The South rises again

Originally uploaded by johnvierdsen

Even with the South turning from Democrat to Republican over the last half of the 20th Century, for a Democrat to win the presidency, he had to make inroads, no matter how small, in the South. If the Republican nominee wanted a sure-fire win, all he had to do was hold onto the entire region.

Hence, in the past two elections, neither Vice President Al Gore nor Sen. John Kerry could gain traction in the states of the former Confederacy and lost.

Bill Clinton, a faux bubba that, growing up in a working class background and developing a taste for Razorback sports (WOO! PIG! SOOIE!) and trashy women, was able to connect and pull some conservative states. In ’92, he took Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee and Georgia (he also managed border states West Virginia and Kentucky, and Western states Montana and Nevada). In ’96, he lost Georgia but won Florida.

Given the past four presidential cycles, it’s clear that the South holds the cards on who will be president. As a result, that necessarily drives the issues – moving the political center to the right.

During the Bush years, some Democrats advocated giving the South a pass and going elsewhere. This is monumentally stupid for two reasons: 1) You give the “big fuck you” to the 40-45 percent of voters in those states that will vote for a Democrat, more times than not, and you screw over the state parties in being able to recruit good candidates and run good campaigns; 2) More people are moving to the South for job opportunities, the weather (natch) and a multitude of quality-of-life issues. That means that more voters and, ultimately, more electoral votes.

Though Sen. Barack Obama likely will not match Clinton’s haul of four Southern states (plus Missouri, Kentucky and West Virginia), the changing dynamics of two states are making the South a battleground again.

In the latest polls out of North Carolina, Obama is -2, +2, +3 and +6, chronologically. The last time the Tar Heel State was really up for grabs was 1992, fueled in part by a nasty U.S. Senate race between Republican Lauch Faircloth (who won, and later lost to John Edwards) and incumbent Democrat Terry Sanford. Former President George H.W. Bush ended up with NC in his column. This time, it’s incumbent Republican Elizabeth Dole being challenged by Democrat Kay Hagen in the Senate race, one in which it looks Hagen is taking a leg up.

Virginia, which has been trending Democratic for the past seven years, and has an increasingly more populous and liberal voting base in Northern Virginia, Richmond and Hampton Roads, is perhaps Obama’s best chance to pick up a Southern state this year. The recent polls for Obama are +9, -3, +12, +10.

Granted, the math is there for Sen. John McCain to keep the South red and still lose. Then again, this race isn’t in a vacuum. if he can mount an effort to come back in Virginia and North Carolina, it’s likely that enough other swing states go his way to get to 270.

Either way, it’s a good thing that the South isn’t an afterthought in this election. Our voices and concerns get heard, and, as many people regularly say, competition is a good thing.


3 Responses to “The South rises again”

  1. 1 stophate
    October 6, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    I’m not sure what happened in Virginia but in North Carolina, McCain had a 20 point lead coming into the election cycle. McCain rarely if ever visited NC and NC republicans basically sat on their hands. As an Ex NC Republican I can say from experience that the NC Party is practically dead and does zero recruiting. If you look at the number of 18-29 year olds joining the republican party you should be very alarmed. There are basically none. Obama on the other hand came into NC and opened up 32 offices throughout the state and got everyone involved in the process and did lots of voter registration and a bunch of rallies where the public was invited. I would say that democrats are the community organizers and republicans have turned into corporate organizers.

  2. October 7, 2008 at 8:06 am

    The North Carolina GOP has been underperforming for a lot of years now. They’ve never been able to sufficiently take advantage of their demographics, allowing Democrats to be competitive and even win races that Republicans would normally win in almost any other state in the South.

  3. 3 Alessan
    October 7, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    Happy to hear the
    South is waking up this time, republicans don’t
    care about the average working class people, history has told us this, and the poor might as well forget to vote, which I think a lot do, hopefully they will this time. But who knows what happens once people step into the booth.

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