The Saeculum Decoded
A Blog by Neil Howe
Nov 082012

On November 7, Americans were just beginning to assess the magnitude and meaning of President Obama’s ’12 victory when the Dow dropped over 300 points, its largest daily plunge of the year. The next day, November 8, it plunged again. It’s almost as if history doesn’t want to give us time to contemplate what happened. But now, at the risk ignoring the rush of events, let’s take a moment to put some closure on the election season.

Overall, as my readers know, the ‘12 results were pretty much what I anticipated.

I said the election would be a lot closer than in ‘08, but that Obama would win. The margin would be narrow, but the outcome would not be an all-night cliffhanger. That turned out to be about right. In ’08, Obama won by 7.3 percent of the popular vote, just about the median margin for all elections in U.S. history. (It was just shy of FDR’s margin over Thomas Dewey in 1944.)  In ’12, Obama won by only 2.3 percent of the popular vote, which is the fifth smallest since 1900. (It was just under George W. Bush’s 2.5 percent margin against John Kerry, an election that was also considered a squeaker.)

I said there would be a 15-to-25 percentage point gap between under-30 young vote for Obama and the 65+ senior vote for Obama. In ’08, the gap was 21 percent; and in ’12, a preliminary survey by Pew projected it would be 20 percent. In fact, according to exit polls, the ‘12 gap between young and old was 16 points. So age polarization did moderate slightly. From ’08 to ’12, all age groups voted about 3 percent more for Romney. But Millennials tipped somewhat more steeply to Romney (about 5 percent) and the Silent a bit less. Let me go back to the postwar history of the presidential “generation gap” and update the Pew chart here. My edits in red show the actual ’12 exit poll results.

Why the moderation—or shrinkage—of the Obama youth margin from ‘08? Pre-election surveys identifying this youth shift away from Obama found that it was generated mostly by young whites (especially non-college young whites who have been hit hardest by the post-2008 economy) and only to a lesser extent by young minorities. The CIRCLE crosstabs on the exit poll, shown below, confirm that this is indeed what happened. Note that this time, unlike in ’08, the majority of young whites (51 percent) voted for the GOP.

This should not be a surprise. Unlike McCain, who struck many Millennials in ’08 as simply “too old,” Romney came across as more youthful and did not present the same obvious age contrast with Obama. Also, as I have mentioned in previous posts, Millennials are attracted to Romney’s cool, analytical, consensus-seeking persona—just as they have been attracted to many of these same qualities in Obama. The huge positive shift to Romney among under-50 whites after the first debate was largely attributed to the popular discovery that Romney was not an eccentric hothead like McCain or committed culture warrior like Rick Perry. This discovery brought Romney back into the race and hugely complicated Team Obama’s campaign strategy. Ultimately, however, it was not enough to put Romney over the top.

Although I’ve reported on several surveys pointing to declining youth enthusiasm for the election, I’ve also insisted that the Millennial Generation is destined to be a civic force to be reckoned with. My entire generational model points in that direction. True to my model, Millennials pulled through—surprising many who had predicted they would stay home. In fact, according to the latest CIRCLE estimates, the ‘12 youth voter participation rate (at least 49 percent, the count is not over yet) was nearly as strong as it was in ’08 (52 percent). This rate is already higher than ’04 (48 percent) and much higher than in the last election in which Gen-Xers totally filled the under-30 age bracket (1996: 37 percent).

In ’12 as in ’08, the youth vote determined the outcome—meaning that if the under-30 vote had simply split 50-50, McCain and Romney would have won. This cannot be said of any election earlier than 2008, going all the way back to the 1930s. The youth vote likewise determined the outcome of all the major battleground states that went this time to Obama: Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Many who expected a GOP victory clearly hoped that a lot fewer youth voters would show up at the polls this year. This did not happen. Or, if it did happen to some degree, declining excitement probably kept home precisely those young voter categories (noncollege white males) who would have been least likely to vote for Obama. Either way, no advantage for Team Romney.

More generally, the ’12 results showed that the Democrats were mostly right, and the Republicans mostly wrong, about the composition of the turnout. The GOP-ridiculed “D+6” model turned out to be dead on. Also, futures markets like Intrade once again demonstrated their uncanny ability to hone in on the most likely outcome, even when real-time voter surveys were jumping all around. Conservatives who normally praise the virtues of markets should have known this all along.

Let me turn to two further perspectives on the results—income and ethnicity. Each sheds some interesting light on where Romney went wrong and why he fell short.

First, income. As discussed in a previous post, a major Pew survey recently revealed that the significant overall voter shift away from Democratic (and toward Republican) party identification over the last four years has been generated entirely by lower- and middle-income voters. Reason: They have been hardest hit by the economy. Affluent voters, by contrast, actually lean more to Obama and the Democrats in 2012 than in 2008. For Romney to win, it was absolutely essential for him to exploit this opening and harness this disaffection. He had to persuade these voters that the Obama economy had failed them and had stripped them of their security, dignity, and independence. And he had to make his biggest gains (relative to ’08) among lower income brackets.

In this effort he failed. The GOP preference by income bracket in ’12 was even steeper (slightly) than in ’08. Among > $100K voters, Romney won 54 percent; among < $50K voters, he won 38 percent. Compared to McCain in ’08, Romney did better over $100K and worse under $50K. To be sure, Romney faced some unique challenges in appealing to lower-income America—starting with his image as a very wealthy Wall Street wheeler-dealer. But these were surmountable. (Obama too is regularly criticized as an elitist Ivy League legal theorist, yet over time he has learned to handle the issue deftly.) What killed Romney was not the image, but rather the substance he regularly delivered that perfectly matched the image. Notorious example: the surreptitiously taped “47 percent” monologue, which was exactly the wrong message and which remained attached to Romney until the end of the campaign. The remark did untold damage. At long last, Jimmy Carter’s humiliating 1980 loss to the GOP was avenged by his grandson!

Second, ethnicity. And here I’m not sure I have the answers. Romney was the decisive favorite of all white Americans (59 percent).  He was even the decisive favorite of all white American women (56 percent). Yet Romney was also distinctly unpopular among nonwhites: He got the vote of only 27 percent of Hispanics, 26 percent of Asians, and 6 percent of African-Americans. Despite his better overall showing compared to McCain in ‘08, Romney actually lost 4 points among Hispanics and (incredibly) 11 points among Asians.

What’s going on here? Of course, everyone points to John McCain’s and George W. Bush’s conciliatory stance on immigration reform as one reason they didn’t suffer as badly at the hands of minority voters. Maybe. But I don’t think that’s a complete explanation. Romney and Obama actually agree on most of the basics of immigration reform—and though minority immigrants widely approve of Obama’s Dream Act and selective enforcement policy, they also know about his relentless deportation agenda. (Obama has deported more immigrants than any other President.)

I think something deeper, more cultural is at work. An 11 percent decline among Asians? That’s a catastrophe for the GOP. Asians are not known to obsess over immigration reform. They exceed whites in median household income. They are socially conservative, aspire to own property, and admire successful business leaders. In recent elections, I haven’t found one in which they didn’t give the GOP at least 40 percent of their vote.  In 1996, when Dole lost badly to Clinton, Asians actually preferred Dole to Clinton, 48 to 43 percent. So what happened in 2012?

Perhaps this is where Romney’s Mormonism ultimately hurt him—not, as once expected, among white evangelicals (who ended up ignoring theology and voting for him anyway), but among nonwhite minorities (who could not look past the long LDS heritage as a white-only church). Again, I am simply suggesting possibilities. I welcome your suggestions.

We can make two fairly certain predictions for how Romney’s defeat is going to play out for the future of the GOP and for the Republican candidates likely to be running in 2016. One prediction is generational. Romney is likely to be the last Boomer to run as the GOP Presidential candidate. After all, by nearly everyone’s post-mortem consensus, he was the ablest Boomer contender in ’12 and still he lost. In 2016, by contrast, a huge new influx of first-wave Gen-Xers will be flooding onto the GOP primary stage. They are smart, charismatic, and (mostly) have plenty of hands-on executive experience. I’m talking about Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Nikki Haley, Scott Walker, Paul Ryan, Bobby Jindal, Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Ted Cruz. And maybe we can add on late-wave Boomers (both born in 1959) Susana Martinez and Scott Brown.

To be sure, not all the these will run for the White House in ’16. And, of those who do, many have sharp edges and as-yet unvetted secrets that could prevent them from going all the way to nomination. But it is an impressive field, and the Democrats have nothing like it in the bull pen.

In fact, it’s easy to imagine a generational reversal in party candidates. The Democrats in 2016 could very well move back to a Boomer candidate (Hillary, we know you’ve been waiting!), who might encounter little serious competition from Xers. Meanwhile, the Republicans are clearly going to put an Xer at the top of their ticket. Moreover—and this is my second prediction—this Xer is very likely to be nonwhite or Hispanic. (Of the contenders listed above, three are Hispanic and two are Indian.) Given Romney’s exit polls, many GOP leaders will regard the elevation of a minority standard bearer for their party as not just a nice-thing-to-do, but as a must-thing-to-do.

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  • akcoder

    Neil Howe,

    I am under the impression the GOP lost the Asian American vote in 2012 because the Asian American voting bloc has a higher percentage of high income earners than other ethnicities. I don’t think this was racial or religious, rather it was simply that the (mostly) high earning Asian Americans were actually doing just fine under Obama (at least for now) and didn’t understand Romney’s FUD about Obamacare, coal country, and general economic malaise.

    As for Hispanics, the GOP primaries with their debates really alienated a large swath of the Hispanic population. This not only hurt Romney with Latinos in 2012 but will have repercussions for the GOP in the near future. Their attempt to tout Hispanics at the RNC was simply seen as a charade.

    One last point, I believe Jeb Bush would be a great contender for 2016. He would be one of the last boomers, but he has a fair shot with his moderate temperament, Hispanic appeal, and success as governor. Whether or not he can make it through the GOP primary is up for question.

    • I agree with you that Jeb Bush would have made an interesting and possibly effective Boomer candidate. Alas, for Jeb’s supporters, no one’s really sure whether or when he will re-enter politics. As for the minority question, you haven’t persuaded me why having a high income or Obamacare or coal-country rhetoric should have such a vastly different impact on white v. Asian voters. We simply have not seen anything like it in prior elections.

  • Neil

    Great post. I think Jeb’s son could be added to your list for 2020 onward (George P Bush- 1976 and half Hispanic, a possible Obama type transformational President).

    As for the Asian issue: I am a 2nd generation Canadian of Indo-Pakistani origin but I have lots of US cousins. Pretty much all of them voted for Obama. Why? I think the reason is twofold. First of all, Obama is perceived as one of us. His birth in Hawaii, time in Asia (and a half sister who is part Asian), and his inclusive nature. Also, a lot of us mid/late Xers/early Millenials grew up very comfortable with and relate to African Americans (basketball, hip hop, etc…). Secondly, the Republican party of Reagan/Bush 41 is no longer. The current Fox news, Christian Right, rural, pro gun, Tea Party stereotype is not something that most Asians can relate to. If I was American, I would have voted for Romney despite all the above, but I can tell that I am in the small minority. I would be fearful of voting for many Republicans however for the above reasons. I would caution the Democrats to get a good candidate for 2016 though as some of these factors are unique to Obama and difficult to repeat.

    1972 Gen Xer

    • It’s interesting to ponder the different explanations: Some can be tested, others cannot. I guess I suggested that the key reason had to do with how Romney was personally perceived as opposed to other possible GOP candidates. Another explanation I’m hearing is something you hinted at, which is the changing nature of the GOP party (more rural, nativist, pro-gun, etc.). But this has been underway for some time and would not explain the sudden shift since 2008. And it could be tested by looking to see whether other 2012 GOP candidates in House, Senate, or governor races are receiving higher rates of minority support. (They couldn’t be doing too badly in the House.) Still another explanation, which you also hint at, is that it has to do with something personal not about Romney, but about Obama–I guess once everyone got to know him after serving for four years. Intriguing idea. If so, you’re right, replicating that effect could be a problem for the Dems in 2016, esp if the GOP go with a nonwhite or latino candidate.

  • Guest

    I think your post is spot on. In recent days, I’ve been thinking that Obama’s
    success has been that he has targeted Millennials, whereas the GOP has targeted
    older generations. Assuming that is not too
    simplistic, did the Republicans make a similar mistake during the Great
    Depression and World War II?

  • Jack Willcox

    I think your post is spot on. In recent days, I’ve been thinking that Obama’s
    success has been that he has targeted Millennials, whereas the GOP has targeted
    older generations. Assuming that is not too
    simplistic, did the Republicans make a similar mistake during the Great
    Depression and World War II?

  • Elizabeth1987

    As far as Obama winning a lower percentage of millennials than in 2008, I think some of this has to do with the cohorts now occupying the under 30 age group. In 2008, the under 30 age group was occupied by those born from (the last couple of months in) 1978-1990. This time that age group was made up of individuals born from (the last couple of months in ) 1982-1994. The younger millies seem to be more conservative. During the Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election I remember reading that a noticeably higher percentage of individuals aged 25-29 voted to get rid of Scott Walker than those in the 18-24 year old age group.
    I remember reading in one of Neil’s blogs that first wave boomers tended to be more liberal while second wave boomers tended to be more conservative. Early Gen-Xers tend to be more conservative while younger gen-xers tend to be more liberal. Maybe early millennials are more liberal while the late millennials are turning out to be more conservative.

    Makes me sad that Obama lost the white youth vote this time around.

    • pbrower2a

      It could also be that President Obama, fearing a deep-pockets campaign capable of buying all the media exposure that it could get, fearing media such as FoX News that have nothing good to say about him until he has a fait accompli, fearing that the political culture that allowed the shellacking of Democrats in 2010 was as strong in 2012 was as strong as in 2012, and fearing the possible dirty tricks of ideologues who want him defeated and would stop at nothing, needed to develop a narrow focus upon the easiest-to-reach voters in the states that make a difference. He hedged by concentrating his efforts at the end in five disparate states (CO, FL, NC, OH, and VA) that Mitt Romney absolutely had to win. He made no vain effort to pick up Arizona or Missouri. He assumed that Citizens United had changed every rule of politics.

      Rather than trying to expand his support as successful incumbents ordinarily do he consolidated what he had in 2008. Demographics play a huge role in the generational theory — but so can a court ruling that redefines who has rights and who does not. At least Dred Scott, bad as it was, confirmed what was already the political reality and affected far less than half of the American population. Citizens United basically says that for access to media the economic elites can feed us an unending stream of Orwellian propaganda if they so choose because “He who has the gold makes the rules”. Citizens United may have even worse consequences if it serves as a precedent for — as is still possible — declaring that employers have a right as “free speech” to intimidate voters into voting as their employers desire.

  • RaginModerate

    Pragmatically speaking, the GOP’s older, whiter demographics will likely
    be more comfortable with a Chris Christie/Marco Rubio ticket in 2016.
    While there is a lot of hard feelings against Christie at the moment,
    McCain was equally reviled by the GOP four years before naming him their
    nominee. The combination of blue collar appeal, the Gen X ascendancy
    you rightfully point out and the realization that the party needs to
    reach out to Latinos will propel the party elites to push through this
    ticket or one like it. The Dems lack a depth on their bench as you
    point out, especially non-white or Hispanic Governors or Senators even.
    Hillary Clinton is best positioned to unite the Party early on, but
    runs the risk of looking “old” compared to the GOP options. There will
    likewise be pressure to choose a Latino running mate, but unless a fast
    rising superstar appears in the 2014 mid terms, her choices would be
    limited to Mayors or unknown House Members with all the dangers inherent
    in a pick like that (skeletons, untested or fail the credibility test a
    la Palin).

  • Giustino

    Interesting post (and glad you got it up so quickly!). A couple of things — Chris Christie may not be a prophet at heart, but it’s a stretch to call him a Gen Xer. I posted previously here that the early 1960s cohorts are idealistic enough to play to Boomer idealism, even if they don’t recall where they were on that fateful day in November 1963. Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan could never accomplish that. Two — there has been a lot of talk about the “white vote,” but Obama won some incredibly homogeneous states with little effort. Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire, the three “whitest” states in the US, all went for Obama.

    • I’ve always thought Christie as very Xer to me–a get-it-done personality with a lot of attitude, moxie, and sharp edges. Your point about Obama taking the very white NE states is a very good one. I’m addressing it in a new post I’m putting up.

    • Max Wood

      Regarding the white vote in “ homogeneous” states such as and ME, VT & NH I am not sure that these states might be referred to as homogeneous. The white population in each is: 95.4%, 95.5% and 94.6% respectively. All are well below the national mix for diversity in the country. I posted a comment below regarding the regional differences of the country that trace back to our founding that is still heavily at play to this day. Clearly, the states above represent the heart of one of those basic regions of the country that illustrate this founding concept with their own distinctive folkways/culture. The antithesis of this region might be the deep south and/or Texas. It only takes a brief look at the red state/blue state map to understand these differences.

      While I wholeheartedly agree the ethnic and generational patterns are changing and will have a much more profound impact over the years, it would be good to see these patterns adjusted for regional differences – especially the generational patterns. Actually, another adjustment might be ethnic groups. I believe both of these might provide a different picture.

      • Justin Petrone

        From what I understand, one of the dominant ethnic groups in VT, NH, and ME is actually French. About a quarter of the population in each state describes itself as French American. But my basic nitpick was that all of this talk about the “white” vote wasn’t really telling us much. How can someone say that Romney won the “white” vote when he lost the “whitest” states in the country? You are right, in that it has to do more with the general regional perspective.

        • Max Wood

          Justin, Agreed. See this article ( that has an interesting take on the geography to which I think we both agree is a significant predictor.

  • pbrower2a

    This may reflect campaign strategy in the immediate wake of Citizens United more than anything else. To get re-elected President Obama needed a laser focus on the votes that he needed in swing states at the expense of losing margins in some sure-thing states and getting crushed in some states that he thought himself sure to lose. He believed that he could lose because the Other Side had deep pockets for a loud campaign of smears.He won four of five states that Mitt Romney absolutely had to win to get reelected with, which looks competent on its surface.

    It could be that for an open seat a candidate needs as broad a campaign as possible because one is never sure what is critical and what is not. In a re-election campaign a narrower focus is more likely because one knows what matters and what doesn’t and what states are worth the effort and what states are not. President Obama didn’t need Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, or Missouri and campaigned in none of them.

    …As for ethnic differences, the GOP shot itself in the foot with its crass anti-intellectualism. That might have worked well in the Mountain South (Appalachia and the Ozarks) and the Deep South where education gets little respect. Anti-intellectualism works well among poor whites. But among middle-class blacks, Latinos, and Asians? Middle-class blacks, Latinos, and Asians are largely well-educated — probably better educate than whites of similar economic status (maybe that is because middle-class whites are most of the farmers, ranchers, and skilled tradespeople). Attacks on formal education and the rational thought that goes with it offends well-educated people. A politician who supports superstition and pseudoscience attacks the core values of people who have n o use for superstition or pseudoscience.

    • In my long experience with political campaigns, I have found that one person’s “smear” is another person’s “truth.” As for education, years of schooling and college degrees correlated positively, not negatively, with a vote for Romney. Indeed, as I have pointed out in my posts, Romney’s real problem was precisely that he did not get enough of the noncollege vote.

      • pbrower2a

        That has normally been the pattern, largely because years of schooling usually corresponds to income and that such has tended to make people more likely to vote Republican or at least conservative. More schooling brings one closer to the interests of the Establishment than otherwise.

        The conventional wisdom that has long held is that non-white, non-Anglo, and non-Christian voters tend to become more politically conservative as they become more successful… but not this time. Many of the comparatively-well off are government employees or have professional practices or small businesses that depend upon government payments either as paychecks or as payments. Such payments can include Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, and Section 8 vouchers. The usual concern of professionals and small businesses that taxes be kept low by gutting public services does not work among people who depend upon government activity. Such people are more likely to be members of racial and ethnic minorities.

        Add to this, recent college degrees imply a countervailing debt — and debtors favor expansionary monetary and economic policies that make debt less of a burden. Such may make a huge difference between someone with a degree in English who is a new school teacher and some blue-collar worker who has no student loans. Creditors want debt to hurt — perhaps even to make the debtor easy to exploit. The tycoons, executives, and big landowners of course have always been on the Right — conservatives in a well-functioning democracy but near-fascists when things get shaky.

        In 2008 the correlation between voting and economic position was weaker than it ever had been, and that is not because the Parties were shifting between conservatism and liberalism. 2012 may be a slight reversion to the norm.

  • Strategic1


    I think your assessment of 2016 is right on. The Republicans have an early wave Xer bench, because early wave Xers (born in the 1960s) skew heavily toward the Republicans. Since we tend to elect presidents in their 50s, this gives Republicans an edge in 2016, I believe, although much will depend on the economy and on the 2014 midterms. (Will come back to this in a moment).

    One of the impacts of this skewness, has been the way Congress has changed since 2008. As we know, elections are becoming increasingly gerrymandered, which means much of the fight takes place within the party (this helps incumbents, since they wield more clout within their party). But early wave Xers have successfully challenged Silent incumbents, which has pushed House leadership on the Republican side into a Boomer/Xer constellation.

    Democrats have only begun to really clean House, and therefore all of their leadership is Silent: Pelosi, Rangel, Hoyer, Clyburn, Dingell, Conyers. Xer Heath Schuler attempted to make this case subtely after the 2010 election, when he challenged Pelosi for Minority Leader, and lost. But we are beginning now to see later wave Xers make some moves.

    Cory Booker, Xer Mayor of Newark (D), just evicted the last GI from the Senate, by announcing his intent to run against Frank Lautenberg. Moreover, all three Senate vacancies (GI Inouye D-HI, Boomer DeMint, R-SC, Boomer Kerry D-MA) were all replaced by Xers.

    My prediction is that the 2014 midterms will turn out like this.

    First, the Republicans will hold the House, the districts are in their favor, and the voters skew older and more Republican. Given the tough political environment, several Silent Dems will retire rather than run again to remain in the minority. (Of the 40 Silents in the House, they skew 28-12 for Democrats, even though the Silent as a generation skew Republican). They will largely be replaced by Xer Democrats, some quite young, and even possibly one or two millenials. Early cohort Xers will pick up seats at the expense of (mostly) retiring Republicans, although I expect the Republicans will actually gain 3-5 House seats, even with a strong majority (because marginal D districts will flip with low voter turnout).
    The effect of this will be a wholesale flip in Democratic House leadership, and the election of 2016 will see most of the remaining Silent eviscerated, with many choosing to step down rather than be back-benchers.
    In the Senate, we are already seeing several Silent retirements. With 8 Silents up for reelection, we should expect 4-5 retirements (around 50% and consistent with the previous two election cycles). So far, there have been three announced (Silent) retirements. Several early wave Boomers are also looking for an exit. This gives Xer House members, of whom there are now a large number, good chances to move to the Senate. Republican lawmakers in the state legislatures, many of whom are Xers, will also make bids. Expect a pretty decent Xer surge in the Senate, which might be a 50-50 tie. Republicans will gain seats, for sure. Democrats will mostly run Boomer candidates, or Silent incumbents, (Democratic late wave Xers are still mostly too young for the Senate).
    The biggest unknown are the gubernatorial elections in 2014. Republicans have lots of seats to defend, but I think this will turn out not so difficult for them. What will be interesting is to see how many additional seats Xers take. At this point, based on history, they should have many more seats than they do. But around now, most “Reactive” generations have had a surge of about 20% share (10 seats). I think this unlikely, but 5-7 seats are possible.
    The wildcards are, of course, the ACA – Obamacare, and entitlement reform. Entitlement reform is not something policians heading into elder-dominated mid-terms really want to fix. So expect this to be a major debate point still in 2015. Obamacare, however, will have begun to impact the way healthcare is provided and paid for in 2014, and will possibly much less popular than Nancy Pelosi believes. In which case, Democrats could really get hammered. (My guess is that if it works pretty well, Democrats will try and take credit, but the impact will be to neutralize the issue as the public moves on to other concerns).
    All of this sets up an interesting generational battle in 2016, in which entitlement reform – a battle of generations – will be at stake. And as you say, the Democrats may be forced to run a Boomer, since their newfound Xer leadership will simply be too green. Nevertheless, the big debate will be, who can persuade the Millenials?
    I suspect Xers will vote more heavily for an Xer Republican over a Boomer Democrat, particularly if the Democrat is an early wave Boomer (e.g. Hillary). Millenials may also be less excited about Clinton restoration. They weren’t very keen in 2008, (having favored generational change instead), and it is hard to imagine that the younger Millenials, who have no recollection of the 1990s, remarkably, will be more likely to pine for Clinton restoration. Actually, I think the Democrats will do much better if they can find another Xer candidate, because later Millenial experience with Boomer executive leadership is George W. Bush, and they don’t want that.
    I give the Republicans a 55% chance of winning the presidency in 2016. The brand is still damaged, but eight years of Obama will begin to wear on the public.
    Finally, to your original point, which was about Romney, I think you are right – his Mormonism was a big issue with younger voters, ironically not with evangelicals, but with younger voters who simply find that brand of religiosity bizarre. Where I disagree is that I don’t think it is so much the racial overtones of the church, but actually its cult-like functionality and it’s strange historical origins. The nativism embedded in its founding mythos (golden plates in a garden in Elmira NY?), which Mormons likely associate with a (Republican) form of patriotism, probably don’t appeal much to immigrant children (and immediate children of immigrants).
    In the end, though, I just think Romney is a practical “fixer” and what young voters want is inspiration, which Romney’s wooden personality couldn’t deliver. It wasn’t a case of policies, as much as it was simply a sense that while Romney was talented, he couldn’t call the nation to greatness. Obama can, although, it is not clear whether his call is a good one.