Thinking About Romney’s Southern Problem

 

By: inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

It’s pretty clear that Mitt Romney has a Southern problem. The Republican candidate has consistently lost southern states. Indeed, it’s probable that if the South didn’t exist, then Mitt Romney would already have the nomination sown up today.

It’s also pretty probable that Romney will be the Republican nominee for the 2012 presidential election. At this point, it would take an extraordinary event to deny him the nomination. It would need to be something on the lines of Romney saying that he doesn’t care about poor people.

It’s a very interesting exercise to think about how Romney’s weakness amongst southerners in the primary will affect his general election performance in the South.

The Republican Party in the South is composed of two constituencies: business Republicans and evangelical Republicans. Back when the South was solidly Democratic, wealthy white suburbanites (the business Republicans) were the first to start voting Republican. The white evangelicals came late to the party; indeed a dwindling number of them still vote Democratic. Romney is weak amongst the evangelical wing of the Republican Party in the South.

A good way to think about what this weakness means for the general election is to take a look at the 2008 Democratic primary, where Barack Obama was weak amongst several groups as well. Most famously, the president did poorly amongst white working-class voters in the Appalachians. This is a bad example to use, however, because Appalachian working-class whites have been moving against the president’s party for a while now. Southern white evangelicals, if anything, are becoming more loyal to Romney’s party.

There’s another group which Obama did very poorly with in the 2008 primary, and which is better suited to this analysis (see if you can guess what I’m talking about before finishing the next paragraph).

This group opposed Obama from the beginning to the end of the Democratic primary, despite his best efforts. People today forget this fact because group (unlike working-class Appalachians) is a strong Democratic constituency. Nevertheless, Obama’s weakness amongst this group made him lose states ranging California to Texas.

Indeed, if you look at Obama’s performance in the counties bordering Mexico in Texas, you’ll find him doing just as badly amongst Hispanics in Texas as he did amongst working-class whites in West Virginia and Kentucky.

The Hispanic vote in the 2008 Democratic Primary and the southern white evangelical vote in the 2012 Republican Primary have a lot in common. Both constituencies voted strongly against the party’s nominee during the primary, but both constituencies are still very loyal to the party during the general election.

So how did Obama’s poor performance amongst Hispanics in the 2008 primary end up affecting the general election? Well, there wasn’t much effect. Obama didn’t do great amongst Hispanics, but he didn’t do poorly. He did about average. Obama won the same percentage of the Hispanic vote that a generic Democrat winning a comfortable victory would win. He did underperform somewhat in several rural Hispanic areas.

By the same logic, Romney’s poor performance amongst southern white evangelicals in the 2012 primary won’t have much effect. Romney won’t do great amongst southern white evangelicals, but he won’t do poorly. He’ll do about average. Romney will win the same percentage of the southern white evangelical vote that a generic Republican will win. He will underperform somewhat in several rural southern areas.

There is one caveat to this analysis. Hispanic opposition to Obama was generally based on Hillary Clinton’s popularity and economic reasons. On the other hand, southern white evangelical opposition to Romney is based on personal dislike for Romney and religion. One could make a pretty strong argument that the latter two are more powerful forces than the former two.

But, all in all, Democrats shouldn’t get too excited about Romney’s Southern problem.

 

 

The Fall and Rise of Southern Presidents: How the Civil War Broke The South

By: Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/ 

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

Out of all the regions in the United States, the South probably has the most unique and interesting history. Looking at the geographic origins of each president provides a fascinating proxy of Southern influence in America. To do this, I have compiled a table which lists whether each president had Southern origins or not.

Here are the early years of America:

In this table, Southern is defined as simply the former states of the Confederacy. Presidents with two terms get two entries; those with one term get merely one. It is generally pretty clear whether or not a president had Southern origins; the only two difficult cases are that of President Harry Truman (raised in Missouri) and President George W. Bush (who was born in Connecticut but spent most of his life in Texas).

As the table indicates, Southern presidents dominate the early life of the republic. Four of the first five founding presidents are Southern; their Democratic-Republican Party eventually extinguishes the New England Federalists. Interestingly, it appears that Southern influence was already in decline by the late 1840s; the last three presidents in this list are all non-Southern. By 1860, non-Southern presidents have held control over the country for the longest period since its founding.

The Civil War then utterly annihilates Southern influence:

For a long time after the Civil War, Southerners are unelectable. President Abraham Lincoln’s Vice President Andrew Johnson is the last Southern president for nearly half a century. After President Woodrow Wilson, it’s nearly another half century before the next Southern president.

During this period the Southern vote is uniformly Democratic. Unfortunately for the South, this means that the Democratic Party rarely nominates Southern presidential candidates; it already has the region under its belt. Moreover, and more importantly, Southerners are still tarred by the brush of secession. The northern electorate is extremely reluctant to cast a ballot for a Southerner.

In the modern era, Southern presidents have once again begun appearing frequently:

Four of the last five presidential terms have been controlled by Southern presidents. In the process, the South has closed much of the once vast income gap that existed between itself and the wealthier northern states.

All in all, the Civil War destroyed Southern influence for about a century. The South then regained some of its influence. However, it still has not reached the dominance over the American political system that it had during the antebellum era. Given the way in which America has changed and expanded since the Civil War, it probably never will.

 

 

Why Does Mississippi Vote Republican?

This post will attempt to explain why Mississippi is a Republican stronghold today.

But before doing that, let’s describe another state – call it State X. Looking at State X is very useful for analyzing why Mississippi votes Republican. I invite you to guess what state it is.

Here is a description of State X. Demographically, State X is very rural and very white. There are no major cities in the state; one has to cross state lines and drive more than a hundred miles to find the nearest metropolitan area. Racially, the state is homogeneously white; indeed, it is the second whitest state in the entire nation.

State X has almost always been a one-party stronghold, and that party has generally been the Republican Party. The Republican Party has almost always taken this state’s electoral votes; indeed, it voted for a Republican president for more than a century. State X has only elected one Democratic senator in its entire history.

I am talking, of course, about Vermont.

Despite its history of supporting Republicans, Vermont is currently a one-party Democratic stronghold. In 2008 it gave President Barack Obama 67.5% of the vote. It currently sends Socialist Bernie Sanders to the Senate (in addition to Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, the only Democrat the Green Mountain state has ever sent to the Senate).

What does this have to do with Mississippi voting Republican?

Well, Vermont and Mississippi almost never vote the same way for president:

Link to Table of Mississippi and Vermont Voting Patterns

Indeed, there are only seven elections out of 48 total (since Mississippi became a state) that the two have supported the same candidate for president: 1820, 1840, 1872, 1972, 1980, 1984, and most recently 1988.

Oftentimes during presidential landslides, Mississippi or Vermont are the only states which refuse to go along with the rest of the country. In 1936 President Franklin D. Roosevelt won an enormous landslide, taking the highest percentage in the electoral vote since the beginning of the two-party system. The only states to go against him? Maine – and Vermont.

In 1964, on the other hand, President Lyndon B. Johnson likewise won a stunning landslide, taking the highest percentage in the popular vote since the beginning of the two-party system. This time, however, it was Mississippi that went against the president.

In 2012, barring an epic meltdown on either the Democratic or Republican nominee, Mississippi will vote Republican and Vermont will vote Democratic. This trend is likely to continue in as far as the eye can see into the future.

It seems that there is just something that drives Mississippi and Vermont different ways. Vermont is a symbol of the Yankee North; Mississippi of the Deep South. Since the founding of America, the two have been culturally and socially at odds. Sometimes this division occurs in trivial ways, such as nasty stereotypes or different voting patterns. Sometimes the division takes on much more significance, most famously in the Civil War.

So to answer the question in the post’s title, Mississippi votes Republican because Vermont votes Democratic. Or, to put it another way, Vermont votes Democratic because Mississippi votes Republican. And as long as presidential elections continue to happen, Mississippi will probably be voting the opposite way of Vermont.

--Inoljt, mypolitikal.com 

 

Around the World

News from around the globe impacting our world.

The Battle for Misrata Continues. Forces loyal to Muammar Qaddafi pounded the rebel held city of Misrata on Sunday, hours after the Libyan government claimed its troops had pulled back from the besieged city in order to allow tribal leaders try to negotiate a political resolution. More from the The Guardian. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reports more on the use of unmanned American drones in the conflict suggesting that they may provide a "psychological edge" in the fighting.

Army Joins Crackdown in Syria. Al Jazeera reports that the Syrian Army has been called into action to crackdown on anti-government protests in the southern city of Deraa and the Damascus suburb of Douma. Communications have been cut off and, for the first time, the military has become directly involved in attempts to quell the on-going protests against the regime of Bashir al Assad.

Clashes in the South Sudan. South Sudan's army (SPLA) claimed today killing 57 militia members during Saturday's clashes in Jonglei state. The militia forces were to integrate into the SPLA before July 9 when the South will secede from the North after voting overwhelmingly to separate in a referendum and it is not clear what set off this latest round of fighting. All Africa has the full report.

Alternative Vote Referendum Strains UK Coalition. The already strained relations between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in Britain's coalition government reached a new low yesterday amid an increasingly bitter campaign ahead of next month's referendum on the voting system. The story in The Independent.

Hundreds of Taliban Escape. Some 500 Taliban fighters, including some high level commanders, have escaped from a detention centre in Kandahar via a 320 meter tunnel. According to a Taliban statement the tunnel was not dug by the inmates but by fighters outside the prison. The tunnel took 5 months to complete. A full report including video from Al Jazeera.

 

Analyzing the South Carolina Gubernatorial Election, Part 3

This is part of three posts analyzing the 2010 South Carolina gubernatorial election, in which Republican Nikki Haley won a closer-than-expected victory over Democrat Vincent Sheheen. The main focus of these posts will be to explore whether a racial effect accounted for Ms. Haley’s unexpected poor performance.

(Note: 

(Note: Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying. This is also part of a series of posts analyzing the 2010 midterm elections.)

 

Link to Map of South Carolina, 2010 Gubernatorial Election

 

The previous post mapped out the relationship between Democratic shifts in 2010 and white registration numbers. Here is the relevant map reposted:

 

Link to Map of South Carolina, 2010 Gubernatorial Election Comparison to Registered Voters

 

The post ended by noting that “So far this analysis has been relatively light on the statistical side of things.” It included a number of maps, but did not use any raw numbers.

This post aims to draw conclusions based on those numbers.

Let’s begin by translating the picture above into a graph:

Link to Graph of Relationship Between White Registration and Democratic Shift in the 2010 South Carolina Gubernatorial Election

 

This graph maps the relationship between how white a county in South Carolina is, and how much it shifted against non-white Republican candidate Nikki Haley in 2010.

If normally-Republican whites moved against Ms. Haley due to her race, one would expect the dots to be graphed in a roughly 45-degree diagonal line; the whiter a county, the more Democratic it would shift in 2010.

Clearly this is not the case in the graph above. There are a lot of very white counties that shifted strongly against Ms. Haley – but there are also a lot of very white counties that supported her more than they did Senator John McCain.

Indeed, the whitest counties seem to spread out into two groups; one group moves strongly against Ms. Haley, another actually shifts for her. One might speculate that the former group is composed of lower-income, rural whites and the latter is composed of higher-income, metropolitan whites.

To test this theory, the previous post adjusted for income by eliminating all the counties with a median household income greater than the state median (i.e. it got rid of the rich whites). Here is what the result looked like:

 

Link to Map of South Carolina, 2010 Gubernatorial Election Comparison to Registered Voters, Adjusted For Income

 

There seems to be a correlation here, as the previous post noted.

Here is how the relationship looks on a graph:

 

Link to Graph of Relationship Between White Registration and Democratic Shift in the 2010 South Carolina Gubernatorial Election

 

The group of white counties which shifted towards Ms. Haley has disappeared. Instead, one sees a much stronger trend: the whiter the county, the more strongly it moved against non-white Republican Governor Nikki Haley.

This only happens once high-income white counties are tossed out of the analysis. High-income Republican whites were very comfortable voting for non-white Republicans; low income Republican whites were less willing.

Interestingly, this pattern is not unique to South Carolina. In Louisiana, Republican Governor Bobby Jindal – a non-white individual of Indian descent – did extremely poorly amongst rural, low-income (Republican) whites while winning landslide support amongst high-income, suburban (Republican) whites. This caused Mr. Jindal to lose in his first attempt to run for governor.

Finally, one can test whether the effect above is statistically significant, or just the result of randomness.

Here is a regression analysis run on the 2010 South Carolina gubernatorial race:

Link to Regression Analysis of the 2010 South Carolina Gubernatorial Race

 

Regression analysis is something I am still not fully comfortable with, so bear this in mind as the analysis continues.

The regression attempted to use two variables – race and income – to predict whether voters would vote more Democratic in 2010. Specifically, it used the percent of white registered voters in a county and said county’s median household income.

The model states that every 10% increase in white registered voters results in a 3.65% greater Democratic shift against Ms. Haley (this is the Coefficient column at the bottom left).

More importantly, whiteness and income were statistically significant when placed together; there was a 0.1% chance that the effect of whiteness was random, and a 0.4% chance that the effect of income was random (this is the P>|t| column at the bottom center).

So the evidence is fairly strong that racially-based voting by low-income whites hurt non-white Republican Ms. Haley in 2010.

There is, however, a caveat. The above regression only explains 20% of the variance between the different degrees of Democratic shifts between different counties (this is the Adj R-Squared line at the top right). This means that 80% of the variance is not explained by race and income.

Racism probably hurt Ms. Haley in 2010, but it was far from the only factor.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

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