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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Where Have All the Southern White Moderates Gone?

In 1996, Clinton split the southern vote, 46-46, with Bob Dole. One of the keys to his strong performance was this: he actually carried southern white moderates by 46-44.
In 2004, however, Kerry got beaten by 15 points in the south (57-42). So where have all the southern white moderates gone?
In a sense, nowhere. The ideological profile of the southern electorate has barely changed since 1996: it was 17 percent liberal/44 percent moderate/39 conserative then; it is 17 percent liberal/43 percent moderate/40 percent conservative now. And among whites, the ideological profile was 15 percent liberal/43 percent moderate/43 percent conservative in 1996; it is 14 percent liberal/41 percent moderate/45 percent conservative now.
Not much change. But what has changed is a big swing from Clinton’s 46-44 support among southern white moderates in ’96 to Kerry’s 58-41 deficit among the same voting group, whose size and electoral weight remains as potent as ever, in 2004.
There’s your target. Move southern white moderates back toward parity and the Democrats are back in the (southern) ballgame.