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CHRISTOPHER MICHAE
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« on: February 21, 2004, 06:50:19 pm »

Beyond Red and Blue

Painting America in just two colors makes US politics seem too black-and-white. In reality, the national electorate divides into 10 regions that cut across state borders. How they come together will determine the presidential election.

By Robert David Sullivan

One of the most awful prospects of the next presidential election is the return of…that damn map. Depicting the results of the 2000 election, the reigning graphic of American politics divides the United States into two colors, red for Republican and blue for Democratic. It's also the basis of a lot of simplistic political analysis. "The 2000 election map highlighted a deep cultural tension between the cities (the blue states) and the sticks (the red states)," as Matt Bai put it in the New York Times Magazine earlier this year. David Brooks described this schism in more acerbic tones in the Atlantic Monthly in 2001: "In Red America churches are everywhere. In Blue America Thai restaurants are everywhere."

But this primary-color collage resonates only because it turns up the contrast. Given that more than 40 percent of voters in the blue states backed Bush and more than 40 percent of voters in the red states backed Gore, doesn't the red vs. blue model seem, well, a bit black-and-white?

So CommonWealth decided to make a map of our own. Aiming somewhere between the reductionist red-and-blue model and the most accurate (but least useful) subdivision of the United States into infinity, we split the county into 10 regions, each with a distinct political character. Our regions are based on voting returns from both national and state elections, demographic data from the US Census, and certain geographic features such as mountain ranges and coastlines. (See "The 10 Regions of US Politics" for detailed descriptions.) Each region represents about one-tenth of the national electorate, casting between 10.4 million and 10.8 million votes in the 2000 presidential election.

Some states fall entirely within a region, but many are split between two or more. Electoral votes follow state boundaries, but populations don't, and the social characteristics that influence politics spill over jurisdictional lines. Rural sections of adjacent states often have more in common, culturally and politically, with each other than with the urban and suburban population centers of their states. If political campaigns can translate media markets into electoral votes, why not regional identities that cross state lines? Furthermore, upstate-downstate divisions are well-established dynamics in elections for statewide offices, such as governor and US senator. Why should it be a surprise that they play a role in the Electoral College tally for president?

That role becomes clear in CommonWealth's analysis of recent national elections (See "Continental Divides"): No winner of a presidential election has carried fewer than five regions in at least three decades. But it's especially clear in the razor's edge closeness of the 2000 presidential election: George W. Bush and Al Gore each won five regions, but it was Bush's hair's-breadth victory in Southern Lowlands that carried the day.

Although the purpose of our framework is not prediction, the explanatory power of CommonWealth's analysis is evident: If either Bush or the eventual Democratic nominee in 2004 can carry a sixth region, as Bill Clinton did in both 1992 and 1996, he is virtually assured to win in November. As political campaigns pull out their maps and sharpen their pencils, setting a course for November 2, 2004, they should consult our cartography - if only to determine where their opportunities lie, and where they're wasting their time.

Three of our regions have voted Republican in every election since 1964. SAGEBRUSH, which includes most of the Rocky Mountain states and a piece of northern New England; SOUTHERN COMFORT, which follows the Gulf Coast and reaches up to the Ozarks; and the FARM BELT, which stretches from Ohio to Nebraska but leapfrogs the Mississippi River. Two others lean Republican, but have boosted Democrats from time to time. APPALACHIA, which follows the mountain range from Pennsylvania to Mississippi, supported Jimmy Carter in 1976 but abandoned him in 1980 and backed the GOP ever since. SOUTHERN LOWLANDS, which stretches from Washington, DC, to New Orleans, stayed with Carter in 1980 and supported Clinton twice in the 1990s but rejected northerners Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis, not to mention Gore in 2000.

Three regions have flip-flopped in a dramatic way, voting for Carter in 1976, switching to Reagan in 1980 and 1984, then going Democratic in the past four elections: UPPER COASTS, which includes most of New England and the Pacific Northwest; GREAT LAKES, which takes in such cities as Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, and Buffalo; and BIG RIVER, which follows the Mississippi from Lake Itasca, in northwestern Minnesota, to Memphis. NORTHEAST CORRIDOR, which runs from Bridgeport to Bethesda, followed the same course except that it snubbed Dukakis and waited until 1992 to switch back to the Democrats - and stayed there. Finally, EL NORTE, which stretches from Los Angeles to Brownsville, Texas, and also includes the Miami area, backed Republican candidates from 1968 through 1988 but more recently supported Clinton and Gore.

Of course, CommonWealth's 10-region model is not the only way to analyze national politics. Many others now dominate the talk among the pundit class. (See "Dominators and Bloc-heads.") But in comparison to the others, our model has certain advantages.
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CHRISTOPHER MICHAE
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« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2004, 06:53:25 pm »

First, ours is based on election returns, not on polls or focus groups or sociological speculation. There's no guesswork here, no margin of error, and the response rate is 100 percent. (Well, 98 percent, considering that there are always a few votes that aren't tabulated.)

Second, the 10 regions are clearly defined, right down to county lines. In comparison to Soccer Moms and Office Park Dads, there's no confusion about who's being counted. And because the data are based on geography rather than on vague demographic groups, it can be studied longitudinally. That is, we can compare the results from the 1976 and 2000 elections for each region. Hell, you can go back to 1912 if you want to. Just remember that Northeast Corridor carried a lot more weight than Southern Comfort did back then.

Finally, from a strategic perspective, the 10-region model shows each party where they can (or have to) win in order to take the presidency. In 2000, both parties won four regions by solid margins; no amount of politicking was going to change that. But four isn't enough to win, no matter how much you pump up the vote in your base. As we saw that year, even winning the popular vote doesn't do the trick if you can't nail down a fifth region, and a sixth is better still. Candidates can rack up votes - popular and electoral - by driving up turnout in the regions that like them best, tipping the outcome in states divided by region, or by expansionism, spreading the influence of friendly regions into adjacent territory.

But the real beauty of the 10-region map is that it gets beyond red vs. blue reductionism, introducing shades of purple. The American electorate is a big, variegated mass of humanity, and a small shift of votes in the right place can swing an election.

A GAME PLAN FOR BUSH

Presidential campaigns know that winning demographic groups means nothing if they don't translate into electoral votes. The 10-region model reveals precise ways to rack up the Electoral College tally.

Because many states are split between regions, there are two ways to put a state's electoral votes into a candidate's column. One is to maximize the vote in a region more favorable to the candidate, either by increasing voter turnout there or by increasing the candidate's share of the vote - perhaps through a "bandwagon" effect by which independents accede to the prevailing sentiment in their neighborhood. The other is an expansionist strategy, which spreads the boundaries of one's favorable regions to capture territory from the opposition's geographic base. Indeed, such land grabs are the only way to keep the opposition from winning a fifth region and perhaps sending the election into overtime, as happened in 2000 when Gore narrowly won the Big River region and picked up the electoral votes of Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

Of course, Bush's ability to win a fifth region was crucial to his victory in 2000. He easily won the four regions that hadn't supported a Democrat since at least 1976 (Appalachia, the Farm Belt, Sagebrush, and Southern Comfort), and he narrowly captured Southern Lowlands, which had eluded his father in 1992 and Robert Dole in 1996. Losing the Southern Lowlands cost the senior Bush the electoral votes of Georgia and Louisiana and then cost Dole the electoral votes of Florida and Louisiana. As it turned out, George W. Bush needed every one of those electoral votes to prevail in the last election.

If Bush holds together the five-region coalition that (barely) worked for him in 2000, he could win the Electoral College by a slightly more comfortable margin the next time around. That's because he won four of the five regions that had above-average population growth during the previous decade, and those regions gained electoral votes after the 2000 Census. When electoral votes were reallocated on the basis of population shifts, states that are at least partly in the Sagebrush region gained seven votes, while states that are at least partly in the Great Lakes region lost seven votes. If every state votes the same way it did in the last election, Bush would win seven more electoral votes - a total of 278 votes, up from 271 in 2000.
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CHRISTOPHER MICHAE
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« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2004, 07:02:42 pm »

A GAME PLAN FOR BUSH

Presidential campaigns know that winning demographic groups means nothing if they don't translate into electoral votes. The 10-region model reveals precise ways to rack up the Electoral College tally.

Because many states are split between regions, there are two ways to put a state's electoral votes into a candidate's column. One is to maximize the vote in a region more favorable to the candidate, either by increasing voter turnout there or by increasing the candidate's share of the vote - perhaps through a "bandwagon" effect by which independents accede to the prevailing sentiment in their neighborhood. The other is an expansionist strategy, which spreads the boundaries of one's favorable regions to capture territory from the opposition's geographic base. Indeed, such land grabs are the only way to keep the opposition from winning a fifth region and perhaps sending the election into overtime, as happened in 2000 when Gore narrowly won the Big River region and picked up the electoral votes of Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

Of course, Bush's ability to win a fifth region was crucial to his victory in 2000. He easily won the four regions that hadn't supported a Democrat since at least 1976 (Appalachia, the Farm Belt, Sagebrush, and Southern Comfort), and he narrowly captured Southern Lowlands, which had eluded his father in 1992 and Robert Dole in 1996. Losing the Southern Lowlands cost the senior Bush the electoral votes of Georgia and Louisiana and then cost Dole the electoral votes of Florida and Louisiana. As it turned out, George W. Bush needed every one of those electoral votes to prevail in the last election.

If Bush holds together the five-region coalition that (barely) worked for him in 2000, he could win the Electoral College by a slightly more comfortable margin the next time around. That's because he won four of the five regions that had above-average population growth during the previous decade, and those regions gained electoral votes after the 2000 Census. When electoral votes were reallocated on the basis of population shifts, states that are at least partly in the Sagebrush region gained seven votes, while states that are at least partly in the Great Lakes region lost seven votes. If every state votes the same way it did in the last election, Bush would win seven more electoral votes - a total of 278 votes, up from 271 in 2000.

From our 10-region perspective,
Bush has a strategic decision to make.

From our 10-region perspective, Bush has a strategic decision to make in 2004. He could retain his office by squeezing more votes out of the five regions he won in 2000 - perhaps by increasing turnout among religious conservatives and other core Republican groups. That would preserve his advantage in the Electoral College, but it might result in another popular-vote loss. The alternative is to expand his appeal to moderates and independents enough to win six or more regions.

Either way, Bush will have to start by nailing down his base. In 2000, Bush won almost all of the electoral votes available in two regions: SOUTHERN COMFORT (his strongest region, which includes his home in Crawford, Texas), and SOUTHERN LOWLANDS (the most marginal of the five regions Bush won). Together they will count for a maximum of 176 electoral votes in 2004, or almost two-thirds of the 270 votes needed to win the election. Sixteen of those votes seem beyond Bush's grasp (they belong to Delaware, the District of Columbia, and Maryland), but another 27 depend on a win in Florida, where the GOP's lead in 2000 was tenuous, to put it mildly. Both Southern Comfort and Southern Lowlands extend into Florida, and Bush's brother Jeb ran strongly enough in both regions to be re-elected governor by a wide margin in 2002. Can George duplicate Jeb's feat?

In the Southern Comfort region, his best prospects are in St. Petersburg's Pinellas County. The Gulf Coast county narrowly went for Gore in 2000, but Jeb easily carried it in 2002, and the county also went against the rest of the state in turning down a referendum to reduce class sizes in public schools. And in the less affluent Southern Lowlands section of the state, the place for him to go is Daytona Beach's Volusia County. Gore won it by 15,000 votes in 2000, but Jeb took it by 13,000 votes two years later. If George rolls up an even bigger margin, he might effectively expand the solidly Republican Southern Comfort region to the Atlantic Ocean.

APPALACHIA, Bush's second strongest region in 2000, would give him another 44 electoral votes (in addition to the 160 earned in Southern Comfort and Southern Lowlands) if the states fell the same way they did in the last election. But a push in the region could capture another 21 votes from the one Appalachia state denied to Bush in 2000: Pennsylvania. Bush lost the Keystone State by five points at the same time that conservative Republican Sen. Rick

 
Illustration by Travis Foster
Santorum was winning re-election by six points. If Bush can match Santorum's percentages in the rural interior of the state, and hope that voter turnout is not extraordinarily high in the urban centers of the east and west, Pennsylvania's electoral votes will be his. But given that the Appalachia portion of the state has relatively low population growth, a better long-range strategy for the GOP in Pennsylvania may be to seize territory to the west, in the Great Lakes region (Erie County), or the east, in Northeast Corridor (Bethlehem's Northampton County).

The SAGEBRUSH region was the GOP's strongest in 1980, when Ronald Reagan was elected. Since then, this libertarian-leaning area has been just a bit less reliable, especially when Ross Perot was on the ballot, but Bush will win another 49 electoral votes if its states fall the same way they did in 2000. A stronger effort here could help the Republicans gain up to 27 electoral votes from states Bush lost in 2000. New Mexico is the most promising pick-up, considering that Gore's 366-vote margin in the last election was tainted by numerous ballot-counting problems. If Bush can scare up enough voters to increase his 5,038-margin in Roswell's Chaves County to the 6,637-margin given to his father in 1988, the state's five electoral votes could be his. The problem is that the El Norte section of the state is growing faster: Bush got 2,500 more votes in Albuquerque's Bernalillo County than his father did in 1988, but Gore got 21,000 more votes than Dukakis did. What happens in this little state will speak volumes about the GOP's prospects in competing for the Latino vote.

In three other states, the Sagebrush region is struggling for supremacy with more culturally liberal Upper Coasts. Oregon, the scene of several bitter referendum questions on abortion and gay rights, is the most on the fence. The outcome there in 2004 may depend on the battle between two suburban Portland counties: Sagebrush's Clackamas County, pointing toward the eastern, more rural part of the state, which Bush carried by a mere 1,000 votes; and Upper Coasts' Washington County, which extends toward the Pacific and which Gore carried by 4,500 votes. If Bush runs up his vote total in Clackamas or pulls Washington into Sagebrush, he could break the Democrats' 20-year winning streak here.

 
Illustration by Travis Foster
Washington state is a bit more securely Democratic, thanks to increasingly liberal Seattle, but strong population growth in the Sagebrush section of the state offers hope to the GOP. There's also the possibility that Upper Coasts' Clark County (which includes Vancouver and sits on the Oregon border) will reach a tipping point and get annexed by Sagebrush: Dukakis won it by a margin of 40,000 to 37,000 in 1988, but Bush won it by 67,000 to 62,000 in the last election.

Finally, Maine hasn't shown much enthusiasm for culturally conservative Republicans, but issues such as gun control could work against the Democrats in rural areas, and the state's penchant for third parties like the Greens could give Bush an opening to grab at least one of the state's four electoral votes. (Maine and Nebraska are the only two states that award electoral votes to the winner in each congressional district.) Given that the Sagebrush part of Maine has much slower population growth, the GOP may have to claim territory from Upper Coasts in order to carry the state. The shipbuilding city of Bath, and surrounding Sagadahoc County, could indicate whether Boston-centric liberalism extends far enough up the coast to keep this state with the Democrats.
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CHRISTOPHER MICHAE
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« Reply #3 on: February 21, 2004, 07:06:29 pm »

The FARM BELT has lost some political clout since it was Gerald Ford's strongest region in 1976, but Bush can count on another 22 electoral votes from Indiana, Kansas, and Nebraska, and he may be able to squeeze 24 more votes out of the region. Iowa came within 4,200 votes of giving Bush its seven electoral votes in 2000, somewhat surprising for a state that

 
Illustration by Travis Foster
gave Dukakis a 125,000-vote margin in 1988. The 34 counties in the Farm Belt, all in the western third of the state, are solid for the GOP, but in most major races the Democrats compensate in the cities of Big River, from Des Moines east to Davenport and Dubuque. Ames's Story County, squarely in the middle of the state, may be a bellwether for the next election; the Democratic margin here shrank from 6,300 to 1,200 votes between 1988 and 2000. If Bush can pull Story into the Farm Belt, it may be a sign that Republicans have an edge for many statewide elections to come.

The only other state where a Farm Belt strategy could pay dividends is in Ford's home state of Michigan. In the last election, 38 of the state's 83 counties switched from the Democrats to the Republicans, leaving Gore with just a handful outside the Detroit area. If next year's Democratic nominee is seen as hostile to rural interests, he could lose serious ground in this territory, possibly costing him the state's 17 electoral votes. But this is no sure thing for the GOP. Suburban Detroit, part of the Great Lakes region (see below), has been steadily trending toward the Democrats since the first President Bush broke his "no new taxes" pledge.

Bush's best chance to capture a sixth region in 2004 is BIG RIVER, which was the most closely divided of all the regions in the last election. But close elections are a fact of life in this part of the country, and it won't be easy to shift many here. In addition to Iowa (mentioned above), Minnesota is sure to be on Bush's hit list next November. The state, which also includes a sliver of the Farm Belt, hasn't voted for a Republican since 1972, but the Democrats' hold has been weak, as none of their nominees has received more than 55 percent during the same period. Bush pulled off something of a coup here in 2000, winning all three of the biggest suburban counties in the Minneapolis areas (Anoka, Dakota, and Washington), none of which had gone Republican since Reagan ran for re-election. In all three cases, Bush's victory margin was smaller than the vote total that went to Green Party candidate Ralph Nader, meaning that he'll have to work hard to keep those counties on his side. But there was a good omen for him in 2002: All three counties went solidly for Republican US Senate candidate Norm Coleman over dragged-out-of-retirement Democrat Walter Mondale.

 
Illustration by Travis Foster
Wisconsin is also an irresistible target for Bush, given Gore's 5,000-vote win in the last election, but Democrats have a long history of pulling out tight victories here. Better prospects for 2004 are two Big River counties: La Crosse, right on the Mississippi, which went for Gore by 4,000 votes; and Wausau's Marathon County, in the central part of the state, which went for Bush by 2,000 votes. If the margins are flipped next November, it's a good sign for Bush.

Moving all of the states mentioned above into his column would give Bush 371 electoral votes, just shy of the 379 won by Clinton in 1996.

A REGIONAL STRATEGY FOR DEMOCRATS

No matter whom they nominate for president, the Democrats have a pretty good template for an Electoral College win, since Gore fell only three electoral votes short in 2000. One worry is the distinct possibility that the Democratic nominee will, like Gore, win the popular vote while losing in the Electoral College. This may happen even if the party increases its victory margins in the five regions that Gore carried in 2000 - helping him win such major states as California, New York, Pennsylvania, and Illinois - but fails to pick up enough ground in other regions to carry additional states. Rallies in New York, Chicago, and Boston may look good on television, but those cities will not decide the election.

In 2000, Gore won every electoral vote possible in NORTHEAST CORRIDOR, which will account for as many as 87 electoral votes in 2004, and he missed just four votes in UPPER COASTS - which, thanks to California, can provide up to 100 additional electoral votes next time around. Only New Hampshire eluded the Democrat's grasp, thanks in part to Ralph Nader. (This was the only state outside of Florida where Nader's vote exceeded Bush's lead over Gore.) Gore lost the state's two biggest counties - inland Hillsborough County, which includes Manchester; and coastal Rockingham County, which includes Portsmouth - while Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen narrowly carried them both on the same day.

 
Illustration by Travis Foster
(Unfortunately for Democratic strategists, Shaheen lost both counties, known for their anti-tax sentiments, two years later when she ran for US Senate against conservative Republican John Sununu, which explains why they're in the Sagebrush region.) In order to carry the state in November, the Democrats must either run up huge margins in the Upper Coasts sections of the state (mostly along the Vermont border but also in Durham's Strafford County) or capture one of the big Sagebrush counties.

Gore carried five states in the GREAT LAKES region. New York and Pennsylvania are already counted as part of the Northeast Corridor, but Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin account for an additional 49 electoral votes. (All told, the Northeast Corridor, Upper Coasts, and Great Lakes regions are worth a maximum of 236 electoral votes, still 34 votes shy of victory.) Unfortunately for the Democrats, a narrow popular-vote win in Great Lakes won't necessarily translate into electoral votes, since the region's electorate is in several major urban centers scattered across several large states. Illinois and Wisconsin, in particular, are almost impossible to win if a candidate doesn't also win Big River. Carter carried the Great Lakes region in 1980, albeit by less than two points, but didn't garner a single electoral vote as a result.

Ohio was the only Great Lakes state that Gore failed to carry in 2000. In a previous nail-biter of an election, Carter edged out Ford here by winning a dozen or so rural counties in the Appalachia and Farm Belt parts of the state. That may not be a feasible strategy this time around, so the Democrats will have to squeeze every vote they can from the northern edge of the state. One bellwether is the Great Lakes region's tiny Ottawa County, on Lake Erie just east of Toledo - which Clinton carried twice, but Gore narrowly lost. The Democrats need to win a few places outside the large cities, and if they can't win Ottawa, it's probably all over for them in Ohio.
« Last Edit: February 21, 2004, 07:25:59 pm by Christopher Michael »Logged
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« Reply #4 on: February 21, 2004, 07:12:59 pm »
Ignore

We've already discussed this once, under the thread 10 regions... Smiley
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CHRISTOPHER MICHAE
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« Reply #5 on: February 21, 2004, 07:22:12 pm »

El Norte presents the greatest potential for the
Democrats to pick up electoral votes.

Of all 10 regions, EL NORTE presents the greatest potential for the Democrats to pick up electoral votes in 2004. It's also the only region carried by Gore that has above-average population growth, meaning that the Democrats can win several states by stepping up get-out-the-vote efforts. Florida is the most obvious target, and Miami-Dade County is where the Democrats are most in need of improvement. Gore won only 53 percent there, compared with 67 percent in next-door Broward County. One could make the case that Elian Gonzalez, the young refugee whom the US government sent back to his father in Cuba, cost Gore the election, since the only two congressional districts in Florida where he ran significantly behind Clinton's 1996 percentages included heavily Cuban-American sections of Miami. Still, the county is by no means predictably conservative. In 2002, a referendum proposal to reduce class sizes in Florida passed Miami-Dade with 68 percent, compared with only 52 percent statewide. The Democrats probably can't win Florida without also paying attention to the Southern Lowlands region (see below), but strengthening its base among the state's fast-growing Latino population is a good long-term strategy.

In the west, Arizona, Colorado, and Nevada, are all split between the El Norte and Sagebrush regions, and every one went for Bush by 50 or 51 percent in the last election, putting them within reach for the Democratic nominee. In Arizona, the Democrats must hope for a near-draw in Sagebrush's mammoth Maricopa County (which includes Phoenix and its suburbs) so that El Norte's smaller but much more Democratic Pima County (which includes Tucson) can break the tie.

Similarly, in Colorado the Democrats must hope for a split in Sagebrush's suburban Arapahoe County (home of Littleton, site of the Columbine massacre) so that their margins in El Norte's Denver and Boulder aren't wiped out even before the returns from the state's rural areas come in. As for Nevada, it's all about Las Vegas's Clark County; it's the only county that falls in the El Norte region, but it casts more than 60 percent of the state's votes. Indeed, the Democrats haven't won a majority in any other Nevada county since 1976, so the odds are against them unless their nominee improves on Gore's weak 51 percent there.

Theoretically, a Democrat could win the presidency winning only the states that fall within their four strongest regions: Northeast Corridor, Upper Coasts, Great Lakes, and El Norte. But as noted above, the Great Lakes states of Illinois and Wisconsin are dominated by counties in the BIG RIVER region. In fact, Big River is probably responsible for every close Democratic presidential win of the past century. Kennedy won crucial electoral votes in Illinois; Carter scraped out an equally important victory in Wisconsin; and Arkansas, Missouri, and Minnesota have stood by every winning Democrat since 1912. Getting Missouri back in 2004 will be a challenge, especially given that Democrat Jean Carnahan was defeated for re-election to the US Senate in 2002. St. Louis County (the suburbs, not the city) may indicate whether Big River voters will break toward the Democrats. Carnahan carried the county by 43,000 votes when she was elected in 2000; at the same time, Gore carried the county by only 25,000 votes and failed to win the state. In 2002, when Carnahan lost her seat, her margin was down to 15,000. Alternatively, it would help for the Democrats to cut their losses in the growing southwest, or Southern Comfort, section of the state. Branson's Taney County, for example, voted almost 2-to-1 Republican in both 1988 and 2000, but gave the first President Bush a margin of 3,100 and his son a margin of 4,500.

The Big River region goes as far south as Arkansas, which historically has been friendlier toward moderate-to-liberal Democrats than any other Confederate state. Like several other Big River states, it hosted a bitterly fought Senate campaign in 2002, and here Democrat Mark Pryor ousted Republican incumbent Tim Hutchison, raising hopes that Arkansas might join Minnesota and Iowa in the Democratic column in 2004. But like Missouri, Arkansas has a growing Southern Comfort section (in its northwest corner) threatening to overwhelm the Big River portion that has produced most of the state's prominent politicians (including Bill Clinton). Holding a big margin in Little Rock's Pulaski County is essential for the Democrats, but Hot Springs's Garland County, just over the region line in Southern Comfort, could be a bellwether for the state's future. It switched from Clinton to Bush in 2000, and in 2002 it mirrored the state in voting for a Democratic US senator and a Republican governor.

Tennessee has also shown Big River proclivities in the past, electing US senators in the 1950s and 1960s (including Al Gore's father) who pushed for economic populism rather than racial segregation. Bush won it by only four points, but given that it was Gore's home state, it's hard to imagine any other Democrat coming that close in 2004. The state's Big River section, dominated by Memphis and Nashville, pulled the Clinton-Gore ticket to victory here in 1992 and 1996, but the Appalachian part of the state, including Knoxville, Chattanooga, and Dolly Parton's theme park, tilted strongly toward Bush in 2000 and helped to give him the state's 11 electoral votes. Even in the Big River section, Democrats have encountered resistance in smaller cities such as Clarksville, whose Montgomery County flipped to Bush. Montgomery switched back to the Democrats in the 2002 governor's race, but it's uncertain whether a national, presumably more liberal, Democrat can hold it. Only the victory of a Democrat in the 2002 governor's race gives the party any hope here.

Voters throughout the APPALACHIA region have been increasingly hostile toward national Democrats since 1980, with one state as a conspicuous exception - West Virginia, which even supported that quintessential northern urban candidate, Michael Dukakis. George W. Bush finally carried the state for the Republicans, thus posing the puzzle: Was West Virginia's 2000 vote an aberration, or was its reputation as a safe Democratic state from 1960 to 1996 a quirk of history? One reason for the Democrats' success here is that West Virginia has no major metropolitan areas, and thus few affluent suburbs to tilt the state Republican - unlike, say, Alabama, where the high-income suburbs around Birmingham are a major source of votes for the GOP. But in 2000, with rural areas and small towns trending Republican all over the country, the Democratic advantage seemed to evaporate here, with 31 of the state's 55 counties flipping to the GOP (including three that had voted for Walter Mondale!). If the Democrats can't reverse their slide in Appalachia - overwhelmingly rural, white, and entirely inland - they'll probably lose one of their bedrock states for good.

SOUTHERN LOWLANDS is the final region where the Democrats might pick up electoral votes. As in the Great Lakes region, the distribution of electoral votes could work against the Democrats. The party does extremely well in a band of counties with large black populations, but these strongholds are divided among 10 states, and they don't come close to a statewide majority in any of them. For example, Florida offers opportunities to a Democrat concentrating on the Southern Lowlands region. Orange County, home of Disney World, has been trending Democratic as it grows more populous: It gave the first President Bush a 26,000-vote margin even as he lost re-election in 1992, but Gore enjoyed a 5,000-vote advantage in 2000.

Virginia may actually be the most promising state for Democrats in the Southern Lowlands - ironically so, since a few years ago Virginia was as reliably Republican as West Virginia was reliably Democratic. One sign of the changing politics here was Democrat Mark Warner's five-point victory in the 2001 governor's race - held just two months after the September 11 terrorist attacks and at the height of President Bush's popularity. Warner was helped by the state's large black population in Southern Lowland cities such as Richmond and Virginia Beach, but he cemented his win by carrying places that had not voted Democratic for president since 1964. One major example is Southern Lowlands' Fairfax County, a source of more than 400,000 votes just outside Washington, DC, that could almost be part of Northeast Corridor except that its homes and offices are more spread out and much more recently built. It gave Bush only a 6,000-vote margin in 2000, though his father won by 10,000 votes during his losing campaign in 1992. Still, a concentration on Southern Lowlands may not be enough to swing the state: Warner also won places like the Appalachian city of Lynchburg, thanks to his much-vaunted "NASCAR strategy."
« Last Edit: February 21, 2004, 07:27:01 pm by Christopher Michael »Logged
CHRISTOPHER MICHAE
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« Reply #6 on: February 21, 2004, 07:30:16 pm »

At the other end of Southern Lowlands, Louisiana is another target made more tempting by a post-9/11 election. Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu won re-election in December 2002 over a strong Republican candidate. New Orleans didn't help much (after Gore's 99,000-vote margin in that parish, Landrieu got only a 79,000-vote advantage), but she did take Baton Rouge's parish away from the Republicans. And she did considerably better in the Southern Comfort section of the state than Gore had, winning Shreveport's Caddo Parish and Lake Charles's Calcasieu Parish by comfortable margins. (A similar pattern emerged in the 2003 gubernatorial race. Democrat Kathleen Blanco got only a 50,000-vote advantage from New Orleans, thanks to Republican Bobby Jindal's relatively good showing among black voters there, but she prevailed in the major Southern Comfort counties and won the state overall.) As in Virginia, the Southern Lowlands section of the state gives the Democrats a great start, but they also need to hold down their losses in the less friendly part of the state.

If the Democrats win all of the states mentioned above, they'll have 391 electoral votes - a few more than Clinton's haul in 1996. At this point, almost no one believes such a win is possible, but bigger shifts have happened in other election years. Watch two states with both Southern Lowlands and Appalachia sections to see just how confident the Democratic nominee is next fall. Unless he's John Edwards, if he's spending a lot of time in Georgia and North Carolina, trying to run up the black vote while trying to make gains in the high-income suburbs of Atlanta and Charlotte, he's planning to give his acceptance speech pretty early on November 2.

CLOSE CALLS

In one respect, the red vs. blue model makes an important point about changes in national politics over the past 30 years. Though we think of the 2000 election as being the closest in memory, many more states were competitive in the 1976 contest between Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, and that's reflected in our 10-region model. In 1976, only one region was won by more than 10 points (Southern Lowlands, which Carter carried 57-42), but in 2000 eight regions were won by double-digit margins (the exceptions being Big River and Southern Lowlands).

One reason for the closeness of so many states and counties in 1976 was that both Carter and Ford came from the moderate (some would say "electable") wings of their respective parties. The differences between the Democratic and Republican nominees have become sharper in just about every election since, particularly on social issues such as abortion. Another trend over the past few decades, widely overlooked by political reporters, is the return of straight-ticket voting. Regardless of how many voters tell pollsters that they're "independent," they are back in the habit of selecting presidents, congressmen, and (a bit less frequently) governors from the same party.

Some analysts believe that the two major parties will only encourage this habit in 2004, moving away from their longtime emphasis on "swing voters." In a September 1 New York Times article by Adam Nagourney, Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg notes, "The temptation in both parties is to continue to compete for greater and greater support in the their base…. It's a lot easier to do than to go out and convince swing voters to think differently about the party." Matthew Dowd, an adviser to the Bush campaign, concurred: "The partisans have dominated because their turnout is higher and they voter with greater and greater unity."

But even if the trend toward partisanship feeds the perception of the US as a 50/50, or red-blue nation, it's unwise to assume that this is a permanent condition. American voters also have a habit of rebelling against one-party states. In 2002, on a district-by-district basis, the results of congressional elections were eerily close to the results of the 2000 presidential race. But in governor's races, where candidates are less closely identified with their national parties, several states rejected their "red" or "blue" labels: Republicans won in overwhelmingly Democratic states such as Hawaii, Maryland, and Massachusetts; and Democrats took such GOP strongholds as Kansas, Oklahoma, and Wyoming.

Support for third-party presidential candidates also indicates some discomfort with the limited red-or-blue menu. In 1992 and 1996, Ross Perot's strength in the Sagebrush region seemed to come largely from fiscally conservative but libertarian-minded Republicans, who may not have signed up for the "culture war" declared by Pat Buchanan at the Southern-accented 1992 GOP convention. In 2000, Ralph Nader's pockets of strength in the Upper Coasts region indicated some irritation with Al Gore's soft-pedaling of environmental issues.

And in the long run, the colors on the red vs. blue map may start to bleed. How "red" are the John McCain voters who supported Bush in 2000 despite their preference for a different sort of Republican? Will the popularity of moderate Republicans such as Rudolph Giuliani in true-blue New York mean that Northeast Corridor will again become part of the GOP base? And does the success of rural-oriented Democrats such as Mark Warner in Virginia mean that the South's Dixiecrats can someday rise again?

Maybe the good vs. evil nature of the war against terrorism has made it too easy to fit domestic politics into a similar kind of dichotomy. But the red vs. blue model papers over too many real differences in the national electorate. The party that understands this may gain an advantage in 2004 - but it can't expect to maintain this advantage for long.
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 
 

 
 

 
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Miamiu1027
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« Reply #7 on: February 21, 2004, 07:33:17 pm »
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How long is this thing?
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« Reply #8 on: February 21, 2004, 07:42:46 pm »
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And why do you have to make different threads? Why can't you just make one big thread....with 6 different posts?
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« Reply #9 on: February 21, 2004, 07:50:40 pm »
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And why do you have to make different threads? Why can't you just make one big thread....with 6 different posts?
gooooooood point
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« Reply #10 on: February 21, 2004, 07:55:58 pm »
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And why do you have to make different threads? Why can't you just make one big thread....with 6 different posts?
CM wanted the notoriety...
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« Reply #11 on: February 21, 2004, 08:19:28 pm »
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Also, we've been over this subject before.
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« Reply #12 on: February 21, 2004, 11:22:17 pm »
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very interesting read.
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« Reply #13 on: February 22, 2004, 12:49:28 am »
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Interesting article, love the massinc.org site.  I think Pennsylvania and IA/WI/MN are still the best pickups for the president - based on 'Appalachia' and 'Big River' regions from the site.
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« Reply #14 on: February 22, 2004, 02:21:17 am »

And why do you have to make different threads? Why can't you just make one big thread....with 6 different posts?
CM wanted the notoriety...
No, CM didn't just want the notoriety. Ask me, before accusing me of anything. Thank You.
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« Reply #15 on: February 22, 2004, 02:22:35 am »

We've already discussed this once, under the thread 10 regions... Smiley
I know that Gustaf. But Please Take Into Consideration all of the New Members Of ATLAS.
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