One of the major differences between the Democrats and Republican Party is that that former is based on a coalition and the latter on a “base.” Since 1992, the Democrats have been dominant in Presidential elections thanks to the diverse coalition they have assembled. The Republicans struggle since the base makes a set of demands on Republican candidates, which then hurts them in the general election. Contrary to what many Republicans think, most of the Democrat coalition are not people who want free stuff. Many are wealthy and others are Middle Class. What unites the Democrat coalition is fear of the Republican Party which quite honestly engages in very hostile rhetoric which turns off voters.
Last December, Jennifer Duffy, an election analyst at the Cook Political Report, came up with a particularly tantalizing set of data points, the kind that demand further exploration.
In 1988, the Democratic presidential nominee, Michael Dukakis, carried 26 percent of the nation’s counties, 819 of 3144, on his way to losing the Electoral College 426-111 and the popular vote by seven percentage points. In 2012, President Obama won fewer counties, 690, but he won the popular vote by four points and the Electoral College in a landslide, 332-206.
The forces behind this shift illuminate the internal realignments taking place within the two major political parties. But first let’s look at how a candidate could carry 129 fewer counties but come out way ahead on Election Day.
In the simplest terms, Democrats started to win populous suburban counties in big states with lots of Electoral College votes beginning with Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign in 1992, at the same time that they began to lose sparsely populated rural counties, many of which lie in small states with very few Electoral College votes.
Take two states as an illustration of this phenomenon: small, thinly populated West Virginia and populous, relatively suburban Pennsylvania.
In 1988, Dukakis won West Virginia’s 5 Electoral College votes 52-47, carrying 31 of 55 counties, 10 of them with more than 60 percent of the vote. In 2012, Obama was crushed in West Virginia by Mitt Romney 62-38, losing in all 55 counties.
In Pennsylvania in 1988, Dukakis lost the state’s 25 Electoral College votes to George H. W. Bush, 51-48. The four major suburban counties surrounding Philadelphia — Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery — backed Bush over Dukakis by a landslide margin 62-38.
In 2012, Obama beat Romney 52-47 to win Pennsylvania’s 20 Electoral College votes. In the four suburban Philadelphia counties, Obama won by a decisive 55-45 margin.
Until Republicans learn to dismantle this Democrat coalition, they will not win the White House for the foreseeable future. One way to begin winning over elements of the Democrat coalition is stop coming across as nasty angry hostile scolds. Sadly, many Republican voters love the rhetoric and the politicians feel they must engage in this rhetoric. The Republican base needs to stop demanding purity and realize they need to form a coalition in order to win. The GOP of 1952-1988 realized this while sadly today’s base-centric GOP would rather insult people than win voters.