As we get closer and closer to Tuesday’s election, the poll from the Pew Research Center shows that Barack Obama has failed to regain much of the support he lost in the days following the first presidential debate and the race is now even among likely voters: 47% favor Obama while an identical percentage supports Mitt Romney. But 53 percent of all registered voters predicted Obama would win the November 6 election, while only 29 percent said Romney would be the victor. A majority also said that they expected Obama to win their state. That reflects the opinion of many analysts and pollsters who say Obama holds a tactical advantage in the state-by-state battle to win the White House.
The 2012 presidential election is fundamentally a contest between our future and our past. Barack Obama’s America is the America that will be; Mitt Romney’s is the America that was. And the distance between the two is greater, perhaps, than in any election we’ve had since the Civil War.
What most Americans do agree on however is that a Mitt Romney campaign would likely bring back a continuation of the Bush presidency. In a recent CBS/NY Times poll – 67% of Americans believe “that Mr. Romney would very closely or somewhat closely follow the policies of former President George W. Bush”.
The demographic bases of the rival coalitions couldn’t be more different. Monday’s poll from the Pew Research Center is just the latest to show Obama with a decisive lead (in this case, 21 percentage points) among voters younger than 30. Obama’s margin declines to six points among voters ages 30 through 44, and he breaks even with Romney among voters ages 45 through 64. Romney’s home turf is voters 65 and older; among those, he leads Obama by 19 points.
Age polarization is not specific to the presidential election. On a host of issues, as diverse as gay and lesbian rights and skepticism about the merits of capitalism, polls have shown that younger voters are consistently more tolerant and well to the left of their elders.
Nor is age the only measure through which we can differentiate our future from our past. The other is race, as the nation grows more racially diverse each year. While the 2000 Census put whites’ share of the U.S. population at 69.1 percent, that share had declined to 63.7 percent in the 2010 Census, while the proportion of Hispanics rose from 12.5 percent to 16.3 percent. In raw numbers, total white population increased by just 1.2 percent during the decade, while the African American segment grew by 12.3 percent and the Hispanic share by 43 percent. Demographers predict that the white share of the U.S. population will fall beneath 50 percent in the 2050 Census.
Rather than trying to establish a foothold among America’s growing minorities, however, Romney and the Republicans have decided to forgo an appeal to Hispanic voters by opposing legislation that would grant legal status to undocumented immigrants brought here as children and by backing legislation that effectively requires Hispanics to carry documentation papers in certain states. Republicans seek a majority through winning an ever-higher share of white voters. The Washington Post reported last week that its polling showed the greatest racial gap between the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates since the 1988 election, with Romney favored by 60 percent of white voters and Obama by 80 percent of minority voters (a figure that may prove low, if three-quarters of the Hispanic vote goes to Obama, as some other polls suggest it will). The problem for Republicans, of course, is that the minority vote is a far larger share of the total vote today than it was 24 years ago.
Should Republicans prevail in this election and seek to build a more-than-one-term plurality, they will confront a stark choice: Either Romney must persuade his party to reverse its stance on immigration, or the party must seek to extend the scope of its voter-suppression efforts. Put another way, they must try to either accommodate the future or suppress it.
Two Americas are facing off in next week’s election. By their makeup, the Democrats are bound to move into the future, while the Republicans parade proudly into the past. The differences could not be clearer.
Most of the political scientists agree that President Obama has an advantage and will likely win a 2nd term. The Columbia Journalism Review shares this chart showing the probability of an Obama win:
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