Obama's CA Appeal Hinges on Race

President Barack Obama may be slipping in the polls elsewhere, but the changing complexion of California's population is likely to serve him well in 2012 election.

The reason has to do with race.

Most people know that Obama captured an overwhelming share of the African-American vote in 2008; in California, 94 percent of all African-Americans voted for the Democrat. But that's not the important part of the story, because African-Americans account for only 6 percent of the state's population.

The most significant numbers lie with Latinos and Asian-Americans. Latinos gave a lopsided 74 percent of their vote to Obama in the 2008 election. Between 2000 and 2010, the Latino population in California grew by 28 percent, indicating a much larger political presence for this group in 2012. Latinos today account for about 38 percent of the state's population.

Asian-Americans in California voted for Obama by an almost two-to-one margin in 2008; their segment of the state's population soared by 32 percent during the past decade. Asian-Americans now account for 13 percent of the state's population, up from 10 percent in 2000.

Meanwhile, the percentage of non-Hispanic Whites in California has decreased over the past decade to 40 percent from 47 percent in 2000. This segment voted for Obama by the slim margin of 52 percent to 46 percent for Republican opponent John McCain. 

Of course, percentages of the population do not equate with percentages of voters. Thus, in 2008, non-Hispanic Whites cast 65 percent of all votes. But the dramatic population changes cited above are likely to see the White vote shrink considerably in 2012, which is likely to bode well for Obama given his past support among Latinos and Asian-Americans.

Also, just because minorities went for Obama in 2008 doesn't mean they will vote the same way in 2012. But even a slight drop-off of support will leave Obama in good shape, given the large numbers in play.

If nothing else, these dispositions should be a wake-up call for California Republicans. Clearly, relying on Whites alone is a losing proposition in light of the state's demographic direction.

Until now, the GOP has had little success in capturing support from racial and ethnic minorities. But time may be running out for Republicans. Unless they make inroads with the state's minorities, California's political color will remain dark blue for the foreseeable future.

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