Could The Senior Vote Break Left?

David Frum warns the GOP against taking the over-65s for granted. An important point:

Among all voters 65-plus, women outnumber men only slightly: In 2010, for every 100 women older than 65, the Census counted 95.5 men. The political result? The mild preference in favor of President Obama among older women voters was swamped by the intense hostility of older men.

As we advance from age cohort to age cohort, however, the men dwindle away. At 75, the Census counts 80.2 men for every 100 women; at 85, 58.3 men for every 100 women. The good news for men: Our survival prospects are rising! In 1990, the Census counted only 45.6 men for every 100 women older than 85. The bad news for the Republicans: The disparity in sex-survival rates has huge political effects on the way the old vote.

But Trende continues to downplay the GOP’s demographic challenges:

Obama’s vote share in 2012 was less than it was in 2008; the Republican coalition expanded, which is actually unusual when taking on an incumbent — along with Andrew Jackson and Franklin D. Roosevelt (twice), Obama is the only other incumbent president to not win a larger raw share of the popular vote in a reelection win. Republicans are at, or near, all-time highs in their performances in the House, among governors, and in the state legislatures. While it is true that the midterm electorates are different than presidential electorates, they’re subject to the same long-term trends and should demonstrate a gradual GOP decline.

For decades, political scientists have argued that elections are largely about a few fundamental factors, and that other factors come out in the proverbial wash. Both parties tend to elect competent candidates who raise a lot of money, commit gaffes and play within the 40-yard lines of American politics. Attempts to add one group to a party’s coalition inevitably pushes some other group out, resulting in a regression-to-mean. We might have to abandon this model in the future, but so far the “old” model hasn’t had sufficient failures to justify looking elsewhere for explanations of elections.