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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Southern Dems Launch New Dialogue

With 120 thousand more votes in Ohio or spread out over a few western states John Kerry would be President today, even though he wrote off the South. But, in his article in The Nation, “Southern Strategies,” Chris Kromm argues that writing off the South in future Presidential elections could be a strategic disaster. Kromm puts it this way:

Given that almost a third of the country lives in the South and it’s growing fast, and that the South still sets the tone for national politics (look at the Tennesseans and Texans who lead the White House and Capitol Hill), ignoring the South is hardly an option….There are four Southern Democratic governors, hundreds of Democratic state legislators, and in six of thirteen Southern states, more registered voters identify as Democrats than Republicans.

But Kromm has no illusions about the magnitude of the challenge facing Democrats. Reporting from “New Strategies for Southern Progress,” a conference of 200 southern progressives in Chapel Hill, Kromm quotes Dem consultant David ‘Mudcat’ Saunders, a proponent of the ‘NASCAR Dads’ strategy: “We’ve lost the white working-class male.” Kromm adds:

Poll analyst Ruy Teixeira rolled out a compelling set of numbers to back up the claim: Although the ideology of the Southern electorate hasn’t changed over the last decade — it’s now 14 percent liberal, 41 percent moderate and 45 percent conservative, only a hair to the right of 1996 — voting patterns have. Bill Clinton got 46 percent to Bob Dole’s 44 percent of the Southern white moderate vote in ’96; in 2004 Kerry had a 58-to-41 deficit to Bush among the same voting group. Even accounting for Clinton’s Southern touch, it’s clear that Democrats have lost ground.

Democrats need to pay very close attention to this discussion as it develops in the months ahead. To help get up to speed, read the DR posts on Democratic prospects and strategies in the South (Feb. 20, 23 and 27) below. In addition, a new blog, “Facing South,” where Kromm and other southern progressives discuss their strategies, merits the attention of Democrats seeking future victories.