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White men coveted by Dems and GOP this November

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

There was an interesting article this week in The New York Times with a strong focus on politics in Michigan. It dealt with a particular aspect of the Democratic Party’s trouble winning in off-presidential years: the coveted white male voter. Yes, working class, high school-educated, married white men are wanted.

Republicans, in fact, have relied on dominance among white males to win elections for many, many years now. And a lot has been made of the fact that right now Republicans are facing big troubles winning over minority voters - African American, Hispanic - as well as immigrants and single women, a weakness that Democrats have been able to use.

But Democrats have been, for many years, losing the white male vote. Remember the Reagan Democrats? White, blue collar, many of them union members, with a strong presence in southeast Michigan and, over time, they stopped being Reagan Democrats and just became Republicans.

Exit polls from The Washington Post show President Obama lost white voters by 20 points in 2012 to Mitt Romney, the largest losing margin among whites in 30 years. Now, of course, every election is different. We know not as many voters will cast a ballot in 2014 as 2012 because it’s a midyear election when the presidential race isn’t on top of the ballot which creates, in turn, less voter excitement.

Minority turnout in all likelihood will also be lower than it was two years ago. So, if Democrats want to win Michigan this year, they’re going to have to do some things - secure their base, boost their turnout, and win over some of that working class, married, white male vote which, typically, breaks 60 percent or more in favor of Republicans.

And they’ll have to do it without giving away their advantage among other groups like minorities, those with college educations and single women.

We’ll see what the Democrats come up with. Republicans might be able to get away with continuing to do what they’ve been doing - even if it’s not a winning long-term strategy.

In the meantime, CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Committee, opened its convention this week in Washington D.C. and no doubt a lot of the talk will be how to craft and pitch a conservative agenda to those groups that are breaking toward Democrats.

The GOP will also be looking for ways to restore the partnership between traditional Republicans and the Tea Party, an internal battle that isn’t doing Republican candidates any favors looking ahead to November.

And, speaking of the Tea Party vs. Republican establishment battle, the fight continues here in Michigan over lieutenant governor.

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley isfacing a convention challengethis year over his re-nomination. It’s a challenge being mounted by Tea Partiers who don’t trust his conservative bona fides.  There’s already one announced Tea Partier who will run against Calley during the GOP convention and there’s talk there could be another. There’s a battle brewing over precinct delegates to the convention and that is time, effort, and organizing that could be spent on the general election.

It’s also forcing Republicans to focus on securing their base: the working class white male.

Zoe Clark is Michigan Public's Political Director. In this role, Clark guides coverage of the state Capitol, elections, and policy debates.
Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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