Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks in Ottawa Oct 29, 2012.
Credits: ANDRE FORGET/QMI AGENCY
In the end, it wasn’t even close. But it was one hell of a ride.
The conclusion for Gov. Mitt Romney came faster than expected and the margin of victory for President Barack Obama was bigger than predicted.
That is, if you only look at electoral college votes.
The real story of this election is not the fact Obama defied the odds to win 303, or 60%, of electoral college votes, to Romney’s 206.
It’s the other numbers that tell the subplot of this election and will shape the battles ahead.
By winning just over 50% of the popular vote against Romney’s 48.2%, Obama can barely claim Americans gave him a decisive mandate.
Yes, he defied the odds to win a second term despite the continued perils of the American economy. While the Democrats managed to keep their Senate majority, former vice-presidential candidate, Paul Ryan, and the Republicans, maintained control of the House.
Now that Americans have an incumbent president who is not seeking re-election, can they expect less ideological gridlock from politicians in the years ahead?
The answer is a resounding no, if you consider the statements made by feisty Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, “the voters have not endorsed the failures or excesses of the president’s first term.” Yet, if Republicans realistically expect to regain the White House anytime soon, the ideological and social battles that define McConnell and his cohorts must be realigned to reflect the fundamental shifts in the make-up of American society.
According to CNN, over the past three election cycles there has been a steady decline in the percentage of white voters.
In 2004, 77% were white. In 2008, that dropped to 74%. This time, only 72%.
Traditionally, GOP presidential candidates relied on the support of white voters. In this election, they saw their support from this group slip to 58%, compared to 40% for the Democrats.
But this is only a partial story of the Republican defeat in the face of a demographic political transformation that’s underway.
Support for the Republicans across the board is plummeting within the groups that have demographic momentum. Whether it’s women, Hispanics, Blacks, or young people, the Republican leadership seems to be out of step with America’s emerging realities.
In this election, Latino’s broke the 10% threshold of national votes cast. Obama and the Democrats secured 70% of these votes. Given the growth rate of Spanish-speaking Americans in states such as Nevada, New Mexico, Florida, and Colorado, Republicans must develop a pragmatic strategy to increase their appeal to this group and other non-traditional Republican voters.
Ari Fleischer, former White House press secretary to president George W. Bush, now a CNN contributor, pointed out that in 2004, Bush was only 9% behind John Kerry in support from young people. This time, the spread between Romney and Obama was 30%.
America’s emerging demographic profile, coupled with the political awakening of Hispanics, signal irrevocable changes in the tenor and look of both major political parties.
The Democrats seem to have grasped that reality much sooner than the Republicans.
The Grand Old Party, doesn’t need to look far for inspiration and insight. U.S. Republicans can and should reach out to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada to learn how that once-struggling party expanded its base without abandoning its principles.