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Officials tout minority vote as key demographic in Obama victory

BY STACEY MURRAY | NOVEMBER 08, 2012 6:30 AM

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In the wake of the presidential election, many are taking note that minorities are transforming into a majority voter block.

“The emergence of a new demographic basis where the racial composition of the electorate is changing such that parties can’t win elections just by winning white voters,” said Cary Covington, a University of Iowa associate professor of political science.

While GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney won 59 percent of the white vote, Obama won 93 percent of the African-American vote, along with 71 percent of Latino votes.

“Historically, the Republican Party has been willing to trade appeals to minorities in exchange for white votes,” Covington said.

The importance of the minority vote has been stressed through several campaigns, but experts say they’ve been predicting this turning point for decades.

“Political scientists have seen this coming for 20 years,” Covington said.  “This election is sort of the tipping point, and it’s clear the political parties can’t base its aspirations on white voters without making significant efforts to minorities.”

Earlier this year the U.S. Census Bureau reported ethnic and racial minorities account for a majority of babies born in the United States.

While the Democratic campaign seemingly reached these votes in a more efficient manner, Michael Hunt, the communications director for the Iowa Democrats, said they didn’t have an advantage with minorities — they had a strategy.

“It’s not as if we had an advantage,” he said.  “We just made a choice to support all Americans instead of a few.  I resent the idea that they think we have an advantage to reach out to minorities and women.”

But Republicans feel they would have drawn more minority vote had their message been better presented.

“The core goal is that every individual can be great,” said Megan Stiles, the Iowa GOP communications director.  “If it is articulated clearly, it can help with other demographics we don’t traditionally do as well with.”

Minorities aren’t the only demographic the GOP needs.

“Republicans are going to have to find a way to make their party attractive to minorities and to some extent, women and young people,” Covington said.

Obama won roughly 60 percent of 18- to 29-year-old voters, and Republicans admit more efforts could be made to attract these voters.

“If Republicans want to keep all these new, young voters in the party, people — especially older Republicans — need to realize that we want as many people as possible, and we need these young members,” Stiles said.

Kelsey Boehm, the president of UI College Republicans and a politically active member of the coveted youth vote, said if the party takes a more moderate stance on issues, the party has the chance to appeal to younger voters.

“I know that all of college students are very liberal on social issues, so a shift might help them get the younger vote,” she said.

This shift from conservatism to more moderate stances on social issues is something conservatives have considered.

“I think obviously the party is getting younger,” Stiles said. “They tend to have more moderate views on social issues, and the party needs to look at this if it wants to keep those votes.”


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