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.
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
And herein lies the staggering genius of Romney's Paul Ryan pick. The optics alone reflect the far right's fantasy: an all-white, all-male ticket that appeases the GOP base. In fact, Ryan seems nearly identical to Romney's own sons: tall, dark-haired and preppy. No Latino like Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, and no woman like Sarah Palin. This picture-perfect ticket says that the Romney-Ryan plan is to restore American power to its paler past.
But dig a little deeper and Ryan -- just like Romney -- doesn't measure up.