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.

At President Obama’s re-election headquarters in Chicago, there is one overriding article of faith: Despite all of his troubles, Obama’s path to victory is still wider than it was for other recent Democratic candidates. Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt says the Obama team will never have the problem Al Gore and John Kerry faced — a race that comes down to one state like Florida or Ohio.

“That means not only returning to those states that we were competitive in in 2008,” LaBolt says, “but also looking for potential pickup opportunities where the demographics have changed over the past four years.”