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Jumping to Conclusions on the 2012 Elections

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The winner of the presidential election will almost certainly see his victory as confirmation that Americans support his agenda, ignoring what is likely to be a split decision in the Congressional elections and a presidential election that shows the country evenly divided, Stuart Rothenberg writes.

Whether President Barack Obama wins a second term or Mitt Romney pulls out a narrow victory, Republicans would be wise to confront the obvious conclusion that they can’t expect to win future presidential elections unless they start to improve their standing with non-white voters.

Whether that means making inroads into the African-American community or, more likely, gaining ground with Hispanics and Asians, the GOP electoral strategy must change as the nation’s demographics do.

Something else that should change but almost certainly won’t is how journalists talk about “women” voters.

Over and over again, we have heard about Romney’s problems with women and female voters. This is baloney, even though, if Romney loses, you will hear some television personality tonight pointing to the gender gap and crediting the president’s victory to “women.”

Romney, like other recent Republican presidential nominees, has problems with black and Hispanic women, not with female voters in general.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who lost his 2008 bid for the White House by more than 7 points, won white women by 7 points, and the Pew Research Center’s Oct. 24-28 poll showed Romney leading by 15 points among white women (54 percent to 39 percent) even as he trailed among women in general by 6 points (50 percent to 44 percent).

Yes, there is a fundamental gender gap — white women are less Republican than white men — but that is not the GOP’s real problem because white voters of both genders favored McCain and will favor Romney by even larger margins today.

Now, I understand that it is in the interest of liberal women’s groups (and Democratic talking heads) to create the impression that all women agree with their agenda and that “women” oppose Romney — in part because of his position on abortion — but when it comes to voting behavior, it is simply misleading to ignore the racial aspects of gender.

Finally, it’s important to remember that this isn’t the last election we will have and that the party that wins the presidency today may find the going rough during the next two or even four years.

For Republicans, a Romney victory could produce a nightmare situation, with a deep schism between ideologues and pragmatists appearing in the GOP and the 2014 midterms offering Democrats a real opportunity to take back the House.

On the other hand, an Obama win would keep Republicans united for at least two more years, giving the party a chance to win the Senate and expand its majority in the House in 2014. And another Obama term would also have Republicans licking their chops for the 2016 presidential election.

Wednesday, after all, marks the first day of the 2014 election cycle and the 2016 presidential race.

Stuart Rothenberg is editor of the Rothenberg Political Report.

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