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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Midterm Falloff Rates Not So Bad for African-Americans

In the midst of a sudden effusion of stories about the likely fate of southern Democratic Senate candidates this fall, I noted at Washington Monthly that one thing to keep in mind is that the African-Americans who form so important a part of southern Democratic turnout sometimes defy the “falloff” pattern:

[A]s everyone has noted who writes extensively about the “midterm falloff” problem for Democrats, in the past the pro-Democratic demographic group least prone to “falloff” has been African-Americans. On occasion (e.g., the Deep South in 1998, and Virginia just last year), black voters have bucked the trend almost entirely. There’s sort of an assumption that black turnout is driven by the presence or absence of Barack Obama on the ballot, but the trend-lines are deeper than that, particularly in the South where Republicans are more feral and race is never completely absent from politics.

There’s another positive factor southern Democrats would generally note:

In any event, I would by no means write off the whole region for Senate Democrats. There’s this tendency to think of them as soft touches because they are not typically loud-and-proud progressives. But as southerners know, politics is a blood sport in the region, in part because partisan fights are often over very basic things like the existence of progressive taxes and public schools, not to mention crazy conservative memes like land-use planning being a UN plot. So while 2014 will be difficult for southern Democrats, they’re not going to lose by default.

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