Crosscutting Trends in Three Key States

Today’s big chewy read, whicn may take a while to digest, is Ron Brownstein’s column, the first in a series, examining the latest evidence of demographic trends as they affect three key “purple” states that have undercut the Republican trend in the former Confederacy: Florida, North Carolina and Virginia.

The growing nonwhite voting population of these states–largely a combination of stronger African-American turnout and a larger Hispanic and Asian eligible voter population–has been a powerful factor in turning them from red to purple; these states were reliably Republican for a long time prior to 1992 (or 2008 in the case of Virginia). But the aging nature of the electorate could increase the Republican share of the white vote even without further gains among non-college white voters. And there’s an increasingly prevalent gender split among white college-educated voters that bears watching.

It’s reasonably safe to say the long-range trends in these states are likely to benefit Democrats, but only if the two parties maintain their current differential appeals, which is not at all certain. In the shorter term, all three remain up for grabs, but Republicans have reason to worry; it is difficult to find a path to 270 electoral votes for them if they continue to lose Florida (29 electoral votes) and Virginia (12 EVs). No wonder GOP scenarios for 2016 so often include a national thumb-on-the-scales via the claim voters will militate against three straight Democratic wins, or an assumption that 2008-2012 patterns of minority voting won’t be repeated without Obama on the ballot.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.