The political story of the week, month and probably the year continues to be the plight of the Republican Party and its belated effort to break its dependence on white, older Americans.
That’s why RNC Chair Reince Priebus is here in Atlanta, the capitol of black America, seeking input on how to reach African Americans. It’s also why U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio will be giving the GOP response to President Obama’s State of the Union address next week, and is leading a Republican effort to resolve its immigration challenge.
But Stu Rothenberg, writing in Roll Call, lays out what may be the most daunting challenge of all. As he notes, the GOP does very, very well among older voters, particularly older white voters. It does so well, in fact, that by rights it ought to be winning national elections easily:
“Romney … easily beat Obama among voters 45 and older, many of whom came of age politically during the Reagan years or whose views were formed by the Gipper’s brand of conservatism…. he won whites 65 years and older by 61 percent to 39 percent and whites 45-64 by 61 percent to 38 percent.”
But among young voters? Let’s take a look at how GOP presidential candidates have done among the general electorate, compared to how they’ve done among those aged 18-29:
As the chart indicates, among young voters, the GOP is significantly underperforming both its overall numbers and its historic numbers among the young.
Think of it this way: In 1984, Ronald Reagan got 59 percent of the 18-29 vote, and today, 28 years later, many of those young Reagan voters continue to think of themselves as Reagan Republicans and continue to vote that way. Many of those reading this are probably part of that demographic, and had their political views and loyalties formed in that era.
Fast-forward 24 years. In 2008, President Obama got 66 percent of the 18-29 vote, and last year he got 60 percent. When you start doing that cycle after cycle, you build an advantage that is hard to overcome. These are people who are going to be voting for the next half-century.
– Jay Bookman