I just had to throw out four hours of work on a post on Virginia’s Romney/Obama Head-to-Head situation because I don’t really have the data to answer the question What percentage of the white vote can Obama reasonably expect in Virginia in 2012? This is important because (what follows is very much back-of-the-envelope calculating, based off of the NYT exit polls) if Obama gets 40% of the white vote (the percentage he won in 2008) and nothing else changes, he wins Virginia; if Romney gets 68% (the percentage Bush won in 2004) and nothing else changes, then he wins Virginia, by about the same percentage that Obama did*. Unfortunately, it’s still too early to make any kind of confident statement about which percentage of the white vote each candidate will get.
But it’s looks like it’s going to be that demographic that’s going to be the key to VA…
*I know that this sounds weird, but look at the exit polls. CNN’s has the 2004 demographics for VA as 72/21/3/2/2 White/Black/Latino/Asian/Other; the NYT’s for 2008 was 70/20/5 White/Black/Latino. Even if you take the NYT’s numbers and assume that: Black turnout will be the same percentage of the voting population and the same percentage voting for Obama (92/8, and not impossible); AND that the 10% that’s effectively “Other” will vote for Obama at the same percentage (again 92/8, and highly unlikely)… if Romney gets Bush’s percentage of the white vote then it still comes out as a dead tie.
You can muck with the numbers quite a bit (for example, the NYT had the Latino vote in 2008 as being a much better 34/65 McCain/Obama) and this is all rough and not particularly ready guesstimating anyway. but the point here is that – contra the narrative – the suggestion from the exit polls is that Virginia’s African-American population didn’t come out in relatively higher proportions in 2008 than they did in 2004. That implies that they should not be the focus of the Democrats this cycle; white voters (specifically, white Democratic voters) should be, instead.