The GOP's Shrinking Base

The white working-class group that Romney and his VP pick are courting isn't what it used to be.

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Of course, Ryan's great-grandfather is a positive example of successful American enterprise, but the broader truth reveals the hypocrisy inherent in Republican policies -- supported by both Romney and Ryan -- that cripple the working class.

Appealing to the White Working Class

At the heart of today's Republican ideology is a commitment to protecting the interests of the wealthy. But strangely, its core voting base consists of uneducated, working-class citizens -- and poor whites in particular. For decades, since Barry Goldwater's failed 1964 campaign and subsequent implementation of Nixon's Southern strategy, the GOP has enjoyed a bastion of working-class white voters in the same way that African Americans became stalwart Democrats.

The irony is that while liberals have supported an agenda of civil rights -- which naturally appealed to black voters -- Republicans have chosen a deductive strategy, using divisive, racially infused campaigns that demonize minorities as the source of societal ills and frame conservative, faith-based principles as an answer. Relying on cultural divides, Republicans have managed to secure the loyalty of poor whites even though conservatives push economic policies -- like sending manufacturing jobs offshore -- that hurt the very people who are now their base.

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But the 2010 census proved what Republicans had feared: that white Americans are a diminishing majority -- representing only 63 percent of the total population -- and are projected to be a minority by 2025. African Americans, Hispanics and Asians are coloring both social and electoral lines, and President Obama's success in the 2008 election highlighted how formidable race and ethnicity are in predicting voting outcomes. He won 95 percent of black voters, 67 percent of Latinos and healthy percentages of college-educated whites -- 56 percent of women and 42 percent of men. The GOP's reliance on the white working class alone became no longer viable.

Instead of expanding their party's membership by including minorities and young voters, Republicans chose to double-down, reinforcing its image as a white-male-dominated franchise. The original thinking, it appears, was that by using coded messages questioning Obama's nationality and religion, the GOP could lead white voters -- regardless of socioeconomic status -- to distrust the president.

The midterm elections of 2010 proved that these tactics were effective. Recent polls by Quinnipiac and Pew Research show that Obama has lost support among white voters without a college degree. He now averages 34 percent within the group, despite having won 40 percent of that vote in 2008.

The new voter-ID laws in key states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida are designed to subvert any advantage Obama may have derived from African Americans and Latinos by offsetting it through a combination of minority-vote suppression and, possibly, a surge of white voters who are hostile to the president.

Optics vs. Reality