Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The end of the Southern Strategy?

An article in the NYTimes explores the shift in voting patterns in the US South.
The region’s absence from Mr. Obama’s winning formula means it “is becoming distinctly less important,” said Wayne Parent, a political scientist at Louisiana State University. “The South has moved from being the center of the political universe to being an outside player in presidential politics.
I think this is spot on. What the 50 state strategy of Howard Dean (who deserve a lot of credit for recent Democrats success) and Barack Obama's campaign has shown, it's that Democrats have more ways to victory than they previously thought. These would be:
  1. Traditional Midwest strategy, trying to win OH/IA/MI/MN/WI/PA
  2. Florida, again a traditional strategy
  3. Virginia and North Carolina
  4. Mountain West states (NM, CO, NV and possibly AZ)
A strong showing in either of those would result in a Democratic victory (with the possible exception of a win in the Mountain West states with losses in all the other swing states). There are enough ways for Democrats to achieve victory without bothering about the rest of the South; from South Carolina all the way to Texas. The demographic shift in VA/NC and NM/CO/NV/AZ heavily favors the democrat in the long run. While VA and NC are part of the south, new voters coming from the north have different attitudes and voting patterns, marking a "northification" of those two states.

I think the south will suffer the fate of New York and California; ignored because too safe. No Southern states have been close (except Missouri who's a mix of Midwest and Southern and who is running about 6.5% below national vote) and a Southern strategy certainly doesn't appear appealing for the Democrats.

There will probably be a temptation for Republicans to run a base-rallyer in 2012 as many in the Party appears convinced that they lost because they weren't conservative enough. But I think the party will have to move away from its base after electoral defeat if they attempt that strategy. Then they will have to face the reality that they have to increase their standings with two key groups: urban voters and hispanics. This won't be easy to swallow for the base.

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