One key reason why Democrats have grown more competitive in presidential elections since 1992 (after losing five of the previous six) is the steady growth in the minority share of the vote. In 1992, when Bill Clinton was first elected, non-whites cast 12 percent of the vote. When Barack Obama won in 2008, the minority share stood at 26 percent, more than double. How much more it grows, if at all, looms as one of the critical variables for 2012. The Obama camp is beginning to zero in on its projection.
A common misconception is that the minority share of the vote experienced an unsustainable surge in 2008 because of Obama's history-making status as the first African-American presidential nominee. In fact, the growth in the minority role has been steady over the past two decades, according to network exit polls. From 12 percent in 1992, the minority share of the vote increased to 17 percent in 1996, 21 percent in 2000, and 23 percent in 2004, before reaching its 26 percent level in 2008.