A Regional Party
by Jonathan Singer, Wed Nov 05, 2008 at 01:16:29 PM EST
Looking at both the electoral college map and the exit polling, one of the most interesting developments from yesterday was the confirmation of the Republican Party as a regional party. Yes, the South has served as the base of the GOP's coalition for at least 40 years, so it comes as little surprise that John McCain by and large carried the region. However, what does stand out was how relatively poorly McCain fared elsewhere.
The South accounted for 111 of the 174 electoral votes earned by the McCain-Palin campaign (assuming North Carolina stays blue, Missouri stays red and Nebraska 2 votes like the rest of the state). This means that nearly two of every three electoral votes for the Republicans came from the South.
Even more problematic for the GOP, however, is the fact that McCain carried only the South. I wrote about this predicament well before the election, noting that it would be extremely difficult for McCain to rack up 270 electoral votes winning only in the South but not in the other regions of the country. Indeed, while George W. Bush carried the Midwest in addition to the South in 2004, only narrowly losing the West by a single point, McCain won only the South, with Barack Obama taking 54 percent of vote in the Midwest, 57 percent of the vote in the West, and 59 percent of the Northeast.
Compounding this problem for the GOP is the fact that the party's membership in Congress will be relatively more Southern than it was before, with losses racking up around the country. With Chris Shays going down, for instance, there are no longer any Republican Congressmen representing New England. The new even more Southern tinge to the party could serve to only reinforce the regional focus of the party as members outside of the region wield less and less power and the party apparatus in the remainder of the country atrophies.
Even outside of these relative shifts within Congress, there will an inclination -- and we're already seeing it -- for the Republican Party to move to the right. While I think this would be a remarkably poor decision for the GOP, even more strongly reinforcing the regionalization of the party, the concern troll in me says, fine, go ahead and further make yourselves unelectable in the more than two-thirds of the country that is not the South. But if the Republican Party wants to see its electoral fortunes improve in the coming years, they might want to think of a way to replicate the successes of Howard Dean and the DNC in making the Democratic Party a truly national party -- even if that means welcoming those that don't agree with the party base on each and every issue.