A quick glance at the 2012 electoral map indicates that if President Obama is to be unseated, it will largely depend on how the eventual Republican presidential nominee fares in the battleground states of the Sun Belt (Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina + Virginia) and Midwest (Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin).
Aside from the Republican base, the eventual GOP presidential nominee will need to court independents and Hispanics in the Sun Belt battleground states and Virginia.
In the Midwest, outside of the conservative base, the eventual GOP presidential nominee would be wise to focus on independents, Catholics and Walmart moms.
* The country is getting less rural: While 82.8 percent of the population in 2000 lived in metropolitan areas, that number is now 83.7 percent. A look at population changes county-by-county shows that many rural counties, especially in the solidly Republican middle of the country, actually experienced population loss over the last decade, while most of the big population growth was near big cities, where Democrats dominate.
* The country is getting more diverse: The minority population has increased dramatically to 36.3 percent and will only keep going down that path, as only a slight majority of U.S. children are white. And Republicans have major problems with minority populations. The black vote generally goes almost completely for Democrats, and even in the GOP wave in 2010, six in 10 Hispanics voted Democratic.
* The areas that are getting bigger are Democratic: A look at the states with the biggest growth over the past decade shows many of them have moved toward Democrats, including Nevada, North Carolina and Virginia (Obama was a surprise winner in all three, which had gone for President Bush in 2004). A look at the county-by-county growth in these states shows that the growth is focused in urban and Democratic areas — Las Vegas-based Clark County, Charlotte-based Mecklenburg County and the Research Triangle in North Carolina, and Northern Virginia all grew the fastest. That suggests that the growth is occurring in Democratic areas.
What does this all mean? Obama can be beaten in 2012, but thanks to the 2010 Census the electoral map has seen some major shifts, and the eventual GOP presidential nominee is going to have to pay greater attention to Hispanics, minorities and metropolitan areas than ever before.