If Barack Obama wins re-election on Tuesday, he will have succeeded by winning the majority of votes cast by African-Americans, Latinos, single women, unionized white workers in the rust belt, the northeastern United States, the west coast, LGBT Americans, and voters under the age of 50.
In some cases, (African-Americans and Hispanics, who according to the latest Latino Decisions poll are breaking for the president by an unprecedented 73 percent to 24 percent, with the potential to decide the election in four states) he will have won a super-majority of those voters.
But if you ask the Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen, the senior editors at Politico, he will have won, without really winning:
If President Barack Obama wins, he will be the popular choice of Hispanics, African-Americans, single women and highly educated urban whites. That’s what the polling has consistently shown in the final days of the campaign. It looks more likely than not that he will lose independents, and it’s possible he will get a lower percentage of white voters than George W. Bush got of Hispanic voters in 2000.
A broad mandate this is not.
Mr. Vandehei and Mr. Allen have finally stripped the political-speak from a truism that is all-too common among the Beltway media: that white voters are the default — the necessary ingredient for the creation of a “broad mandate.” In fact, not even all white voters get to be a part of the mandate. Apparently, “highly educated urban whites” need not apply.
What Politico’s prognosticators have failed to explain, is how a sitting president, having previously been elected by 52 percent of voters, and then re-elected, most likely by more than half the electorate again, including nearly four in ten white voters (the “highly educated urban” ones and the working class renegades who somehow managed to reject Mitt Romney’s racial tractor beam, according to Politico’s formulation), would fail to have earned a “mandate.”
Last we checked, black, Latino, young, single, and even “highly educated urban” folks were Americans, too. And winning a majority of those votes is a mandate.
And the president has also performed roughly better than or even with all of his Democratic predecessors since Jimmy Carter among white male voters.
In a country as diverse as America is, and as diverse as it is becoming, it seems that any president, from either party, has to at least have a means of appealing to, addressing, and governing in the interests, of Americans who are not older, southern and Midwestern white men and their wives (the groups Romney is winning in a landslide).
To put it more pointedly, how would Politico’s editors explain the “mandate” that would be won by Romney if he were to win, since in doing so, he will have won almost no votes from minority voters, and since his party will have done so after appearing to be determined, even desperate, to keep those groups from the polls by restricting early voting, and raising the illegitimate specter “voter fraud” at every turn?
In the 21st century, can a president truly be said to have earned a broad mandate, having essentially run against, and then been rejected by, ethnic groups that represent a combined quarter of the U.S. population?
Can a president be said to have a mandate if he is rejected by a majority of women of all races?
Can a president be said to have a broad mandate without being able to address, or at least not offend, non-white Americans?
Or is being a president who shares the ethnicity of 43 of the last 44 presidents all the “mandate” Romney would need?