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The 2012 landscape

From NBC's Erika Angulo
President-elect Obama is two months away from being sworn in, but some of Washington's most experienced political minds are already envisioning what 2012 will look like.  Participants at a panel organized by the National Journal concluded that Republicans should be concerned about the next presidential election.

One reason for potential GOP concern, said panelists, is "Millennials," or young voters. Ruy Teixeira, author of Red, Blue and Purple America: The Future of Election Demographics, says voters born after 1970 have become more and more Democratic.  He estimated there will be 64 million  "Millennials" in 2012. 

"That would be worrisome if I were a Republican," Teixeira said.

An estimated 23 million voters under the age of 30 cast their vote on Election Day.  That's an increase of 3.4 million over 2004, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), which analyzes youth vote statistics.

Teixeira also sees a change in what has been a key source of support for Republican candidates, Christian voters.  "Voters are becoming more secular," he noted.

The University of Akron's John Green estimates that 45% of voters will not call themselves Protestant or Catholic by 2024.

Republican pollster Bill McInturff said that the GOP should be concerned about how strongly Hispanic voters supported Obama. Exit polls showed 66% of Latino voters favored the Democratic nominee.  "If the Republican party allows Latinos to stay where they are," he said, "it will become a minority white party." 

McInturff's Public Opinion Strategies was the lead polling company for McCain's presidential bid. 

Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg also weighed in, arguing that the key to Obama's success was a combination of an engaged electorate and a strong Democratic coalition.   That coalition, Greenberg said, has the potential to endure through 2012.

[Editor's note: An earlier version of this story cited the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life as the source of a projection of religious affiliation in 2024.  John Green is a senior fellow at the Pew Forum but made the projection in an article written for Teixeira's book.]