A Regional Party

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.

Tags: Republican Party, South (all tags)



Re: A Regional Party

Not to be a wet blanket, but this sounds exactly like the kind of rhetoric the Democrats endured after the 2004 election:  party of the northeast, party of the parantheses.  And Kerry's 2004 map had the aesthetic appearance of a blue retreat to strongholds in cold, aquatic regions.

Obama had a great night, Democrats have had a great year, but there is absolutely nothing preventing 2010 from being a Republican blow out.  Let's not get ahead of ourselves.

And, yes.  This means that I will volunteer and contribute for Act Blue and Better Democrats, etc.

by the mollusk 2008-11-05 01:23PM | 0 recs
2010=gay marriage

especially considering how Prop 8 passed in CA, despite Obama's landslide win there 60-37. Gay marriage is what they're gonna yap about for the next 2 years minimum. Obama's coattails couldn't even gain it acceptance in one of the most liberal states. We need to watch out with this issue, as it beat John Kerry, and could beat a lot of congressional candidates next cycle.

by Lakrosse 2008-11-05 03:00PM | 0 recs
Re: 2010=gay marriage
A poster below this quoted Ed Rollins saying these things, not a buch of cocky Democrats.
Rollins was one Ronald Reagan's right-hand men.
You're right to be concerned about 2010, since it is aidterm eelctions and the GOP is the party out of power, but you might also be wise to try and take a more historical view.
by spirowasright 2008-11-05 04:51PM | 0 recs
Re: A Regional Party

The difference is that Kerry had the whole West Coast and part of the upper Midwest (Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin).  Bush carried Florida, the whole South, and the whole Midwest, but many of those areas are not especially populous.  More importantly, most of those areas are losing population rather than gaining.

Assuming that NC goes for Obama and Missouri for McCain, the Republicans are in a much worse position.  They took the Deep South (which doesn't include Florida), part of Appalachia, most of the Midwest, and part of the Mountain West.  That's all.  It sounds like a lot until you realize those stats are not very populous.  The Northeast is probably gone for them forever, serving as more than a counterbalance to their hold on the Deep South.  The Midwest is starting to turn away from them (at least the upper Midwest, Montana, the Dakotas, Iowa).  The Mountain West is almost gone, and the Southwest (well...Arizona) is trending Democratic as well.  

I have some questions about how this map may be more a repudiation of McCain than conservatism in general, but it definitely doesn't look good for them in the long run.

by ProgressiveDL 2008-11-06 02:14AM | 0 recs
Re: A Regional Party

If you want to look at it that way, the only place that had any Democrats in 1988 was MN and MA.  There's nothing preventing the Republicans from running very strong in VA, IN, CO, NM, IA, OH, NC, etc. in the future.

I agree that it does appear as though they have some structural problems right now, but the same appeared to be true for the Democrats in 2004.

by the mollusk 2008-11-06 05:01AM | 0 recs
Re: A Regional Party

I agree that 1988 was definitely a low point for Democrats.  It is actually pretty stunning that Bill Clinton got elected 4 years later and for two terms.  Makes me more willing to understand his centrism at the time, considering where the Party was coming from just 4 years prior.

But 2004 was very different.  Kerry had the Northeast locked up, but he also had the West Coast, and 4 populous upper "Midwest" (what is the real way to describe them?) states: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois.

There was definitely a real danger that the Democratic Party would become a regional party if those 4 states got peeled away, but fortunately, that hasn't happened.  I think the Republicans stand on a similar precipice.  If they continue to lose support in the Southwest and the Upper Midwest (the Dakotas, Montana), they risk becoming extremely regionalized.  And that would be much worse for them than where we were after 2004.  Here's why:

2004, the Dems had the Northeast and West Coast essentially locked up in perpetuity.  Their "guaranteed" states in terms of EVs: 55, 31, 15, 12, 11, 7, 7, 4, 4, 4, 3.  That is essentially 153 "guaranteed" without assuming PA, DE, MD, OH, MI, IL, HI.

The Republicans right now are only "guaranteed" the deep South and a couple outliers.  Theirs are: 34, 15, 11, 11, 9, 9, 8, 8, 7, 6, 6, 6, 5, 5, 3.  That's 143 "guaranteed."  I'm not giving them Indiana, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Montana, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, or Missouri, because I don't think those can be considered "guarantees" for them any more.  Worse for the Republicans is that many of those states are getting more and more immigrants, which (hopefully) means it will be harder for them to continue to win as the "whites only" party.

by ProgressiveDL 2008-11-06 06:51PM | 0 recs
Re: A Regional Party

Great analysis.  I just posted these comments because I read a Krugman piece the other day implying that the Republicans were in the unique position of losing their centrists and only hanging on to their hardcores.  I think that's not a good way to look at it.  The hardcore areas are hardcore precisely because they are locks for a particular ideology: Massachusetts and California versus Mississippi and Alabma.  So it is quite natural for the party in the ascendent to capture the middle.  In fact, that's the only way to do it.  So the Republicans are definitely in a world of hurt right now, but the Democrats could just as easily lose the middle.

This may sound like I'm suggesting a centrist Democratic governance, but I really don't think that's the way to go.  I'd say the most important thing for Democrats is to lead.  Be grown-ups.  Guide our country to something greater.  Then we'll have a permanent majority.

by the mollusk 2008-11-06 08:29PM | 0 recs
Re: A Regional Party

I agree that the Democrats need to lead and they must do so assertively.  But I don't believe there can ever be a national permanent (or even semi-permanent) majority.  The closest was the dominance of the Democratic-Republicans in the early nineteenth century.  Even that lasted only a generation and ended with the devastating split in the 1820s.  It was a good example of what happens when a party tries to hold too many disparate ideologies together by sheer force of will.  The Republicans are facing this problem right now.

Regional (semi)permanent majorities are possible, though, and I think we would do well to expand ours.  With the Northeast and West Coast locked up, there is no reason we can't begin to add the upper Midwest (Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin) into our "guaranteed" list.  And the Mid-Atlantics (Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina) are moving that way also.  If the Democratic Party can be the party of empathy and pull in everyone that is not bigoted, that's pretty close to a permanent majority.  Or as close as is really possible.  But it relies on the Republicans continuing to be the party of bigotry.  Even I am not sure they are that clueless.

by ProgressiveDL 2008-11-07 03:05AM | 0 recs
Re: A Regional Party

I was just reading about RFK, Jr. possibly being chosen to lead the EPA and it hit home.  We didn't just elect Obama and Biden last night, we swept the entire Bush cabal of incompetents from the government.  Starting in January our entire government and all its various agencies will be run by competent people who are qualified to run the agencies to which they have been assigned.

That's huge!

P.S.  Sorry about off-topic comment.

by GFORD 2008-11-05 01:36PM | 0 recs
Re: A Regional Party

Back when the Clinton/Obama race was at its apex and people on both sides were considering voting for McCain if their candidate didn't win, I made this point many times.  The people who actually run the government are political appointees at government agencies.  The Republican world is one of oil, sleazeball bankers, and End-timers.  So while McCain may have seemed palatable at one time, he was almost certain to bring with him a cloud of idiots who could continue Bush's errand of running the government into the ground.

by the mollusk 2008-11-06 05:05AM | 0 recs
The GOP needs to learn that groups of people

that they bash might band together to vote for the other guy/gal.

It's easy to tell them they just need to stick to a positive message, but they enjoy hating so much that I think they need a couple more disastrous election cycles to get the message.

I'm more worried about the Bloomberg types running third party aligning with Blue Dogs and intellectual conservatives.

by magster 2008-11-05 01:47PM | 0 recs
Re: A Regional Party

I haven't studied that national exit poll fully, but the frustrating disconnect continues to be white women staying away from Democrats. This time it was 53-46 for McCain.

That shouldn't happen parallel to a Democrat winning by 6% nationally. Compare to previous cycles, a decade or so ago, when the white female percentage used to more or less mirror the national number. Clinton won that block handily. In 2000, Gore lost it to Bush, 49-48, in the coin flip popular vote. But after 9/11 we've seen betrayal by white women that hasn't reversed and this year was more pronounced than I expected. In 2006, we won the House national vote by about 7% while losing white women by 1%. That was promising, after Kerry lost white females by something like 11%.

The white male percentage has remained logical this decade. Yesterday Obama lost by 16%, 57-41. Gore trailed by 24, 60-36. Those more or less fall in line, since Obama fared about 6% better overall. But if we are going to sustain advantage in unfriendly cycles we need to find a way to reel in a segment of white females. Perhaps it was simply bigotry, rejection of Obama in certain areas. Hard to tell.

The good news, obviously, is the electorate has changed dramatically. I read that the white vote was 81% of the electorate in 2000, down to 72% this time. The Obama crew found a way to overcome a larger than expected deficit among white women and still win going away. A year ago I wouldn't have believed we could trail 53-46 in that group and win by more than 1 or 2%, let alone by 6%.

by Gary Kilbride 2008-11-05 01:56PM | 0 recs
Re: A Regional Party

To me the big stories are first, how stongly Obama won in the Southwest - 12 pts in NV, 7 pts in CO, and an astonishing 15 pts in NM - helping lead the way to a blue sweep in the Land of Enchantment.  Demographics mean it will be hard for the Republicans to take these states away from strong Democratic candidates.  So we finally have a foothold in a group of states likely to gain rather than lose electoral votes.

Secondly, the fact that not only did he win all the Gore/Kerry states as I always believe he would, but that the closest was the 9 pt win in IA - all other Gore/Kerry states were double digits or better.  This alleves the concern that some of those Great Lakes states were subject to slip away.  VA was by a solid 5 pts, and NC turned blue a good two cycles sooner than anyone thought it would.

So yes, don't get complacent - things can change.  But with the totally adult way Obama is likely to run his administration. I am confident we'll have a good shot at consolidating these positions in 2010 and 2012, thus truly regionalizing the Republican party.  As Ed Rollins said to day, as a 60 something white man he IS the face of the party.

by LanceS 2008-11-05 02:40PM | 0 recs
Actually, Kerry lost Iowa

but your point is well taken.

by edparrot 2008-11-06 05:30AM | 0 recs
Not just the south

McCain also carried the farm belt, at least part of it, and a few of the Rocky Mountain states. We need to work on that.

Before we can tell the Duke Boys to go jump in the lake 'cause we don't need them, we need to ad a Solid Farm Belt to the Solid Northeast and Solid Pacific. Nail down Missouri and those prairie states. We made some progress this year--North Dakota was closer than it has ever been--but let's keep trying.

by admiralnaismith 2008-11-05 02:47PM | 0 recs
lets not write the GOP obituary yet

I am very concerned about prop 8 in CA. it couldn't even pass with Obama's mammoth win there, 60-37 against John McCain. Ladies and Gents, this is what the GOP is gonna use in 2010. Be prepared. The GOP lost big because of Bush. America is still not quite left yet. We will need to counter with immigration, as the Latinos delivered for Obama. With him, clearly the white vote isn't going anywhere for us. Cuba is another place Obama can work on, especially now that Fidel is out of the way, and Raul is headed out.

About white women, we need to work on this. Sarah Palin is not gonna go away. I'm convinced she helped keep McCain alive, for all her bad press. She kept somewhat of an already demoralized GOP base. In 1992, people were writing the GOP's death notices. Turned out they were merely buried alive, and escaped the coffin.

by Lakrosse 2008-11-05 03:05PM | 0 recs
That's very well said, Jonathan.

...even if that means welcoming those that don't agree with the party base on each and every issue.

I have watched the Democratic Party wrestle mightily with this issue this year.  Even within the party of Tolerance it is easy to polarize over issues.  The key to running a team is to find common ground and build the base on that, not to focus on hot-button issues replete with claxons and clarion bells no matter how exciting those are.

The GOP should relocate its center around actual conservative issues - more personal responsibility and freedom, small government and fiscal conservatism - rather than run to the side of the barge and focus on Christian fundamentalism issues which can by definition only apply to a subset of potential members.

The Democratic Party (we really need a TLA for that...) needs to fully understand Obama's message and continue to relocate its center around social equality and global responsibility.

If that happens then we will have the best of all possible scenarios.  Two parties with arguably good approaches to achieving the same goal - harmony and prosperity - and they could battle it out over the best means and methods for a given time and place.

by chrisblask 2008-11-05 03:47PM | 0 recs
The problem is that those are mutually excusive

Small government is the opposite of the religious right.  Even Giuliani interrupted his stampede to he right by saying that pro-choice is the conservative position.  Stem cells, gay marriage, etc are all government interference.

I should note that I do not think this is why the Republican brand failed.  I think the various sides HAD learned to live with each other.  It will be difficult for them to rebuild due to the way the fracture is occurring, but it's not impossible.  The failure was for four reasons:

1.Bush totally abandoned all pretense of being conservative and instead governed like a democratic fascist - the sole goal was to hold onto power.

2.Conservative philosophy about tax cuts, deregulation and trickle-down economics became the end rather than the means to an end.  I don't agree with those philosophies, but that doesn't mean that engaging in an intelligent discussion about the dynamics behind them doesn't show some value.  Instead, it became a case of removing regulation and cutting taxes over and over again just because it made a good political soundbite, without any consideration of how it actually fit into things.  Many of the conservative economists of the 60's and 70's would have been aghast at how their philosophy was twisted.  Again, I don't buy the philosophy, but Bush turned it into a caricature.

3.Deregulation and tax cuts DID fail and they would have failed to some extent even without #1 and #2.  Their failure became obvious over the past two years.

4.I said earlier that the groups had learned to live with each other.  But when faced with the first three problems, they fractured.  That's where your suggestion about finding their center is a good one.  It lowers the chances that they will explode.  The only problem I see is that conservatism - even Buckley conservatism - inherently is more fearful than liberalism.  Which means you have to play to people's fears in order to be true to your agenda.  And that will always run a bigger risk of fracturing a coalition.

by edparrot 2008-11-06 05:47AM | 0 recs
Re: The problem is that those are mutually excusiv

Well said.

by chrisblask 2008-11-19 06:25PM | 0 recs
Re: A Regional Party The South

Having been born in Texas and lived there for much of my life all I have to say is "GOD, why to we have to be lumped together with these basketcase RED states of the South and the plains states". I hate that. Its like our populace has to be 1st in National Football rankings and dead last in influence in US politics. This election we got little national traction--we re-elected a whole bunch of low seniority Republican Congressional  members. The Houston area at one time had many high ranking House committee chairpersons. Then about 1990 we went through the Republican transformation and threwout several ranking Democrat members. The highest ranking Republican is House member John Culberson who is ranked about 300 in seniority. This is disgusting for the 4th largest city in the USA to have no political clout in the Congress just because we "wanted to show those elitist liberals" a thing or two. Yeah, right--we join such basketcase POWERHOUSE types as Oklahomans, Alabamans, Kansasans, Mississippians, etc. who live mostly on Federal farm subsidies and other types of welfare.

by hddun2008 2008-11-05 04:03PM | 0 recs
Re: A Regional Party The South
I also wonder if any deline in oil production and any move to alternative fules might evenutally catch up Texas economically as well.
Conservatism is boarding the same boat liberalism went on 40 years ago.
by spirowasright 2008-11-05 04:43PM | 0 recs
Re: A Regional Party
When I was in junior high school, Republican Senator George Aiken of Vermont won not only the Republcian Senate primary, but also got enough write-ins to take the Democratic nod as well.
Edward Brooke of Massachusettes was the first black elected to the Senate since Reconstruction when he was got in the year President-elect Obama was in kindergarten.
Now, both New England and African-American republicans are an endangered species and the Party of Lincoln has become the party of the decendants of unrepentant slaveholders.
They shjould renovate the Little White Schoolhouse in Ripon, WI and rededicate it "In memory of the Republican Party."
by spirowasright 2008-11-05 04:38PM | 0 recs


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