Published for www.commentarymagazine.com, May 8, 2012
There was a story in Saturday’sWashington Post that could have significant bearing on the 2012 presidential race. According to thePost, “The number of black and Hispanic registered voters has fallen sharply since 2008, posing a serious challenge to the Obama campaign in an election that could turn on the participation of minority voters.”
The story goes on to say that according to the Census Bureau, for the first time in nearly four decades, the number of registered Hispanics has dropped significantly. “But in some politically important swing states, the decline among Hispanics, who are considered critical in the 2012 presidential contest, is much higher,” reporter Krissah Thompson said. “Just over 28 percent in New Mexico, for example, and about 10 percent in Florida… Among Latinos, the decline has altered a trend of steady growth. Given that 12 million Latinos were registered to vote in 2008, some analysts had projected the number would grow to 13 million in 2010 and 14 million this election cycle. Instead, it fell in 2010 to 11 million.”
“Everyone is saying the Latino vote is rocketing to the moon,” said Antonio Gonzalez of the Velasquez Institute. “It has been growing, but it stopped.”
For blacks, registration numbers are down 7 percent nationwide.
The decline in minority registration “is obviously an area of concern,” said Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg, president of NDN, a left-leaning think tank.
Whether the Obama campaign can turn this around is impossible to know. But if it cannot, the chances for Obama to win re-election, which are already probably less than even, will dramatically decrease. If Obama wins less than 80 percent of the minority vote against Romney (as he did against John McCain), and/or if minority voters comprise 26 percent of all voters (as they did in 2008) or less, then it’s difficult to see how Obama wins a second term.
My own hope is that minority registration increases, that Mitt Romney makes a genuine appeal for their votes, and that in doing so he wins a larger-than-expected percentage. The increasing minority-white split in America is troublesome for all the obvious reasons.