by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Since Barack Obama’s White House wins in 2008 and 2012, political mythology has grown around the emerging voting coalition that made him president — the Obama coalition.
Hillary Clinton failed to reconstruct it in her 2016 loss to President Trump. And a scrum of 2020 Democrats now argue they’re best positioned to find Obama’s magic electoral elixir, what the New York Times called it in late 2016, “an alliance between black voters and Northern white voters, from Mr. Obama’s first win in the 2008 Iowa caucuses to his final sprint across the so-called Midwestern Firewall states where he staked his 2012 reelection bid.”
Even some of the most boosterish Democrats acknowledge no 2020 candidate is going to fully recreate the coalition, suggesting the electoral phenomenon was unique to the 44th president. A more realistic goal is to come within striking distance, and win by smaller margins than Obama, 58, both times.
“No one has the connection with voters that Obama did,” said former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who is backing former Vice President Joe Biden for the 2020 Democratic nomination.
“If Biden doesn’t put together the coalition by 100%, he’ll put it together by 95%, which I hope is good enough,” Rendell, 75, told the Washington Examiner.
Of the 65.9 million who voted for Obama in 2012, about 6 million chose Trump four years later, while 4.4 million didn’t vote and 2.3 million back a third-party candidate, according to a New York Times analysis in 2017. Nearly 1.6 million of the non-voters were black, and about 5 million of the Obama-to-Trump voters were white.