Last Wednesday Mark Leibovich, the New York Times Magazine political reporter, told our Politics 101 class something that intensely piqued my interest: his vote means almost nothing since President Obama would win Washington D. C. in a landslide with or without his vote. He clarified his statement by explaining that often when states are historically extremely left or right winged, an individual vote will not make a difference to the electorate vote. This is not to say that he was saying we shouldn’t vote even if we know our vote won’t make a difference to our state’s final results. But it made me wonder, if one vote in a state that is overwhelmingly republican or democratic doesn’t make a difference, besides people in swing states, who or what does make a vote important and influential to the results of the election?
While President Obama has tried to win over women voters, young voters, and minority voters and has had increasing success, Governor Romney has been concentrating on the white voters. Romney’s numbers with African-Americans and Hispanics have hardly changed at all. But his poll results with white voters have been on the rise. Romney went from being up 10, or 12 points, to being ahead by 19 or 20 points. That 20-point threshold with white voters is probably the absolute bare minimum he needs to win the popular vote.” Typically minority voters make up about 25% of the popular vote. Romney has chosen to concentrate almost completely on winning an overwhelming amount of the white vote and hope that minority voter turnout is low, which seems to me to be a dangerous strategy. To ensure the presidential win through only the white vote, Mitt Romney needs to win at least 61 percent of the white vote. This would exceed what George H. W. Bush achieved in the 1988 election. An overwhelming number of minority voters (89% of African American voters and 70% of Hispanic voters) voted for the democratic candidate, Michael Dukakis; yet, President Bush still won the election with 60% of the white vote. This risky tactic seems misguided and does not represent the diversity of our country; however, it has worked before and seems to be working thus far for Governor Romney.
Since President Obama nearly lost Indiana, North Carolina, and Virginia in 2008 due to fewer than anticipated voters under 30, it has been his goal to ensure that every young voter votes. “John Della Volpe, director of the Harvard polling institute, predicted Obama will see similar margins among the 25 to 29-year old voters who supported him in 2008 but a harder time with 18-24 year old voters.” To be sure that the younger demographic votes for him, his campaign has been encouraging celebrity supporters to share their opinions and appearing often in college towns and on social media. The Obama campaign has also been emphasizing problems relevant to young voters while criticizing Mitt Romney’s plans to cut education spending and reverse administration policies on gay marriage and abortion
There are a few factors that may greatly affect the outcome. Many voters have taken advantage of absentee voting and early voting in some states. And Hurricane Sandy could affect voter turnout. President Obama has been encouraging voters to vote early in this election since he greatly benefitted from early voting in 2008, receiving in excess of than 120,000 absentee ballots more than his opponent John McCain.
Although some states have extended the deadline of voting (Virginia), others have suspended early voting (Washington DC, Maryland). Since nearly 40% of votes come from early voting, this could clearly make a difference for those who show up to vote. In parts of Virginia, in-person absentee voting has been shut down due to Hurricane Sandy in regions that were key to Obama’s victory in the 2008 election. “The storm could potentially slow the pace of early or in-person absentee voting in the three swing states of Virginia, Ohio, and North Carolina.” In addition, voters who planned to vote in their local precincts may be unable to do so due to the effects of the storm. The outcome of this 2012 Presidential election is certainly turning out to be a lot less predictable than anyone anticipated due to a number of unusual factors.