Demographic Trouble

There has been a lot of talk, since the Republicans lost the last presidential election, about how the GOP has demographic problems, mostly about how they need to reach out to minorities and women. While I agree that their immigration and women’s health positions are part of their problem and should be revisited, I think the GOP’s demographic problem is much bigger than that. It’s not that the Republicans aren’t popular among minorities and women, it’s that they aren’t popular with people.

Okay, that’s exaggerated and over-simplified. It would be truer to say that the places where Republicans are popular don’t have a lot of people in them. Check out this map on

2016 Presidential Election: Electoral Map.

These are the states that the two parties can rely on come 2016, defined as “haven’t swung from one party to the other since 2004 or before.” As you can see, the swath of red in the middle is huge compared to the blue around the edges. But you may also notice that the red states don’t have a lot of electoral votes meaning they have small populations. The Republicans can only count on five states with double-digit electoral votes and only Texas has more than 20. Thus the Republicans, even with the Electoral College’s bias toward small states has only 180 reliable electoral votes while the Democrats have 246. As the name of the website states, you need 270 to win. If Texas turned reliably blue and nothing else changed, 246+38=284, the Republicans would be done for. Even keeping Texas, the Republicans can’t win if they can’t win Florida. That doesn’t get them anywhere near 270, but if the Democrats get Florida, it puts them over the top.

But wait, you may be saying, states that haven’t swung in the past three elections, that’s not much of a standard. Surely states that haven’t swung in the past four elections is a better measure of reliability. Well, yes, it is. But if we look just at the states that haven’t swung since 2000, the only change is New Hampshire’s 4 electoral votes going into the “tossup” pile. The GOP still has to win Florida and a whole bunch of other states.

Hmmm, I hear some of you thinking, surely five in a row is an even better approximation of reliability, that should put some more states in play. Yes, it does, but they are all red states. If we put the standard at five elections in a row, the Democrats still control 242 electoral votes and the Republicans drop to 121 (Bill Clinton was pretty popular in the south in ’96). The last time any of those solid blue states voted Republican was 1988.

The Republicans keep talking about “energizing the base” but what they don’t realize is that their base is too small. Sure, it works at the Congressional district level, but it won’t work on the national level, not for long anyway. Personally, I think they’ve already passed the point of no return on that strategy. If the GOP ever wants to win the White House again, they’re going to have to stop energizing and start growing the base.


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