 20 countries,100% re-elected.

    Judged by the atrocious international record of 63,68 and 72 year olds winning national office it is hardly suprising that we get Santorumas the likely nominee.

    Voters Internationally detest really rich business men. They seldom win. America is not comparable to Italy!

    Given that the Republicans have been abusing the word change, it is hard to understand their tactics:they need that word if they are to challenge successfully.

    I am not American but you do not need to know where the election is taking place. Americans are normal people and they usually behave as everyone else does. Short of a new disaster, Obama will win. Polling indicates that Bush is the name of the person that voters blame for the mess. Reagan is an ancient controversial figure to most of the electorate and he only reasonates with the base.It is hard to run on a platform and ignore the Bushes people do not forget that easily.

  • Erin McK on February 16, 2012 12:17 AM:

    If Obama has four more years, what will America look like in 2016? It is the unknown that is making many Americans panic, and you don't have to be a right wing Republican to be worried. We are so tired of not having a voice in Washington, and not being led by a man who seems to TRULY care about what is happening. Instead, you have a feeling that his only TRUE interest is getting himself reelected again by promising the same old promises! The average American is on the outside looking in on the insiders who are so self-absorbed that they forget to do the work of the people. The man who would be king is not adored by ALL the peons out here. So many of us feel we have NO options, and we will stay away from the polls because choosing the lesser two evils ONE MORE time is just not worth it. It's all smoke and mirrors!

  • Anonymous on February 16, 2012 1:23 AM:

    I agree, the optimism should be held in check. Romney is at least as strong as Clinton was in '92 and Obama probably isn't as strong as Bush I. However, if Republicans and Democrats were to collude against Romney by aiding Paul in the two-way Virginia Primary. Everyone could claim victory, Dems, Santorum, Gingrich, and Paul. Romney's prospects in the fall after that wouldn't seem nearly as good.