Chris Cillizza, Washington Post, July 5, 2010
Four years after Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) lost the white vote by 17 percentage points, Obama lost it by 12, according to exit polls. While the 2008 gains were generally attributed to Obama’s strength with young voters–he won by 10 points among whites 18 to 29 years old–he managed to improve on Kerry’s showing with white voters across every age demographic.
Fast-forward to today. With the November midterm elections less than four months away, Obama’s standing among white voters has sunk–leading some party strategists to fret that the president’s erosion–and the party’s–could adversely affect Democrats’ chances of holding on to their House and Senate majorities.
In Washington Post-ABC polling, Obama’s approval rating among white voters has dropped from better than 60 percent to just above 40 percent. In a June poll, 46 percent of white voters under age 40 approved of how Obama was doing, compared with just 39 percent of whites 65 and older.
One senior strategist, speaking candidly about his concerns on the condition of anonymity, noted that white voters made up 79 percent of the 2006 midterm electorate, while they made up 74 percent of the 2008 vote. If the white percentage returns to its 2006 level, that means there will be 3 million more white voters than if it stayed at its 2008 levels. That scenario, said the source, “would generate massive losses” for House and Senate Democrats in November because of Obama’s standing with that demographic.
To avoid such losses, the Democratic National Committee has committed to spending tens of millions of dollars to re-create (or come somewhere near re-creating) the 2008 election model, in which Democrats relied heavily on higher-than-normal turnout from young people and strong support from African American and Hispanic voters.