Since the first year of the Obama administration, Michael Barone has identified two issues which could tip the 2012 election, the first, related to the policies at odds with the candidate’s strongest supporters in the 2008 election, the second, an increasing tendency of suburban voters to return to their (pre-1992) Republican roots.
As to the president’s strongest supporters, Barone observed in 2009 that “Democrats’ policies are not in sync” with younger voters, part of a generation
. . . accustomed to making its own choices and shaping its own world. They listen to their own iPod playlists, not someone else’s Top 40; they construct their own Facebook pages rather than enlisting in the official Elvis Fan Club.
At the same time, crediting “longtime Democratic pollster and political analyst Pat Caddell,” Barone pointed out that in the 2009 off-off-year elections, “affluent suburban voters moved sharply toward Republicans in 2009”. And not just in the marquee gubernatorial contests that fall. Republican candidates also did well in contests in the Philadelphia and New York suburbs.
Last night, the pundit native to Detroit offered his hunch that Romney’s success in that city’s suburbs has “implications. . . for the general election“:
Romney has shown in Michigan as elsewhere a capacity to win votes in affluent areas—which is exactly where (at least in the North) Republicans have been weak in presidential general elections over the last 20 years. Look at it this way: in 1988 George H. W. Bush carried the five-county metro Detroit area 50%-49%–a tiny margin, but one which enabled him, with a 56%-43% Outstate margin that was underwhelming in historic perspective, to carry Michigan. Similarly, the elder Bush, with big margins from affluent suburbanites, carried metro Boston, metro New York, metro Philadelphia, metro Cleveland and metro Chicago, which enabled him to win the electoral votes of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Illinois.
H.W.’s son never did as well as his Dad in metro Detroit.
A better showing in metro Detroit—even coming short of carrying the metro area [that that of the younger Bush], as the elder Bush did in 1988, and even short of improving on the younger Bush’s showings Outstate—would enable a nominated Mitt Romney to carry Michigan in 2012.
A smart Republican operative would seek to understand why H.W. failed to do as well in the ‘burbs in 1992 and as he had done four years previously — and why his son didn’t show the strength there that Republicans had enjoyed there in the 1970s and 1980s when Republican nominees won the largely suburban states of New Jersey and Connecticut in every election while also holding Michigan.