Going into the weekend, Romney is maintaining his slim margins in the national polls. Real Clear Politics has Romney polling ahead of Obama by 0.9 points. Rasmussen and Gallup have Romney leading with 50% to Obama’s 47%. The latest ABC/Washington Post poll of likely voters has Romney leading 49% to Obama’s 48%.
On the Electoral College board, Romney’s two-week lead on the Real Clear Politics board has disappeared as North Carolina has momentarily gone back into the tossup column. Real Clear Politics shows Obama with 201 electoral votes and Romney slipping back to 196. North Carolina with its 15 electoral votes projects to lean Republican but the movement this late in the race shows just how close and volatile the race will be remain going into Election Day. Rasmussen’s electoral board has Obama ahead 237 electoral votes to Romney’s 235 and they have North Carolina leaning Republican.
The national race has become so tight that Real Clear Politics has begun entertaining a scenario where the race could be decided by Nebraska and Maine, the only 2 states that allocate Electoral College votes by congressional district. In 2008, Obama secured one electoral vote from Nebraska (4 electoral votes), an otherwise solid red state, by winning Nebraska’s second congressional district. Obama is expected to win Maine’s three electoral votes; however Romney can secure one electoral vote if he wins Maine’s second congressional district. Real Clear Politics suggests that under this scenario neither Romney nor Obama would receive the required 270 Electoral College votes necessary to win the election and therefore the race would be decided by the House of Representatives and in that scenario the majority Republican House would award the election to Romney.
The micro-decisions driving the election to this level are a microcosm of what is occurring in general at the national level. Election politics in the country is becoming more and more polarized around race and rather than leaning forward, thirty years after the supposed end of the Civil Rights movement, the racial divide amongst the parties continue to grow. The winner of this election must include a landmark speech on race and the politics of race to ensure that we continue to look forward and operate as one nation with common goals. In that speech the president-elect needs to stand up and denounce misusing race as an election tactic.
Colin Powell’s endorsement of Obama was thought to be a non-event. Powell had endorsed Obama in 2008, and he is considered a moderate Republican, so the far right platform that dominates modern day Republican Party politics is unappealing to the moderate base, and conversely moderates, i.e. Nelson Rockefeller/Gerald Ford era Republicans are persona non grata in the Grand Ole Party. It explains Romney’s ardent effort to run as far away from his moderate record as he possibly could during the primary season, something that a politician of principle and conviction e.g. Jon Huntsman or Tim Pawlenty refused to do.
But Powell’s endorsement did make news because it is being argued in conservative circles that it is based on race, not issues. Top Romney surrogate, former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu said on Piers Morgan Tonight, “You have to wonder whether that's an endorsement based on issues or whether he's got a slightly different reason for preferring President Obama.” Sununu’s comments echo the sentiments of other conservatives who implied the same thing in 2008. During the 2008 race, Rush Limbaugh said of Powell’s endorsement,” I am now researching his past endorsements to see if I can find all the inexperienced, very liberal, white candidates he has endorsed. I’ll let you know what I come up with.”
Democrats have been the most egregious contributors to election politic race wars. There is a non-stop barrage of accusations from the left leaning liberal media of supposed incidences of race baiting by conservatives. Liz Marlantes of The Christian Science Monitor said “Democrats have repeatedly accused the Romney campaign of using racial “dog whistles” to try to peel off support from working-class whites, while Republicans have complained about what they see as unfair accusations of racism.” In “Mugged: Racial Demagoguery from the Seventies to Obama,” Ann Coulter seeks to expose and disprove the myths of Republican racism. In her column she writes, “The Non-Fox media are lying in wait, hoping I'll disappear so they can revive the old chestnuts about racist Republicans again.”
Whether you believe that Republicans are filled with racist attitudes or Democrats are race-baiters, there is clear evidence that the racial divide in politics has never been greater. The Washington Post, citing the most recent ABC/Washington Post poll said the 2012 election is “shaping up to be more polarized along racial lines than any presidential contest since 1988.”
80% of all non-white voters, including 95% of African-Americans voted for Obama in 2008 and that disparity have grown in 2012 as Romney is expected to receive virtually no votes amongst African-Americans, and only 30% of the Hispanic vote. Latino Decisions said amongst Hispanic voters “Obama stands to beat Romney by nearly 50 percentage points. Over the past few weeks the president’s lead has hovered at around 74% to 26%.”
In 2008, Obama received 43% of the white vote. But this year that number is down to 37%, the lowest for a Democrat in 30 years. Additionally, the majority of independents and other people who have switched support from Obama in 2008 to Romney are white. The Washington Post said, “Half of all of those who supported Obama in 2008 but now say they back Romney are white independents. Overall, whites make up more than 90 percent of such vote “switchers.” Romney has a historical lead of 60% to Obama’s 37% amongst white voters and 91% of Romney supporters are white. Ron Brownstein wrote in The National Journal, “if Romney reaches 61% among white [voters] he would equal the best performance ever for a Republican presidential challenger.” The New Republic wrote that since the first debate, “Obama’s support among white voters has fallen beneath the range consistent with reelection.” And before you cite the economy as the primary issue driving “white flight” from Obama’s camp, note that Obama’s support amongst white voters is lower than Dukakis, Kerry and Carter in his re-election bid. Mondale is the only Democrat that has polled lower amongst white voters than Obama.
The great racial divide in election politics does not bode well for either party, but especially for Obama who campaigned in 2008 on bridging the racial divide in politics. In 2010, House Democrats received only 37% of the white vote. LZ Granderson said, “Republicans are really in trouble because they've all but ignored the black community, and are losing the Latino community.” On the other hand, Granderson points out those Democrats “cannot continue to rely solely on large minority turnout. They need to adjust their messaging so straight white males feel there is still room for them under the tent.” David Bositis, a senior research associate at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies told The Washington Post, “Without improving tallies with minorities, I think this will be the peak for Republicans. The formula they have right now is a long-term loser.”
Soon after Obama’s election in 2008, Lawrence D. Bobo, Ph.D. and W. E. B. Dubois Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University issued a cautionary note on the state of post-racial politics. Writing for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, Bobo said, “The talk of a “post-racial” politics is premature, as is evident in the racially sensitive environment both candidate and President Obama did and will continue to navigate.” How prophetic and descriptive of the muddy waters of election politics in 2012.
Both party leaders, Obama and Romney, need to tell their surrogates to tone it down if not downright knock it off. Democrats may win some votes, but they will lose the country if they continue telling minorities that they want to “put y’all back in chains.” without solid evidence of any retrenchment in race relations. Republicans will not make inroads into the minority community by labeling the president as “lazy” and calling him the “Food Stamp President.” MSNBC’s, what Ann Coulter calls “the Official Network for Racism Detection,” hyper sensitivity at some point will begin to ring hollow with mainstream America if they continue to find racial overtones in every word, speech, interview by a conservative. For example, Chris Matthews trying to imply that the use of the word “apartment” by Romney somehow was a dog whistle. The rhetoric of Rush Limbaugh, Mark Savage, Ann Coulter and Mark Levin amongst other conservatives is giving fuel to a movement amongst white conservative nationalists to proclaim and advocate for a White –only Republican Party, a WOP, using the premise of anti-white men discrimination. Brownstein said, “A GOP coalition that relies almost entirely on whites could squeeze out one more narrow victory in November. But if Republicans can’t find more effective ways to bridge the priorities of their conservative core and the diversifying Next America, that weight will grow more daunting every year.”
The relentless vile attacks on minority conservatives by those on the left and the imagery of slavery that is often used by conservatives are polarizing messages that do nothing to further constructive and civil dialogue in the country. Granderson said, “Both parties are facing a crisis because neither has figured out a message that speaks across racial lines, and until one does, political discourse is only going to get nastier.”
In Nebraska, the Democratic formula is to increase voter turnout amongst African-Americans in Omaha. Given the small population of African-Americans in Nebraska it is highly probable that the 2nd Congressional District will revert back to Romney in this election. In Maine, redistricting has made the northern rural area more conservative and is almost all white. RCP said in Maine’s 2nd Congressional district, “Romney could run better than Bush here because he presently runs about five points net ahead of Bush nationally among whites.” RCP and others are speculating that this district could throw the election to the House for a decision. Can you imagine what will happen if the majority, nearly all White (there are only 2 black Republicans in all of Congress) Republican House, elects Romney, especially if it is the result of an all-white district in Maine.
Marlantes said, “We’d wager nearly everyone agrees that an electorate split more sharply along racial lines than at any time in a generation is probably not a healthy state of affairs for the country.”