Alan Greenblatt is a GOVERNING correspondent.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Stan Greenberg, the pollster who made his name studying the Reagan Democrats of Macomb County, Michigan, had a piece in the NY Times the other day pointing out that neighboring Oakland County has become a better barometer:
While Macomb County is home to the white middle class that America's auto industry made possible, Oakland County is home to the affluent, business-oriented suburbanites of Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills, some of the richest townships in America. Just a quarter of Macomb County residents have college degrees, but more than 40 percent do in Oakland.
Oakland County has formed part of the Republican heartland in Michigan and the country. From 1972 to 1988, Democratic presidential candidates in their best years lost the county by 20 points. From Bill Clinton to John Kerry, however, Democrats began to settle for a draw. Over the past two decades, Oakland County began to change, as an influx of teachers, lawyers and high-tech professionals began to outnumber the county's business owners and managers. Macomb has been slow to welcome racial diversity, but almost a quarter of Oakland's residents are members of various racial minorities.
These changes have produced a more tolerant and culturally liberal population, uncomfortable with today's Republican Party. When we conducted our poll of 600 voters in Oakland County on election night, they were a lot more open than voters in Macomb to gay marriage and affirmative action. We asked those who voted for Mr. Obama why they made that choice. At the top of the list was his promise to withdraw troops from Iraq, followed by his support for tax cuts for the middle class and affordable health care for all, and the idea that he will bring people together, end the old politics and get things done.
On Tuesday, Oakland County voters gave Mr. Obama a 57 percent to 42 percent victory over John McCain -- those 15 points translated into an astonishing 96,000-vote margin. That helped form one of the most important new national changes in the electorate: Mr. Obama built up striking dominance in the country's growing, more diverse and well-educated suburbs.
So, good riddance, my Macomb barometer. Four years from now, I trust we will see the candidates rush from their conventions to Oakland County, to see the new America.
GOVERNING Politics is the place for news and analysis on campaigns and elections. If there's a ballot measure in California, a legislative election in Alabama, a mayoral election in Anchorage or a governor's race in Rhode Island, GOVERNING Politics probably is writing about it. We love everything about state and local politics, from polls and campaign ads to policy debates and demographic trends.