The races for the White House and Congress are already running and this is a good time to start a series looking at the landscape. Next year should be a good year for the Democrats because they have several clear advantages.

The Electoral College - it takes 270 electoral votes to win and Democrats have won that majority four out of the last six elections. In the only two they lost, Al Gore won 269 in 2000 and John Kerry 259 in 2004. And Democrats have won the 12 key battleground states more often than not since then. It is safe to say that Democrats have been going into recent Presidential elections with a pretty safe 251 electoral votes while the Republicans can count on only 106.

Demographics - the Obama coalition represents some of the fastest growing demographics in the electorate. Since 1992, Democrats have won at least 60% of the Hispanic vote and in the past two cycles, Mr. Obama himself has won 67% and 71% of this vote respectively. While Democrats normally count on around 90% support among African American voters, Mr. Obama won 95% and 93% in the last two elections. The President has also won over two in three Asian American voters. To round out the coalition, young voters have voted Democratic (or at least against the GOP) by substantial majorities - 66% in 2008 and 61% in 2012. The 40 million or so voters who work in a wide range of the knowledge sector - Richard Florida's "creative class" voted overwhelmingly for Mr. Obama in both elections - and it must be remembered that they are most significantly clustered in swing states. Each of these groups has grown dramatically in the past two decades.

In 2008, the white vote was 74% of the total and Senator John McCain won 57% of this group. In 2012, former Governor Mitt Romney won 57% but by then white voters represented only 71% of the electorate. Most pundits, including me, project that the white vote will be only 69% of the total in 2016.

The Economy - I know the economy is not good but the unemployment rate has been cut in half and projected to fall a little more in the next year. Consumer confidence is so-so but trending up and the GOP is not seen as offering anything better, especially with its last incumbent leaving office on such poor terms.

The Democrats could also pick up several seats in both the US Senate and House of Representatives. Of 34 Senate seats up, Republicans have to defend 24 of them, including candidates who were elected in the 2010 blowout in states that Mr. Obama won in 2012. Possible states to pickup include Florida, Illinois, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. In addition, I am watching both Arizona because Senator John McCain is not polling well and North Carolina where Senator Richard Burt is neck and neck with former Senator Kay Hagan. I will address the Senate races in a later post.

The Democrats have some distinct disadvantages as well. They are not polling well among independents and only about 30% of the nation's likely voters feel the US is headed in the right direction. There is also a growing sense of insecurity about global chaos and the loss of unchallenged US leadership on the world stage. A key debate in 2016 will involve American Exceptionalism vs. a more post-lone super power role for the US. This is as much a generation debate with voters over 50 favoring a more strenuous role for the US and those under 50 favoring a role where the US holds off on military intervention and then only in concert with regional support and allies.

I am not sure about how historical trends will play out but the Democrats may suffer from a sense that "eight is enough". However, as I will consider in my next post, the GOP has a lot of catching up to do as a credible alternative.

One thing to note: the key player for the Democrats in 2016 will be a "he" and not a "she." In short, if the Democrats have a chance to win they will have to depend upon and even exploit the talents of the one person who has proven that he can rally their winning demographic coalition - President Barack Obama.