Patchwork nation blogs

May 7, 2012
In recent weeks President Barack Obama’s travel schedule has taken on the appearance of a high-school senior on a college tour – of swing states. He has visited Chapel Hill, N.C., Iowa City, Iowa and Boulder, Colo., talking about issues aimed at that particular constituency, like student loans. And on Saturday he plans rallies at Ohio State University and Virginia Commonwealth. There’s a reason Mr. Obama seems particularly interested in rediscovering his mojo with the college set. The votes in those towns may be critical to him in a what’s shaping up to be a close campaign – much more important than they were four years ago. As he hops from quad to quad, however, he may find repeating his 2008 campus magic to be tougher. The legend of the 2008 presidential campaign goes something like this. Candidate Barack Obama rode to victory with support from across America, but especially from a hyper-engaged “youth vote,” as kids on college...
May 2, 2012
With six months to go until Election Day, the 2012 presidential contest is only now beginning to take shape. In the coming days the campaigns of President Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney will ramp up in the fight to sway voters. Judging by the looks of a recent Pew Research Center poll analyzed through the Patchwork Nation geographic and demographic breakdown of counties, Romney has some work ahead of him. Unseating an incumbent president, even in hard economic times, is not an easy task. And both the Pew Research Center and Patchwork Nation numbers show Romney has challenges at both ends of the income spectrum, as well as in urban and more rural areas. There is still a very long way to go in the race. For many voters, the election season hasn't really started. But if May marks the beginning of a more focused phase of the campaign, the Romney team has different sets of voters it needs to win over. They exist in different places and...
April 30, 2012
If you were searching for a one-word description for the American electorate in 2012, or even in the past few elections, “volatile” would almost certainly be on your short list. Looking at the results from the recent elections is enough to give you a case of whiplash. Big Democratic wins in 2006 and 2008 gave way to a GOP landslide in 2010 and it all sets the table for what most believe will be a close presidential race this fall. Those are some serious mood swings, but they’re not completely surprising when you consider the economic troubles that have been rocking the U.S. in recent years. Volatile times make for volatile voters – and that is particularly true it seems for some places. Working with data from the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, Patchwork Nation has broken its 12 county types into three broader groups – Core Democratic Counties, Core Republican Counties and Competitive Counties. Month-to-month numbers slow fluctuations in all...
April 24, 2012
The 2012 election is going to be about the economy. We've heard that for the last year as analysts have diagnosed this campaign. The fate of the presidential race has rarely been seen as being so directly tied to a set of economic indicators from the Dow Jones to the unemployment rate. And yet, as the general election begins in earnest, the amount of actual economic talk coming from the two contenders is light. Oh, there has been talk loosely around the economy. There has been chatter about whether stay-at-home mothers are qualified to talk about it. There's been discussion of how "freedom" is what will fix it. And there's been talk of making sure rich people should kick in more to help it. But so far, there has been precious little talk about actually fixing the economy in terms of specific ideas and plans. That may seem surprising, but it's not a complete shock. In fact, Patchwork Nation wonders how much economic solutions will figure into the...
April 20, 2012
One of the meta-themes of the 2012 campaign, or at least the early stages of it, has been Mitt Romney’s problem reaching women voters. In many polls, the gender gap looks more like a gender chasm for the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee. The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC survey seems to be just the latest bit of evidence of Mr. Romney’s “woman problem” – it shows a 12-point deficit with the female voters in a head-to-head matchup with President Barack Obama. But look closer and a different divide emerges, a more complicated one around marriage. In that same poll Mr. Romney wins with married voters, even married women – he carries them by 3 percentage points 49% to 46%. He does better with married men, winning them by 13 percentage points, 52% to 39%. But when the lens shifts to unmarried voters, the score changes dramatically. Mr. Romney trails Mr. Obama by an astounding 36 percentage points among women who aren’t married...
April 16, 2012
From the beginning of the 2102 presidential campaign, Mitt Romney has been something of a tough fit for Republican primary and caucus voters. His resume, which includes serving as Massachusetts governor when that state passed its health care reform plan, is arguably better suited for a general election candidate. Indeed, that thinking has long been at the heart of the Romney campaign’s “electability” argument.  Mr. Romney may not be the ideal candidate for conservative Republicans, but come the fall, conservatives will fall in line behind the GOP nominee. The party’s challenge will be winning moderate suburban voters – a voting bloc he seems well-positioned to capture. And with former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum exiting the race this week, the Romney team can now focus on what should be friendlier turf: the general election and those moderate suburbanites. But just how strong is Mr. Romney in the swing-voting suburbs? That’s not...
April 9, 2012
The Obama administration’s health-care overhaul law has been front-and-center in the news this week as the Supreme Court debated its constitutionality – and to some extent its role in the 2012 campaign. Much of the debate emphasized the law’s broad impact. Anyone who tuned into the coverage probably heard that health-care spending represents about 16% of national GDP. But even though health care has huge effects on the economy and on the American people as a whole, those effects vary greatly from place to place. Nationally, the number of uninsured Americans has grown markedly in recent years and that spike has deepened a crisis for some communities. For others, however, those increased health-care challenges are not terribly noticeable. Those differences become much clearer when you look at the uninsured on a map and particularly when you use Patchwork Nation’s geographic/demographic breakdown of 12 types of counties. There are clear state...
April 4, 2012
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum sounded defiant as ever in his speech Tuesday night, but after a sweep by Mitt Romney in contests in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Wisconsin, the writing on the wall looks like it's been done in permanent marker. It isn't just that the former Massachusetts governor won in all three votes convincingly, it's that he did well in so many different kinds of place in Patchwork Nation's geographic/demographic county breakdown. We had noted Tuesday morning that Wisconsin, in particular, was a test. Could Romney win in the less-wealthy small-town territories that had been good for Santorum, particularly the Service Worker Centers and Emptying Nests? He didn't, but he ate into Santorum's margin in those places. In Illinois, Santorum beat Romney by nine percentage points in each of those types of counties. Tuesday night, things were much closer: three percentage points in the Emptying Nests and only two percentage points in...
April 3, 2012
As former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has picked up momentum and endorsements over the last few weeks, his armor of inevitability has grown and the campaign of former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum has seemed to struggle. Tuesday's primary in Wisconsin is supposed to be the latest measure of Rom-mentum, and to some extent it will be -- but maybe not as clearly as you think. Wisconsin's results will show something about where the race stands, but you'll have to look closely to see what it really means. Until Romney's recent surge, the assumption had been that Wisconsin would be good territory for Santorum because of the state's blue-collar background. But that impression has been somewhat misguided. When you look at the state through the Patchwork Nation geographic/demographic breakdown, it's much better territory for Romney. In fact, when you look at Wisconsin closely, polls that show him with a sound lead shouldn't be a surprise. The question...
April 2, 2012
Publicly, at least, Americans try to avoid stereotyping their fellow citizens based on race or ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, age or religion. Doing so has become unacceptable, offensive to modern sensibilities, anathema to the notion that we’re all individuals, not just members of one or another demographic. This attitude is codified in our laws and enforced in our workplaces, and violating it is frowned upon in polite conversation. Two arenas are the exceptions. One is reality television, which has found a cash cow in the reductionist treatment of everyone from “little people” to “rednecks.” The other exception? Election season. Every two years — and especially every four, when we’re electing a president — individual Americans disappear, and we become subsumed into some larger group. Go to your favorite political blog, cable news channel or daily paper, and you’ll learn that candidates need to do better with...