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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

New South Trumps Dixie

Now that NBC has called NC for Obama, as well as the New York Times, we can say that three of the four largest southeastern states, FL, VA and NC voted for an African American presidential candidate, and he only lost by five points in GA, where reports of vote suppression may account for much of the margin.
Please don’t tell me that FL, VA and NC are not really southern states because of their fancy suburbs, snowbird refugees and high tech blah blah. That’s part of the new south. Get used to it. Yes, Dixie still thrives in parts of the southeast, as evidenced by Obama’s much weaker showing in MS, AL, AR, TN and SC. But even in the most conservative areas Dems are often competitive in the state legislatures and even statewide races, as indicated by the impressive numbers of Democratic office holders. Southern states are contributing two of the U.S. Senate pick-ups and four House of Reps. seats to the Dems’ net gain.
The “skip the south” strategy had merit in 2000 and 2004, in part because the Dem presidential nominees weren’t well-suited for the southeast. But now the demographic transformation has reached the point where the largest southeastern states are highly competitive for even liberal Democrats who know how to campaign. Smart Democratic candidates will find the southeast even more hospitable in 2012.

One comment on “New South Trumps Dixie

  1. David on

    “Please don’t tell me that FL, VA and NC are not really southern states because of their fancy suburbs, snowbird refugees and high tech blah blah. That’s part of the new south. Get used to it.”
    Hooray!! I, too, am getting heartily sick and tired of people assuming that if a Democrat does well in the South it’s because out-of-staters are moving in and civilizing the joint. TBS, that map in this morning’s NYT showing the “McCain Belt” of counties bucking the Obama trend and running from Appalachia across the Tennessee Valley west to Oklahoma, which has generated so much hillbilly-baiting buzz in the blogosphere, is pretty disturbing. But such maps obscure the extent of Obama’s support in the urban South. Here in Tennessee the county map looks like a sea of red, but some 40 percent of Obama’s vote came from two counties: Shelby (Memphis) and Davidson (Nashville). The McCain Belt consists almost entirely of rural counties. Alas, these counties are hurting [Huge McCain shifts in Central Appalachia, one of the most dyfunctional regions in the country], and Democrats shouldn’t dismiss them, if for no other reason than that these are the sorts of people Democrats have historically cared about. But the future of the South isn’t in these counties; it’s in the Nashvilles and Raleighs.

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