Are Republicans losing the South?

As the region changes demographically, the GOP's stranglehold is starting to loosen

Topics: The South, Alabama, The American Prospect, South Carolina, Georgia, Barack Obama, Slavery by Another Name, ,

Are Republicans losing the South? (Credit: AP/Charles Dharapak)
This article originally appeared on The American Prospect.

The American Prospect One of the more interesting elements of President Barack Obama’s re-election victory was his strong performance in the South. He won Virginia and Florida—again—and came close to a win in North Carolina, where he lost by just two points. “Obama’s 2012 numbers in the Southeastern coastal states,” writes Douglas Blackmon for The Washington Post, “outperformed every Democratic nominee since Carter and significantly narrowed past gaps between Democratic and Republican candidates.”

Indeed, Blackmon—who won a Pulitzer for the book Slavery by Another Name—sees this as a crack in the Republican Party’s otherwise solid hold on the South. A growing African American population, combined with greater Latino immigration and a shrinking white electorate (the share of white votes in Florida dropped to 66 percent, for example) has allowed Democrats to make gains in states that were once GOP strongholds. Judging from Election Day, this is most true in the five states that hug the coast: Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

The greater these demographic changes, the larger the crack in the GOP’s Southern wall and the more likely Democrats will consistently win states like Virginia and North Carolina and begin to compete in states like Georgia, where the Republican Party maintains a hold on most statewide offices.

With all of this said, there are a few important caveats. First, as Blackmon points out, this doesn’t apply to the interior states of the South. There, voting is highly polarized along racial lines—in Alabama, for example, 84 percent of whites voted for Mitt Romney, while 95 percent of blacks voted for Barack Obama. The difference is most stark in Mississippi, where 89 percent of whites voted for Romney, and 96 percent of blacks voted for Obama. Even with growing African American and Latino populations, these states need a dramatic drop in the white share of the electorate for them to become competitive.

You Might Also Like

Beyond that, it’s worth noting that the South has not lost that much of its Republican advantage. At some point, yes, Georgia and South Carolina will become competitive states. But at the moment, they’re just as pro-GOP compared to the national vote as they were in the 1980s, when Republicans dominated the national popular vote. According to the most recent total, Mitt Romney won 47.54 percent of the vote on Election Day. By contrast, he won 53 percent of the vote in Georgia (a 5.46 point GOP advantage) and 55 percent of the vote in South Carolina—a nearly 8-point advantage.

Likewise, in the 1988 presidential election, George H.W. Bush won 53.4 percent of the popular vote to Michael Dukakis’s 45.7 percent. In South Carolina, Bush’s total was 61.5 percent, and in Georgia, it was 59.8—or an advantage of 8.1 points and 6.4 points, respectively.

Mitt Romney didn’t substantially underperform compared to previous Republicans in the South, and if Obama overperformed, it’s as much about demographics as the fact that Obama won with a popular-vote majority.

None of this is to say that Blackmon hasn’t made an interesting observation about where the region is going; it’s a near certainty that the South, and the coastal South in particular, will become more competitive as time goes on. But for this election, a little perspective goes a long way—Obama hasn’t done much better than previous Democrats, and Mitt Romney didn’t do much worse.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    DAYA  
    Young Daya has yet to become entirely jaded, but she has the character's trademark skeptical pout down pat. And with a piece-of-work mother like Aleida -- who oscillates between jealousy and scorn for her creatively gifted daughter, chucking out the artwork she brings home from summer camp -- who can blame her?

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    MORELLO   
    With her marriage to prison penpal Vince Muccio, Lorna finally got to wear the white veil she has fantasized about since childhood (even if it was made of toilet paper).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CINDY   
    Cindy's embrace of Judaism makes sense when we see her childhood, lived under the fist of a terrifying father who preached a fire-and-brimstone version of Christianity. As she put it: "I was raised in a church where I was told to believe and pray. And if I was bad, I’d go to hell."

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CAPUTO   
    Joey Caputo has always tried to be a good guy, whether it's offering to fight a disabled wrestler at a high school wrestling event or giving up his musical ambitions to raise another man's child. But trying to be a nice guy never exactly worked out for him -- which might explain why he decides to take the selfish route in the Season 3 finale.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    BOO   
    In one of the season's more moving flashbacks, we see a young Boo -- who rejected the traditional trappings of femininity from a young age -- clashing with her mother over what to wear. Later, she makes the decision not to visit her mother on her deathbed if it means pretending to be something she's not. As she puts it, "I refuse to be invisible, Daddy. Not for you, not for Mom, not for anybody.”

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    SOSO
    We still don't know what landed Brooke Soso in the slammer, but a late-season flashback suggests that some seriously overbearing parenting may have been the impetus for her downward spiral.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    POUSSEY
    We already know a little about Poussey's relationship with her military father, but this season we saw a softer side of the spunky fan-favorite, who still pines for the loving mom that she lost too young.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    PENNSATUCKY
    Pennsatucky had something of a redemption arc this season, and glimpses of her childhood only serve to increase viewer sympathy for the character, whose mother forced her to chug Mountain Dew outside the Social Security Administration office and stripped her of her sexual agency before she was even old enough to comprehend it.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CHANG
    This season, we got an intense look at the teenage life of one of Litchfield's most isolated and underexplored inmates. Rebuffed and scorned by her suitor at an arranged marriage, the young Chinese immigrant stored up a grudge, and ultimately exacted a merciless revenge.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    HEALY
    It's difficult to sympathize with the racist, misogynist CO Sam Healy, but the snippets we get of his childhood -- raised by a mentally ill mother, vomited on by a homeless man he mistakes for Jesus when he runs to the church for help -- certainly help us understand him better.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NORMA
    This season, we learned a lot about one of Litchfield's biggest enigmas, as we saw the roots of Norma's silence (a childhood stutter) and the reason for her incarceration (killing the oppressive cult leader she followed for decades).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NICKI
    While Nicki's mother certainly isn't entirely to blame for her daughter's struggles with addiction, an early childhood flashback -- of an adorable young Nicki being rebuffed on Mother's Day -- certainly helps us understand the roots of Nicki's scarred psyche.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>