For all the highly appropriate attention being paid to the question of whether Hillary Clinton (or any other Democrat) can reverse the steady erosion of support for the Donkey Party among white working-class voters, a vote is a vote, and other demographics matter, too, as evidenced by John Judis’ recent fretting over white voters with college degrees. But Judis didn’t look at Clinton’s numbers (he was more transfixed by what happened in Maryland last November as a possible omen of the future), and also didn’t talk much about gender.
That’s why it’s useful to look at Ron Brownstein’s latest National Journal column, which suggests based on recent Quinnipiac polling that HRC’s real ace-in-the-whole is among college-educated women, where she’s running well ahead of Obama’s 2012 levels in three key swing states (Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania).
Those college-educated white women have been the fastest-growing part of the white electorate in recent years. If Clinton as a nominee could cement the gains she’s shown among those women in most national and state polls over the past year, she would present Republicans with a formidable demographic challenge, even without improving among any other white voters. Her greatest potential strength, in other words, may be hiding in plain sight: her potential connection to the white-collar white women who most resemble her.
Clinton would also obviously have to get close to Obama’s margins among minority voters, which is easier said than done if you look at the pre-Obama numbers. But there’s little question she will benefit from the women most likely to be acutely sensitive to the historical nature of her candidacy, and also most likely to be repelled by the GOP’s cultural message, which shows no real sign of changing other than via Cory Gardner-style indirection.