Monday, June 30, 2008

More Discussion of the South's Competitiveness

Today's New York Times has a long piece on the continuing debate about whether the south is potentially fertile ground for the Obama candidacy. As I wrote a while back, certain states may come into play by virtue of 1) the size of the African American electorate; 2) expected higher turnout among these black voters; and 3) a sizable "ideopolis" population of highly educated whites. The current sexy pick for a state that could tilt blue in November--and one discussed in the Times article--is Georgia. With some arguing that there are 500,000 unregistered African American voters in Georgia, a concentrated effort to turn these folks out, along with a respectable showing by Libertarian candidate and former Georgia Rep. Bob Barr, could be enough to give Obama Georgia's 15 electoral votes.

As I've discussed, Thomas Schaller (among others) is skeptical of this possibility because of the inability of Obama--or any other Dem.--to get enough of the white vote. I'm not sure which side I fall on yet, but the potential of unprecedented turnout increases among African Americans and young voters is certainly possbile. Also worth noting is the Times' contention that turnout among white conservatives is unlikely to exceed what we saw in 2004. Bush fatigue, economic woes, and McCain's uneasy relationship with the evangelical base would suggest to many that Bush's re-election marked the high water mark for Republican support in Dixie. The recent House special election losses in Louisiana and Mississippi can be viewed as further evidence of the decline of the Republican brand since '04.

Perhaps the most important variable mentioned in the story--and one that has gotten increased attention with Obama's decision to decline public financing--is that Obama will be able to spend money wherever he wants. Whereas previous candidates (see Kerry in '04) have had to make strategic choices about resources--and have therefore tended to concentrate money in a few truly tossup states (Ohio, Florida)--Obama will be able to do this while also putting money into more long shot states in hopes of getting lucky. The other benefit of this strategy is that it forces McCain to spend a portion of his more limited resources in states that should easily be his. If McCain has to defend Georgia, he'll be less able to compete in states like Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Colorado, and elsewhere.

It appears, then, that the groundwork is being laid for a replay of Obama's primary strategy against Clinton, writ large...Dollars + Demographics = Victory

**Update: On a similar note, but focused more on the upper South and Obama's perceived problems among whites there is this long profile of Dave "Mudcat" Sanders, consultant to such Dems as Mark Warner and John Edwards. Hailing from southwest Virginia, Sanders has gained fame for his ability to tap into this region's political culture on behalf of liberal candidates. The idea to have Mark Warner sponsor a race truck (discussed in this post) was his idea. Well worth a read, especially his emphasis on "twofers."

**Update--July 1: Thomas Schaller responds to this debate in today's New York Times.

**Update--July 1: A story in yesterday's Wall Street Journal about the Obama campaign's voter registration efforts in the south.

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