December 15, 2004


GOP Has Lock on South, and Democrats Can't Find Key: A Times analysis shows that Bush's sweep of the region went even deeper than first appeared.
By Ronald Brownstein, December 15, 2004, LA Times)

The generation-long political retreat of Democrats across the South is disintegrating into a rout.

President Bush dominated the South so completely in last month's presidential election that he carried nearly 85% of all the counties across the region — and more than 90% of counties where whites are a majority of the population, according to a Times analysis of election results and census data.

The Times' analysis, which provides the most detailed picture yet of the vote in Southern communities, shows that Bush's victory was even more comprehensive than his sweep of the region's 13 states would suggest.

His overwhelming performance left Sen. John F. Kerry clinging to a few scattered islands of support in a region that until the 1960s provided the foundation of the Democratic coalition in presidential politics. Kerry won fewer Southern counties than any Democratic nominee since the Depression except Walter F. Mondale in 1984 and George S. McGovern in 1972, according to data assembled by The Times and Polidata, a firm that specializes in political statistics.

In Southern counties without a substantial number of African American or Latino voters, Bush virtually obliterated Kerry. Across the 11 states of the old Confederacy, plus Kentucky and Oklahoma, whites constitute a majority of the population in 1,154 counties. Kerry won 90 of them.

By contrast, Bill Clinton won 510 white-majority counties in the South eight years ago.

"We are out of business in the South," said J.W. Brannen, the Democratic Party chairman in Russell County, Ala., the only white-majority county in the state that Kerry carried. [...]

Bush romped in suburban and exurban areas, from Shelby County, Ala., to Gwinnett and Cobb counties in Georgia. He captured several of the large urban areas, like Birmingham, Ala., and Tampa, Fla., that Kerry typically won outside the South, and virtually swept the table in rural and small-town communities apart from the few Democratic holdouts in the outer South.

The breadth of Bush's success in majority-white counties spotlighted his ability to reach beyond his conservative base.

According to the election day exit polls, Kerry won white moderates only in Tennessee and Florida, and he tied Bush among them in Arkansas. In every other Southern state, Bush not only beat Kerry among white moderates but held him to 44% or less with that group. Kerry won white liberals in each state, but they represented no more than about one-sixth, and sometimes as little as one-ninth, of the white population.

Even many Democrats say the Republican surge among white moderates will force the party back to the drawing board. During the late 1990s, Democrats led by Clinton thought they had constructed a new formula for Southern success by linking African Americans and moderate white suburbanites through messages that muted social issues while emphasizing economic development and improving public education.

"But with the growth of the exurbs, the polarization of the parties and the decline in ticket-splitting, Republicans appear to have put together an overwhelming majority in the South again," Kilgore said. "They are now carrying the suburban vote and totally dominating the rural areas. The question: Can Democrats come up with a new biracial coalition?"

For the near term, at least, Rove remains confident that the answer is no. "If you accept my underlying assumption that this is the result of a trend that has gained momentum over the years and has been reinforced under President Bush, what is the act that is going to stop it and reverse it?" he asked.

"Once these things get set in motion, they require something on the landscape done by one or both parties, or events to intrude, to stop it and reverse it."

The current realignment is still in its early stages and the only thing that might stop or reverse it is an economic collapse on the scale of the Great Depression--an event that a better understanding of monetary policy, privatization of the welfare net, population growth, and globalization make unlikely at least over the next five or six decades.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 15, 2004 9:13 AM

This is encouraging. By the way, the link doesn't work.

Posted by: L. Rogers at December 15, 2004 9:27 AM

This is all well and good, but the Democrats eventually will decide not to run a liberal Northeast senator. Maybe even by 2012.

Posted by: David Cohen at December 15, 2004 9:50 AM

So what?

Posted by: oj at December 15, 2004 9:56 AM

To OJ's point, looking at the election map (mostly red, with blue only on the coasts and some splotches in the big cities), where is a non-Northeast Democrat with national potential going to come from?

Posted by: AWW at December 15, 2004 10:25 AM

Republican over-reaching into religious silliness will hurt the party among middle-of-the-road voters. It's one thing to listen to James Dobson, and take some of his advice, it's quite another to march in lock-step with him.

Posted by: Bart at December 15, 2004 10:53 AM


What's the difference?

Posted by: oj at December 15, 2004 11:01 AM

Heh - I was at a party on Saturday with a predominately Liberal crowd and they got into a whole "The world is going to end because of the eeeevil George Bush" kick. Someone said woefully, "Well at least we know that George Bush can't run for election again." I thought about saying, "Yeah, but what if this heralds the coming of a 70 year long Republican hegemony?" I wisely opted instead to head to the living room to play Spiderman 2 on the Playstation with the kids. "Pick your battles" my pappy always taught me. By the way, Spiderman 2 is an awesome game.

Posted by: Governor Breck at December 15, 2004 11:14 AM

I was at a dinner party last week where the eeevvill Bush=Hitler trope was on display.

It is amazing how, particularly when playing the part of an uncommitted observer, combined with the issue trove I have read here at BroJudd Inc, such people can be quickly, and witlessly, reduced to particularly convincing imitations of beached fish gasping for their next breath.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at December 15, 2004 11:57 AM

Totally lost in this analysis is the simple fact that the last generation that heard its elders grumble about the Republican party's role in the prosecution of the Civil War are gone. There are no grudge voters left.

Posted by: M. Murcek at December 15, 2004 12:06 PM

OJ, Americans may want to see some of the excesses in our society curtailed and a return to civic decency, but they do not want a theocracy. If Bush were to push through a Federal law banning sodomy, that would be a clear overreach.

The GOP should keep in mind that its three most popular political figures are McCain, Schwarzenegger and Giuliani, none of whom could be said to be in the pocket of the Religious Right.

Posted by: Bart at December 15, 2004 12:15 PM


If Bush's Court nominees restore Bowers no one in Red America will bat an eyelash.

Posted by: oj at December 15, 2004 12:19 PM

Bayh, Granholm, Obama, Vilsak.

Posted by: Midwest Dem Beef at December 15, 2004 1:43 PM

Of the three who are eligible, one could never get the nomination because too conservative on abortion (Bayh), one's a joke (Vilsak), and one is the wrong party to be the first black president.

Posted by: oj at December 15, 2004 2:24 PM

Warner in Virginia. If the question is who could win some Southern States. (Va. North Carolina, Arkansas, Florida) Could he retain Blue State? I think so.

Hillary can pick up Ohio, Mo. Iowa, several others and retain all Blue States. She might do less well in the South.

Posted by: h-man at December 15, 2004 2:56 PM

Hillary will be more damaged coming out of the Democratic primaries than Kerry was.

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 15, 2004 3:09 PM


Damaged how and by whom? If you are thinking about the 1992-94 version of Hillary, then maybe you are correct. The 2008 version will come across considerably more conservative.

Posted by: h-man at December 15, 2004 3:26 PM

In 2000, Gore controlled the apparatus and was more than rough enough to crush Bradley.

In 2004, Kerry was the 'consensus' candidate who beat everyone else in a series of tepid primaries. Dean proved to be hollow, Edwards WAS a lightweight, and the rest were either dwarfish or totally insane.

In 2008, the fight we see going on for the DNC chair will be out in the open. And Hillary will not be crowned - she will have to fight. She can try to control the money (through Ickes, Wolfson, etc.), but she cannot simultaneously fight the hard left and the moderates. Plus, she will alienate the black vote as much or more than Kerry did (and she will have less latitude to pander to it than he did). Edwards will be there, and he will probably not be as nice as he was this year. Some in the media (and the party) will support him because he is from the South.

She will be the favorite - don't get me wrong. But she will not sail through like Kerry did.

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 15, 2004 4:27 PM

I fear Hillary! actually will be a strong candidate in '08 because she can re-brand to the right without losing her base - the leftoids, after 8 years in the wilderness, will be desperate for a win and will cling to her.

Posted by: Tom at December 16, 2004 10:31 AM