All In   |  October 17, 2013

Can Dems leverage passion in off-year elections?

There are two fundamentally different electorates in the US: one that comes out to elect a president and one that votes when the president is not on the ballot. 

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> today, the state of new jersey has its next senator-elect. it's newark mayor cory booker , who won a special election last night, but was not the resounding victory his supporters once might have expected. booker beat his tea party opponent by 11 points. last ar, president obama won new jersey by a significantly larger margin, 17 points. now, this is a little bit of an anomalous situation. a special election in october on a wednesday, but the discrepancy points to a simple truth that is often forgotten. the nature of the electorate, as much as the will of the people , is what decides elections. in an off year, and especially in a special election , there is lower voter turnout , and an older voter population with, and that tends to favor republicans. for democrats, the big challenge going forward is to try to leverage thenear-catastrophe engineered by the gop to convince their voters to come out in 2014 , a year from now, even though the president won't be on the ballot.

>> reporter: the story of how we got to the brink of economic catastrophe is not just a story about ted cruz and a bunch of gop extremists. it's much bigger than that. it's a story about how we elect a our leaders in america . there are two fundamentally different electorates that shape american politics . there's the one that comes out to elect a president and there's the one that votes when the president is not on the ballot.

>> it's pretty car that the obama/pelosi agenda is being rejected by the american people . they want the president to change course.

>> i'm not recommending for every future president that they take a shellacking like i did last night.

>> reporter: the president was introspective that day after the midterm elections in 2010 , but john boehner 's claim that america wanted the president to change course only made sense if you pretend that the 41% of people who cast ballots are a good representation of america . and they aren't. this is america . this is what the electorate looked like in 2010 . and this is what it looked like in 2012 when 58% came out to vote. in the 2010 shellacking, the electorate had fewer african-americans, fewer latinos, and more whites. it looked, well, less like america . in short, the 2012 electorate looked kind of like the audience that watches the super bowl , while the 2010 electorate looked more like the audience that watches fox news. the shutdown and debt ceiling fight was a standoff between those two electorates. the big question that will determine the shape and future of american politics , the one that will decide whether we keep having these destructive fights over and over and over again is whether democrats can turn the marginal voters who came out in 2008 and 2012 into the habitual voters who come out in off year elections like 2014 . there are signs it may be happening. democratic polling shows that top of the parties in the house are more vulnerable because they backed the shutdown. before that debacle, democrats lacked likely to fall short of winning back the house next year. f a lot can change in a year, and more importantly, the president won't be on the ballot in the midterms next year, and he won't be there in 2016 either. which leads democrats with a major question. can the obama coalition in 2008 and 2012 become the permanent democratic coalition . the answer will dictate if we continue government by crisis or if the suicide caucus can be