(Together whites, blacks and Latinos make up over 90 percent of the population, per 2011 census estimates. The remainder is comprised of other racial groups that are so infrequently polled in national surveys that we are unable to track them.)
White voters have leaned increasingly Republican in recent elections, although still not nearly as overwhelmingly as blacks and Latinos lean Democratic.
Whites broke for then-President Bush at a 58 percent clip in 2004, according to exit polling, while 41 percent went for Sen. John Kerry (D-MA). Obama narrowed the gap a little, winning 43 percent of white voters and holding Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to 55 percent in 2008, according to exit polling.
Team Romney has set a target of 61 percent of the white vote, according to reporting by Ron Brownstein. It won’t be easy.
“If he reaches 61 percent among whites, he would equal the best performance ever for a Republican presidential challenger with that group of voters: Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, Ronald Reagan in 1980, and George H.W. Bush in 1988 each won between 56 percent and 61 percent of white voters, according to polls at the time,” Brownstein reports.
While Republicans are making a push for Latino voters, they remain a small part of Romney’s support so far, despite a heavy emphasis on wooing Latino voters, with prime speaking slots in Tampa and a focus on the party’s pitch to that segment of the voting bloc.
For his part, Obama’s support from white voters represents about two-thirds of his total support, according to our chart. His substantially more diverse coalition — which is consistent with historic pattern for Democrats — is they key to offsetting Romney’s stronger support among white voters.
But Obama cannot bank merely on high levels of support from minority voters; he needs high turnout among those segments, too.
African-American voters remain the most loyal Democratic constituency in modern elections, often with more than 90 percent rate of them voting Democratic. In 2008, African-American voters turned out in record numbers to vote for President Obama.
As for Romney’s effort to capture the presidency with so little support from minorities, he is fighting the inexorable demographic changes that are diversifying the electorate as a whole. “This is the last time anyone will try to do this,”
one Romney adviser told Brownstein.
Chart by Christopher O’Driscoll.