Obama's turnout historical in numbers, diversity
The estimated 136 million Americans who voted are part of a radical transformation of American politics – and not just in terms of ideology and party identification.
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John McCain won among older votes and whites overall, who make up about three-quarters of the electorate. But he only managed to eke out a majority there, not even close to the 17 point margin George W. Bush had in 2004 against Senator John Kerry. McCain also lost the “new voter” category, only one in five of whom identified themselves as Republicans.Skip to next paragraph
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About two-thirds of the new voters were under 30, twenty percent were black and another twenty percent were Hispanic. They went overwhelming for Obama. That also helped the Democrats win comfortable margins in the Congress, although they appear to have fallen short of winning the 60 votes needed in the Senate to prevent Republican filibusters.
Analysts contend that gives the Democrats the opportunity to usher in a new era, but they stress it’s only an opportunity.
“Democrats certainly have an opportunity for long-term change because they’ve mobilized young voters, they’ve won the Latino vote, which will grow over time, and they’re doing well in the suburbs where Republicans used to beat them,” says Darrell West, director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution. “But in the long run, their success depends on their performance.”
The broad base that supported Obama has very high expectations, especially among the young.
Pollster John Zogby calls them the “globals,” the latest demographic group that’s taken the political reigns from the baby boomers and the Gen-Xers.
“Obama is the first global [president,] he’s one of them. He looks like their friends, he looks like their future – they have a planetary sensibility that they see in him and, wow, did they turn out to vote,” says Mr. Zogby. “These are Obama’s people…but the question now is: Are they the Democrats' people? They’re clearly not the Republicans' people, but the question is can the Democrats hold on to them? There are going to be a lot of high expectations.”
Indeed, Obama used his speech last night to begin playing down those expectations, repeatedly talking about the challenges ahead. And as he made clear in his email to supporters that he does not intend to meet those challenges alone, isolated with advisors in the White House.
“We have a lot of work to do to get our country back on track,” he wrote. “And I'll be in touch soon about what comes next.”