Culture will likely shape the 2016 presidential elections, and this is bad news for the Republican Party. Recent polls show Hillary Clinton running well among white voters overall, showing real strength among white non-evangelical Protestants, and running competitively among white Catholics. Trailing only among evangelicals, Clinton is poised to move beyond the upstairs-downstairs coalition that brought Barack Obama to the White House, and that continues to characterize his policies and presidency to this day.
On multiple levels Clinton is not Obama, and GOP swipes at Clinton over her age and health appear to have gained less traction among voters than digs leveled at the President over his birth certificate and religion. Instead of faltering, Clinton is building upon her bid for the 2008 Democratic nomination, when she stitched together wins in industrial and large states by winning a majority of white voters.
Take Pennsylvania, which Clinton loyalist and talking head James Carville once described as “Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between.” Its Democrats definitively preferred Clinton over Obama in the state’s 2008 presidential primaries. Six years ago, Clinton beat Obama by nine points, and now she leads prospective 2016 Republican contenders Rand Paul, Paul Ryan, Jeb Bush, and Mike Huckabee among Pennsylvania’s white voters in general, and surprisingly among white voters without college degrees. If the GOP cannot capture working-class votes outside of the South, it will again face defeat.