Listen Now

Mara Liasson

The American electorate is getting more diverse, more educated and younger. These demographic trends seem to suggest that voters could, in theory at least, be more Obama-friendly in 2012, especially in some key states. But it's not clear whether these shifts can outweigh the dragging economy and the president's dismal approval ratings.

Voter dissatisfaction with both parties is at an all-time high — and voters' trust in Washington is at an all-time low.

This is the kind of political climate that is welcoming for an alternative to the Democrats and the Republicans.

Pollster Stan Greenberg worked for Bill Clinton in 1992, when third-party candidate Ross Perot roiled the race. If it happened back then, Greenberg says, it can happen again next year.

Three years ago, the state of Virginia flipped. It had voted for George W. Bush in 2004, but in 2008, it went for Barack Obama, with the help of independent voters like Emily Perri. But as Perri cast her ballot in local elections in Fairfax on Tuesday morning, she wasn't so sure she would vote for the president again.

"I'm not entirely positive, you know, another four years will help improve things or not under Obama," Perri said.

There's been a shift in the economic discussion in American politics. For months, the debate was focused on government spending, regulations, debt and taxes. Now there's something new: income inequality.

And it's not just the Occupy Wall Street protesters who are worried about the growing gap between the richest 1 percent and the rest of America. The gap has been growing for 30 years, but in the midst of the recession, it appears to have reached a tipping point.

Pages