by Thomas B. Edsall
The 2014 election suggests that the intermittently heralded new Democratic majority in presidential elections is not inevitable, that the strong allegiance of core Democratic constituencies is not assured, and that the state-by-state Electoral College map is changing.
Taken together, the current contest and the 2010 election demonstrate the strength of the Republican Party in low-turnout, midterm years. Perhaps the most significant development in 2014 is the ability of Republican candidates to break with hard right conservative orthodoxy – even candidates whose own roots are in the hard right. This capacity, insofar as it is carried over into 2016, has the potential to break the pro-Democratic tilt of presidential elections and to force a major strategic re-evaluation by politicians and operatives in both parties.
The Gallup Poll has found a slow but steady reduction in Democratic support among whites over the past two decades and a parallel increase in support among white voters for the Republican Party. In the Clinton years, whites favored Republicans over Democrats by 4.1 percentage points; in the Bush years, the Republican advantage grew to 5.4 points; in the Obama years, the Republican Party has pulled ahead by 9.5 points.
Extensive polling has already demonstrated that some of the states considered reliable sources of Democratic or Republican Electoral College votes are shifting to a more competitive status.
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