p> WASHINGTON — To become the nation’s first African-American president, Barack Obama not only won heavy percentages of the black and Hispanic vote but also managed to trim the Democratic Party’s traditional deficit among white voters.
Four years after Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts lost the white vote by 17 percentage points, Obama lost it by 12, according to exit polls. While the 2008 gains were generally attributed to Obama’s strength with young voters — he won by 10 points among whites 18 to 29 years old — he managed to improve on Kerry’s showing with white voters across every age demographic.
Fast-forward to today. With the November midterm elections fewer than four months away, Obama’s standing among white voters has sunk, leading some party strategists to fret that the president’s erosion — and the party’s — could hurt Democrats’ chances of holding on to their House and Senate majorities.
“Since in the past House elections white voters tended to represent the independent vote, [the midterms] will surely be devastating for Democrats running in an election that will be a referendum on the Obama agenda,’’ predicted one senior Democratic operative who tracks House races.
In Washington Post-ABC polling, Obama’s approval rating among white voters dropped from better than 60 percent to just above 40 percent. In a June poll, 46 percent of white voters under age 40 approved of Obama, compared with 39 percent of whites 65 and older.
One senior strategist noted that white voters made up 79 percent of the 2006 midterm electorate, while they made up 74 percent of the 2008 vote. If the white percentage returns to its 2006 level, that means there will be 3 million more white voters than if it stayed at its 2008 levels. That scenario, said the source, “would generate massive losses’’ for House and Senate Democrats in November because of Obama’s standing with that demographic.
The drop in support comes from many of the bankers, hedge fund executives, and financial services chief executives who are most upset about the financial regulatory reform bill that House Democrats passed last week with almost no Republican support. The Senate expects to take up the measure later this month.
The fund-raising free-fall from the New York area has left Democrats with diminished resources to defend their House and Senate majorities in November’s midterm elections. Although the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have seen just a 16 percent drop in overall donations compared with this stage of the 2008 campaign, party leaders are concerned about the loss of big-dollar donors. The two committees have raised $49.5 million this election cycle from people giving $1,000 or more at a time, compared with $81.3 million at this point in the last election.
The success of major college teams in the two weeks before an election can have a measurable impact on how well incumbent politicians do at the polls, researchers report in today’s edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.