Friday, March 28, 2008

"I was Born on this Mountain"
Who's the "Hillbilly Firewall" Keeping at Bay?

Thursday marked the release of a chock-full-of-data Pew Research poll, and the attention that a stat tucked away on page 16 has garnered brought this week’s media chatter – the idle speculation over how much a continued Democratic presidential nomination battle might hinder the eventual nominee in November – to a deafening pitch. (To counter this conventional “wisdom,” let’s invoke WaPo’s incomparable Dan Balz)

The poll’s findings indicate that, thanks to the bad blood between the Obama and Clinton camps, around a quarter of each candidate’s supporters will refuse to support the other candidate, potentially defecting to presumptive Republican nominee John McCain. Of course, both sides are jumping all over this tidbit to argue that their opponent is the one who will dampen Dem turnout or drive their base to the GOP. Some commentators are putting a cultural slant on this notion. The Washington Examiner’s political editor, Chris Stirewalt relishes the irony that this Democratic primary season’s unlikely key demographic, Appalachia’s Scots-Irish “Hillbilly Firewall,” may well sustain HRC – that product of Wellesley and affluent Midwestern suburbs reborn as the coal miner’s champion - through the rest of the primary season. Not only in West Virginia is Hillary Clinton expected to fare well, but in the Appalachian regions of other remaining primary states: Eastern Kentucky, Western North Carolina, “Pennsyltucky” and southeastern Indiana. Stirewalt hints that if Obama wins, the cultural biases of his coalition of affluent Northern liberal and Afro-Am voters may drive Appalachia into the arms of the GOP, following the decades-old lead of the Deep South.

HRC’s has performed well in Appalachia(& like regions): from southern Ohio to Missouri’s Ozarks to East Tennessee. A glance at a few similar maps, however, indicates that the “Hillbilly Firewall” is skeptical of outsiders of all stripes – as Stirewalt suggests, Bill Clinton’s Arkansas roots may be the source of HRC’s appeal here – though it’s not necessarily due to animus towards Afro-America.

Note the uncanny overlap of these maps:

HRC racked up her biggest percentage in Appalachian Southwestern Virginia.

Pary Map

But this part of Virginia is home to smallest percentages of black residents.

And while George Wallace’s 1968 campaign expanded his base from the “Black Belts” of the Deep South to the Upper South and the Urban Ethnic North, for the honkies in the hills and hollers of Southwestern Virginia, his segregationist rhetoric had very limited appeal:

Pary Map

As for John McCain sweeping up this region, well, even though by the time Old Dominion’s primary rolled around, he was widely regarded the eventual nominee, SW Virginia counties rejected him, going for another former Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee by 2 to 1 ratios and more.

Pary Map

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Long Rumination on Turnout, the South, and Harold Washington

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about turnout. As several stories in the past few days have discussed, and as we know from the primaries to this point, turnout has been soaring on the Democratic side. Obviously this bodes well for them in the general election in November.

For Obama supporters, increased turnout among African Americans and younger voters has been responsible for the magnitude of many of their victories. As the campaign between Obama and Clinton has intensified and turned nasty, the question that has been asked is whether these voters will still show up in November should Obama be denied the nomination. Likewise, Clinton supporters have argued that her core constituency—i.e. older women, white working class voters—can’t be taken for granted either. Polling released in the past few days about the hesitancy of each side to vote for the other (polling that I would take with a large grain of salt, by the way, given how moods can change over seven months) has re-enforced these fears.

My thinking about turnout was also peaked by the running debate about how an Obama nomination could “change the electoral map” in November. With increased turnout, especially among African Americans, might states that have voted Republican in the past—but with large black populations—potentially vote Democratic in the fall? Here, many people have looked to the south, a region I’ve been writing a lot about recently. A Census Bureau report on the black population in America confirms what we’ve known for a while (see my earlier map from Kevin Phillips circa 1968). Namely, the black population continues to be concentrated in southern states.

For example, ten states—Texas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Maryland, Louisiana, Virginia, South Carolina, Alabama, and Mississippi—account for just under half of the nation’s black population. In six of these states, blacks make up more than 25% of the total population (Mississippi—37%; Louisiana—33%; South Carolina—30%; Georgia—29%; Maryland—29%; Alabama—26%). These numbers make many Democratic operatives salivate, especially with an Obama candidacy driving up turnout and drawing virtually all black voters to his side.

So what’s the problem?? The problem, according to Thomas Schaller, is that black voting doesn’t occur in a vacuum, but tends to produce a reaction among white voters. We would note, for example, that of the states listed above only Maryland is reliably in the Democratic camp election after election. Others have gone Democratic sporadically—Georgia (’92), Louisiana (’92, ’96)—but on the whole these states have been among the reddest of the red over the last few decades. The reason, according to Schaller, is that race is so entwined in southern politics that whites have fled the Democratic party (a process begun by Goldwater and continued through Wallace, Nixon, and Reagan) over the past generation and have become the most solid part of the Republican coalition. While the size of the black population gives Democrats a head start toward carrying these states, the strong Republican tilt of the white vote is able to overwhelm Democratic candidates. Using Mississippi as a specific example, Schaller writes:

“If African-Americans, who are 37 percent of voters, cast 90 percent of their vote for the Democratic nominee, that means Mississippi Democrats begin any statewide campaign with about 33 percent of the vote—or two thirds of the way to a majority. Yet the Republicans control the state’s governorship, both U.S. Senate seats, and have carried Mississippi in the last seven presidential elections.”

We would also note that such a scenario has happened with white Democratic candidates on the ballot. White flight to the Republican camp might intensify with a Democrat like Obama at the top of the ticket.

Schaller’s analysis seems to dovetail nicely with the southern portraits that V.O. Key gave us over fifty years ago. As I’ve noted in several earlier posts, Key wrote that southern politics prior to the recent Republican realignment tended to produce pathologies heavily influenced by the race question. Without a viable opposition party to attract black votes (assuming they had access to the ballot) white politicians were able to demagogue the issue without fear of reprisals. In fact, it was usually electorally advantageous.

Where does that leave us? Is someone like Obama unable to “change the electoral map” in the south? Schaller is highly skeptical of any Democratic future in the south in the short term (even with white candidates). He counsels Democrats to look westward for greener (bluer?) pastures. This is no doubt a wise strategy given what we're seeing in places like Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada. While Schaller’s evidence is quite convincing, I’d like to throw out for consideration three southern states that could potentially go Democratic with Obama as the nominee (and perhaps with Clinton too should black voters turn out for her). These states are southern, but not of the deep south, and have four things going for them that might help put them in the Democratic camp. First, they have a sizable black population. Second, while race has been a prevalent issue in their politics, it hasn’t been as crippling and venomous as in some other southern states. Third, they have a large number of highly educated white voters, many born outside of the south. These voters tend to live in what Judis and Texeira call “ideopolises.” These areas tend to have voters who have high education, high income, and socially liberal positions on issues such as abortion, gay marriage, prayer in school, etc. As we know from the exit polling so far this year, Obama has done extremely well in these areas. Finally, these states have elected Democrats statewide recently and, in fact, all have Democratic governors now. I’ll list these states in order of what I would predict to be their likelihood of going Democratic.

First is Virginia. The black population of Virginia, as of 2000, is 20.4% compared to 12.9% nationwide. The black population of the state is largely concentrated in the city of Richmond in the center of the state and in the Hampton Roads/Newport News/Portsmouth/Norfolk area in the southeast corner. Virginia has elected an African American governor—Douglas Wilder in 1989 and has elected two consecutive Democratic governors—Mark Warner (2001) and Tim Kaine (2005) in addition to Democrat Jim Webb to the Senate in 2006. This “purpling” of the state, which hasn’t voted for a Democrat for President since LBJ in 1964, has been fueled by the growth of northern Virginia. The corridor of suburbs stretching westward from Washington, DC from Arlington through Fairfax, Falls Church, and out into Loudon County is a classic example of an ideopolis. The tech boom of the 90’s had its counterpart to Silicon Valley in this area and has been trending more and more Democratic, witnessed most recently by last year’s contest for the state legislature that saw a number of seats go Democratic.

Second is North Carolina. Here, the black population is 22.1% and is much more geographically dispersed than in Virginia. Concentrations of black voters can be found in and around Charlotte as well as the Raleigh/Durham area and in the more rural northeastern part of the state. The state’s governor since 2000 is Democrat Michael Easley and the state’s House delegation in Congress is now majority Democrat. North Carolina last voted Democratic in the presidential race, however, in 1976. As for the “ideopolis” variable, we have the research triangle area of Chapel Hill/Raleigh/Durham with three world class universities and a large tech sector. Orange and Durham counties went overwhelmingly for Kerry in 2004 and Wake county gave Bush only a slight win.

Finally, and least likely to go Democratic, is Tennessee. African Americans make up 16.8% of the state population. It is often argued that Tennessee is in fact three distinct regions (with three distinct brands of politics) and we see a similar pattern in terms of the black population. The largest concentration of black voters is in the south west part of the state, mainly in and around Memphis. Central Tennessee, centered around Nashville, sees a somewhat smaller, but nonetheless significant population of black voters (around 23%). Finally, heavily Republican eastern Tennessee is the whitest part of the state. The state currently has a Democratic governor in Phil Bredesen and voted Democratic in the ’92 and ’96 presidential races (Al Gore). In 2006, African American congressman Harold Ford, Jr. narrowly lost the race for the open Senate seat vacated by Bill Frist. The Nashville area has developed into a region to be known for more than the Grand Ole Opry. Like the Research Triangle and Northern Virginia, it has a thriving tech sector. Davidson county gave Kerry 55% in 2004.

Having said all of this, I don’t want to predict definitively how these states might go this fall. I simply raise them as possibilities which, I believe, are well rooted in the demography, history, and voting trends of each state.

What might tip these states in Obama’s favor? I return to the issue of turnout. According to Schaller, black turnout in the south is in fact higher than in other parts of the country. Thus, he is skeptical of efforts to turn these states blue through greater mobilization. In thinking about this, however, I was reminded of a book I read a year or so ago about another black candidate from Chicago—Harold Washington. When Washington became the first black mayor of Chicago in 1983, he was successful because of an amazing mobilization of the city’s black electorate. On the tail end of the first Daley era, Washington’s campaign was a classic insurgency style effort. Running in a heavily contested Democratic primary, Washington was able to benefit from a 25% increase in black turnout to garner a narrow victory. In the general election, black turnout in Chicago was a staggering 85%, with 99% of the black vote going to Washington. In a campaign, both primary and general, that saw some of the worst race baiting possible, Harold Washington was able to rely on turnout to win. If Obama could produce registration and turnout that mirrors what Washington did, but on a much larger scale, might we see some previously red states go blue?

When Washington ran for and won re-election in 1987, who was one of his main consultants???? David Axelrod, now chief strategist for Obama. Who had just moved to Chicago at the time of Washington's campaign and was working in the community being mobilized??? That's right. See any parallels between these two campaigns???

Monday, March 24, 2008

Keystone State Tour--Stop 2

For our second stop in Pennsylvania, we'll focus on the congressional district in which this story takes place. Pennsylvania’s 17th is a mixed rural/industrial district which is centered in the state capital, Harrisburg. Currently represented by Democrat Tim Holden, the 17th’s voting behavior, in recent elections, has been mixed. While having Holden maintain the seat for the Democrats, the district gave Bush 58% in 2004. Prior to redistricting after the 2000 census, the current district was divided between the old 6th and 17th. The area gave Bush 55% against Al Gore. Republican gubernatorial candidate Lynn Swann also did well in the district in 2006.

Demographically, the district is fairly typical of the state. It is slightly less African American (mostly concentrated in Harrisburg)—7% versus 10% statewide. The median income is right at the state average, as is the proportion of senior citizens in the district, while its population with a college degree lags the state average by about five points (17% vs. 22%). CQ’s "Politics in America" describes the district thusly:

“Anchored in the eastern part of south-central Pennsylvania, the 17th is home to Harrisburg, the sate capital, which sits 100 miles west of Philadelphia and 200 miles east of Pittsburgh. The 17th has two distinct zones: a stretch of agricultural lands along the Susquehanna River in the west, and industrial areas in Schuylkill and Berks counties in the east. Here, in GOP-minded central Pennsylvania, state government and manufacturing remain key sources of employment…The proliferation of service jobs has helped mitigate the impact of other losses…The 17th has a distinct Republican lean, but moderate Democrats can play here due to the district’s mix of agrarian and industrial communities. The GOP is strong in Lebanon County and in the areas of Dauphin outside of Harrisburg. Democrats are competitive in Schuylkill County, long a coal mining powerhouse, with comfortable margins in Shenandoah, Pottsville, and Mahanoy.”

Congressman Holden, who has yet to announce his endorsement, is a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, and is one of the most likely Democrats in the House to support President Bush on any given vote. In the 109th Congress, he supported the president’s position 54% of the time. He is pro-life, against same-sex marriage, and has voted against numerous gun control measures. He has also taken strong stands against illegal immigration.

Given this profile we would expect that this would be another area of strong support for Senator Clinton. In many ways the district mirrors the parts of Ohio that went overwhelmingly for her. Holden is a close friend of Congressman Murtha so it wouldn’t surprise me to see an endorsement of Clinton in the near future.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Obama and the Wealthy

After the Wyoming caucuses, John noticed Teton county's overwhelming support for Senator Obama and argued that this could be seen as indicative of Obama's support among the higher income stratas across the country. With each successive primary and caucus, exit polling has shown that Obama does best among the higher income Democratic voters while Clinton has done best among working class Dems. In struggling states like Ohio and the soon to vote Pennsylvania, this correlation between income and vote choice has worked to Clinton's advantage and offers her best (though slim) chance of overtaking Obama.

I thought I'd take a broader look at these trends by focusing on those high income counties across the country that have voted to this point. A recent study by the Bureau of Economic Analysis provides a listing of the wealthiest counties in America, measured by per capita personal income. I've gone through the top 100 counties and looked at how they voted in the primaries and caucuses.

Of these 100 wealthiest counties, there are 18 that are either in states that have yet to vote or are in the disputed Florida and Michigan. Thus, I haven't included them in my analysis--leaving a total of 82 counties. So, how did Obama and Clinton do??

Of these 82 wealthiest counties, Obama won 60 (73% of the total) while Clinton won the remaining 22. Not only did Obama win an overwhelming number of these counties, but his vote totals in these counties outperformed Clinton in the counties she won. In the Obama wins, he averaged 62% of the vote whereas Clinton averaged 53% in her counties.

I next wondered whether to some degrees these numbers were affected by broader statewide trends. For example, if a candidate won statewide, might this explain part of their success in a particular county? To answer this I looked at how many of these counties were won by the candidate who lost statewide. In such cases, the economic variable would be stronger. Here, Obama's performance is even more impressive. Clinton did not win a single wealthy county in a state she lost. Obama, on the other hand, won 18 wealthy counties in states he lost. Specifically, he won 5 counties in New Jersey, 4 in California, 3 in Massachusetts, 2 in Tennessee, 2 in Texas, and 1 each in Nevada and New Mexico. Finally, we can look at the importance of a "home state" effect. Of Clinton's 22 county wins, 6 were in her home state of New York while only 2 of Obama's were in Illinois.

Thus, when we look at those counties at the very top of the income distribution, we get further confirmation of Obama's attractiveness to high income voters in the Democratic races. One thing that we might raise as a question to consider as we move toward the general election (should Obama be the nominee) is how many of these voters--who have historically voted Republican--crossed over and voted in contests that weren't closed to registered Democrats. Will they stick with Obama in the fall or return to the Republican fold?

Return to Philly, Via Politico

Reading this story in today's Politico, I was reminded of a series of posts I did a year ago about the Wallace vote in major American, especially northern, cities. Although the story provides only anecdotal evidence of reaction to Senator Obama's speech yesterday, one must note that northeastern Philadelphia gave strong support to Wallace in 1968.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Returning South--Alabama

As I mentioned in my posting on Mississippi a few days ago, I decided to go back to V.O. Key’s Southern Politics to see how much, or little, has changed since the time of his writing in the late 1940’s. While the politics of the deep south has certainly changed, what I found interesting was the lack of change we’ve seen in some of the underlying demographics of the region. Focusing on the African-American population, we saw that those parts of the state that had heavy concentrations of blacks in the 1940’s have similar concentrations today. When Mississippi voted last week, the Delta region especially gave Obama huge margins.

With that in mind I thought I’d take a broader look at the region and revisit a few of the earlier primaries. I’ll start with Alabama, which voted on February 5th. Like in Mississippi, Obama won statewide garnering 56% to Clinton’s 42%.

I’ve reproduced above two maps. First is a regional map of the south that comes from Kevin Phillip’s masterful “The Emerging Republican Majority.” In this map we see the distribution of the African American population throughout the south at the time of his writing in 1968. I’m going to be referring to this map in several posts over the next little while. Second is an earlier map of Alabama from Key’s "Southern Politics". What we see in Alabama is, like Mississippi, a geographic concentration of African Americans. Here we have a band of counties running across the state from east to west. This area was commonly referred to as the “Black Belt” in regard to quality of the soil rather than the majority of its inhabitants.

In describing the nineteenth to mid-twentieth century politics of the state, Key argued that a dynamic similar to that in Mississippi was consistent. Namely, wealthier white planters tended to square off against lower income whites from the upstate and downstate areas for control of the state government. Key writes:

“The split between the black belt and the remainder of the state…suggests that the backbone of southern conservatism may be found in those areas with high concentrations of Negro population. For decades the Alabama black belt has been a stronghold of conservative agricultural strength which has frequently allied itself with the business interests of the state. The presence of a large proportion of Negroes in the population alone may induce a degree of conservatism. To maintain its status the ruling group must oppose any political program that tends to elevate or excite the masses, black or white…

If the black counties are the backbone of southern conservatism, a partial explanation for the recurrent progressive outbursts in Alabama politics rests in the fact that over considerable areas of the state the population includes comparatively small proportions of Negroes.”

The resulting politics, Key found, was subject to ebbs and flows of power between the black belt and the remaining parts of the state. While the black belt trended conservative, the outlying counties were subject to fits of populism and economic radicalism. Because there was no developed two party system, Key found, politics was highly driven by personal factions.

So, looking at last month’s primary, what do we see? I’ve reproduced the primary results in the map at left (courtesy of The Obama counties are in green; Clinton’s in red. Like with Mississippi, we see a virtual reproduction of the earlier demographic picture of the state. The Black Belt is alive and well and still has heavy African American concentrations of voters, the vast majority of whom went with Obama. In the outlying areas, north and south, we see Clinton’s strength. Sixty years since Key’s writing we see how little has changed.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Keystone State Tour--Stop 1

With a few weeks until the Pennsylvania primary, I thought we’d take some time to take a tour of the state and sample a bit of its political history and demography, especially in areas that I think will prove crucial to each candidate’s success.

After the Ohio primary, I highlighted the role the southeastern part of the state played in Hillary Clinton’s win. More rural, downscale, and white than the rest of the state, the area went overwhelmingly for Clinton. Much of the prognostication about Pennsylvania is centering on Obama’s ability to regain his momentum among downscale white voters. An area I want to focus on over the next little while is the southwestern part of the state, an area that mirrors Ohio in many ways.

A steep test for Obama could be southwestern Pennsylvania’s 12th congressional district. The district, although redrawn (heavily gerrymandered) quite a bit after the last census, has been represented by Congressman Jack Murtha since 1974. The district snakes throughout SW Pennsylvania taking in some of the exurban Pittsburgh suburbs and larger cities like Washington and Johnstown. One of the “old bulls” of the House and currently the chair of the House Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Defense, Murtha’s politics are a good fit for the district. CQ’s Politics in America describes the district thusly:

“The strangely contorted 12th hopscotches in southwestern Pennsylvania across nine counties, eight of which are shared with other districts. Once a booming center of coal, steel, and iron production, this area is diversifying to escape economic distress and industrial loss…The 12th has been a Democratic stronghold since the New Deal. Like other Pennsylvania towns with an industrial past and aging residents, Johnstown wants federal help, but many voters are more socially conservative than the national Democratic Party.”

In the 2004 presidential race, the district narrowly went for John Kerry, giving him 51%. Gore won by larger margins in the parts of the counties currently in the district. Demographically, it is overwhelmingly white (95%) with only 3% African American. The median income $30,612 is quite a bit below the state average of $42,000. It has the state’s lowest percentage of college graduates (14% vs. state average of 22%) and the highest percentage of elderly residents (19% over age 64 vs. state average of 16%).

To this point, Congressman Murtha has yet to endorse either candidate. The above demographic profile would seem to bode well for Clinton. One aspect of the district that may help Obama somewhat is the fact that in recent years the district has seen an influx of high tech biomedical and defense research (thanks in large part to Murtha’s largess in steering federal funds home). These workers, more likely to be higher income and education, fit Obama’s voter profile. Whether their votes will outweigh the pro-Clinton bias of the district remains to be seen. This district should prove to be among the most difficult for Obama, given its recent trends, while still being Democratic territory.

**Update: On Wednesday, it was announced that Congressman Murtha was endorsing Senator Clinton.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Geraldine Ferraro, Queens, and the Politics of Backlash

With the furor over the recent comments from Geraldine Ferraro, I thought we’d take a trip back in time to look at her time in the House of Representatives (1979-1985). During her time in the House, Ferraro represented what was then New York’s 9th congressional district. Basically, the district was the western most part of Queens, directly across the East River from Manhattan. In thinking about her comments, I wondered if they were not just a commentary on the 2008 election, but deeply rooted in the political culture from which she emerged in the 60’s and 70’s. I’ve written quite a bit about this period of upheaval and the politics it spawned. In his mayoral race of 1965, William F. Buckley found Queens to be quite receptive to his candidacy, receiving 17% of the vote. As New York City sank into decline, and reaction to the failures of the Great Society mounted, the inhabitants of this area saw their political allegiances start to transform. Not far away in Brooklyn, conflict exploded in the wake of Mayor Lindsay’s school reforms in such neighborhoods as Ocean Hill-Brownsville. If we look at the presidential race of 1968, we see that George Wallace performed quite well in what became Ferraro’s district. While Wallace received 4.7% of the vote citywide and 5.8% in Queens, in the assembly districts making up the 9th district he received greater support. Assembly districts 30-34 gave Wallace 9.8%, 5.3%, 7.1%, 8.4% and 9.2% respectively.

Looking at the voting behavior of this constituency during the 1970’s and 80’s, one sees the emergence of a true “Reagan Democrat” district. In 1972 it gave a large margin of victory to Richard Nixon, voted for Ford in 1976, and went big for Reagan in 1980 and 1984, even with Ferraro on the ticket as Walter Mondale’s VP. Throughout this time, though, it sent Democrats to the House, but of a more culturally conservative stock. Prior to Ferraro, the 9th was represented by James Delaney and afterwards by Tom Manton. Since redistricting, it is now represented by Congressman Joseph Crowley. While Ferraro was more culturally liberal than her predecessor and successors, she did have to strike a balance between her positions on such issues as abortion with those of her ethnic, largely Catholic, constituents.

The demographics of the 9th district when Ferraro served were roughly 75% white, 15% Hispanic, 5% Asian, and only 3% African American. At the time, the Almanac of American Politics described the 9th thusly:

“It can be said with some certainty that the durable Archie Bunker lives in the 9th congressional district of New York. The aerial shot taken by TV cameramen of Archie’s neighborhood shows the kind of aging, though still neatly maintained, one and two family houses that line the streets of Jackson Heights, Astoria, Long Island City, Ridgewood, and Glendale, Queens. Moreover, Archie’s views, as modified over the years, are a fairly accurate, if stylized, portrayal of attitudes that are often, though not always, shared in this district…Most of the people here, Bunker notwithstanding, think of themselves as coming from some sort of immigrant stock. And if they were not eager to share their neighborhoods with low-income blacks in the 1960s and 1970s, they are willing, at least grudgingly, to share them with people who are doing today what their grandparents did 80 years ago.”

So, while many are speculating on whether Ferraro’s comments are part of a coordinated effort by the Clinton campaign to make Barack Obama the “black candidate” in the eyes of white, working class voters, I thought part of the explanation for her rhetoric might lie in her past as well.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Mississippi--Is Geography Destiny???

In preparing to go through the Mississippi returns, I returned to an old classic of American political science, V.O. Key’s 1949 “Southern Politics.” A monumental study, Key examined the eccentricities and peculiarities of the politics of the south, state by state. In doing so, he provided not only a historical account of the cast of characters who came to dominate southern politics, but also a model against which to test the current politics of the region. Because the south was a one party system prior to the 1968 realignment, its politics was defined by factionalism driven by individuals rather than party or ideology.

In writing about Mississippi, Key wrote about the role geography—and the economy it spawned—played in shaping the states politics. Allow me to quote at length:

“Mississippi politics may be regarded, if one keeps alert to the risks of oversimplification, as a battle between the delta planters and the rednecks. It is a battle of diminishing intensity, but the cleavage between the planters of the delta and the rednecks of the hills has persisted for half a century and even yet appears from time to time…

Along the River, from Memphis to the Yazoo at Vicksburg stretches a flat shelf of fertile alluvial soil about two counties wide. This plain is the domain of the delta planters, masters of huge plantations cultivated chiefly by Negro sharecroppers. Behind the towering levees that restrain the River, the delta produces a million bales of cotton a year—in some years a tenth of the American crop—and ranks as one of the great cotton producing regions in the world…

The “redneck,” “peckerwood,” or “peckerhead” inhabits another world. His “hills”—the highest altitude is around 700 feet—run from the northern end of the state and occupy roughly its eastern half, broadening out almost to the River in the south and petering out in the pine forests of the coastal region. A rich prairie, an extension of Alabama’s black belt, breaks into the hills at about the center of the state’s eastern border and provides the base for a small, rich agricultural region, whose sympathies run generally with the delta. The “hills” are supposed to be the habitat of the redneck, the white tenant farmer, the lesser white farm owner. Here the soil is not so fertile; the hardest labor produces only the most miserable livelihood.”

In this environment, Key wrote that while both planters and hill folk agreed on the race question, the planter class was more likely to take a more moderate tone and propose more rational means of dealing with the issue. Hill country politicians were much more likely to demagogue the issue and appeal to their constituents' more base prejudices. Given the economic disparities between white planters and hill country residents, this perhaps isn't too surprising.

Above I have included two maps of Mississippi—one geological and one topographic. In these maps you can see the Delta and hill country represented visually. Here is a map that shows each county name, to help follow along.

So what does this all have to do with yesterday’s vote (full results here)??? As I wrote on Monday, the African-American population in the state, being so large, would almost guarantee an Obama victory. I wondered, though, how the concentration of the African American vote would affect Obama's margins across the state. Now that we’ve got some numbers, we can answer the questions I raised. We’ll look first at Congressman Bennie Thompson’s district, the 2nd. This is the area Key wrote about above, the Delta. While we no longer have sharecroppers and subsistence labor like a few generations ago, the African American population that resides in these counties are the ancestors of those Key wrote about. These counties have the highest African American populations in the state. Looking at the vote totals, we see that these counties went overwhelmingly for Obama. District wide, Obama won 76-23% and in fact won every single county. In most of these counties his vote totals were between 70 and 80%. In the map to the left Obama's counties are in green (Clinton counties in red) and the darker the shade, the higher the vote percentage. The delta counties are the westernmost third of the state running north/south.

Then, notice another part of Key’s description: “A rich prairie, an extension of Alabama’s black belt, breaks into the hills at about the center of the state’s eastern border and provides the base for a small, rich agricultural region, whose sympathies run generally with the delta.” These would be counties such as Lowndes, Oktibbeha, Noxubee, Winston, Kemper, and Neshoba. If it’s so much like the Delta, both in terms of geography and population, we might expect big Obama votes. That’s exactly what we see. Outside of the Delta, this is the part of the state where he did best.

Now what about Clinton? On Monday, I speculated about Congressman Gene Taylor’s 4th District, which is more white and includes the coastal cities of Gulfport and Biloxi. Given the politics of this area, I suspected Clinton might do better here, especially with her campaign’s recent efforts to refocus on white working class voters. Looking at the results, we see that despite losing the state by a large margin, Clinton did very well in Taylor’s district. District wide, Obama won by a slim 50-49% margin. Of the 15 counties there, Clinton won a majority, including over 60% of the vote in Hancock, Pearl River, George, Greene, and Lamar counties.

If we look at other parts of the state, we see that Clinton did best in those counties Key called the “hill” country. In the northeast and north central part of the state, she won a concentrated area of 11 counties, most with big margins (Benton-55%, Tippah-71%, Alcorn-76%, Tishomingo-82%, Prentiss-74%, Union-70%, Lee-54%, Itawamba-80%, Pontotoc-64%, Calhoun-53%, and Webster-60%). Or, to put it more crudely, she seems to have won over Key’s “peckerwood” vote. If this area—still to this day—retains a more working-class identity, culture, and outlook on the world, we can perhaps understand Clinton’s appeal. From the exit poll data, we know that Clinton did extremely well among white voters in the state, including those low on the socio-economic scale.

So, after looking at these numbers, one must ask—Is geography destiny??? The correlation between the maps above and the vote totals is quite striking.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Magnolia State Preview

With tomorrow's Mississippi primary upon us, I wanted to point to a few parts of the state that I think might prove interesting. Specifically, there are two congressional districts to focus on what should go a long way toward explaining not necessarily the outcome, but its magnitude.

With all polling going into the vote suggesting another win for Obama, we can begin our overview in the state's second congressional district. Currently represented by Democrat Bennie Thompson (an Obama supporter), the district is the heart of the delta and the home to one of the largest "majority minority" districts in the country. In fact, it has the 3rd largest African American population of any House district, at 59%. To put a bit of a historical spin on the analysis, it is here that so many of the great civil rights icons, such as Fannie Lou Hamer hailed from, and where much of "Freedom Summer" was fought. We can expect Obama to rack up massive margins here. Given the history of the region and its demographics you can be sure that there will be some mighty proud votes being cast there tomorrow.

Of more interest, perhaps, though will be the voting along the gulf coast. Here we have the fourth district, currently represented by Democrat Gene Taylor. Taylor is one of the few remaining Boll Weevils and is a member of the Blue Dog Coalition. Arguably the most conservative Democrat in the House, Taylor has managed to hang on to the seat--previously represented by Trent Lott--by racking up a voting record that includes being in favor of the Federal Marriage Amendment, and against virtually all gun control measures and those promoting abortion rights. He has not endorsed either of the Democratic candidates. Using Charlie Cook's PVI ranking of district partisanship (R +16), only two Democrats nationwide represent a more Republican leaning district. The district is 75% white and 23% African American. With major cities including Biloxi, Gulfport, and Hattiesburg, the district is as much influenced by New Orleans as anywhere else. The district was also ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. What I'll be watching, given these demographics and partisan flavor, is how Obama fares. One would think this would be more pro-Clinton territory and the vote here should provide a good test of whether Obama is recovering from the losses he suffered among working class whites in Ohio last week. Once the data starts coming in tomorrow, we'll do a thorough analysis.

Update: Also, there are Republican primaries for the open House seats in the 1st and 3rd districts. CQ provides a thorough rundown on the candidates in each.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

WY Caucus Trends: Obama's "Tetons" Burgeoning; HRC's Sweetwater Drought

Results from this Saturday’s Wyoming Democratic caucuses throw more cold water on the Hillary Clinton campaign’s repeated assertion that Barack Obama’s victories in areas without a history of voting Democratic renders him the less competitive general election nominee.

Two counties in Wyoming illustrate the flaw in this argument. The NYTimes reported that “most of the (candidates’) attention focused on the most heavily Democratic towns situated in the southern half of the state, where the Union Pacific railroad was built in the late 1800s, leaving a strong union tradition that remains.” Returns from Sweetwater County, on that southern tier, demonstrate this heritage most clearly. Sweetwater, in fact, has historically been Wyoming’s most consistently Democratic county in presidential elections, but, like other Mountain Western counties with labor or agrarian traditions - it was Socialist Eugene Debs' best county in one of his better states in 1912 - has been moving to the Republican column in the George W. Bush era. Gore’s 35% and Kerry’s 32%, in nationwide nail biters, clocked in under Mondale’s 38% and McGovern’s 42%, during Democratic drubbings.

Contrast Sweetwater with Teton County, home to the tourist destination Jackson Hole, which spurned hometown boy Dick Cheney as it delivered Kerry his only WY county in 2004. Teton resembles other booming Mountain West resort counties whose current heavy Democratic trend was presaged in 1980. In these resort counties, independent John Anderson and Libertarian Ed Clark scored stronger percentages than statewide totals - and the Mountain West was a strong region for both candidates - as Reagan comfortably outpaced Carter.

Since 1980, Sweetwater has grown by 50% in population as it’s Democratic performance has sunk to record lows. During the same period, Teton has tripled in population as Democrats scored their highest percentages since FDR.

Hillary Clinton wins big in Sweetwater County” reported the Casper Star-Tribune, reflecting her national strength among labor and blue collar Democratic primary voters, often in counties trending away from the Democrats. In more affluent, resort-centered Teton County, Obama romped home. The numbers, from the WY Dem party, tell the story: Sweetwater goes HRC 56%-42% on a Dem caucus turnout of 596. Teton voted Obama by 80%-20%, with a turnout of 1,150.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Illinois Special Election Update

In a stunning special election, Democrats picked up former House Speaker Dennis Hastert's old district tonight. Democrat Bill Foster edged Republican Jim Oberweis to capture a House seat that had been virtually uncontested by Democrats for two decades. Kendall, Kane, and DuPage counties, longtime Republican bastions, went to Foster. The election returns are here.

As I hinted a few posts ago, this election would seem to be not only a test case for this fall's campaign, but also serves as a look into how newer suburbs and exurbs might behave in the future. Judis and Texeira, in their seminal "The Emerging Democratic Majority," argue that these areas are ripe for Democratic gains. In looking at the data, we see that Foster indeed won the suburban and exurban areas--the eastern part of the district--while Oberweis was successful (though not overwhelmingly so) in the rural western part of the district. As more and more people, especially young professionals, move in they are less tied to the partisan attachments of earlier generations and are able to remake the politics of these areas. It would seem as if we have another data point for this theory.

Friday, March 07, 2008

How Similar are Milwaukee and Cleveland???

Coming out of Tuesday's primary in Ohio, I was somewhat surprised that while Obama won Cleveland, his numbers weren't as high as I would have thought. As a Wisconsin native, I've always viewed Milwaukee and Cleveland as, in many ways, sister cities. Therefore, I figured they'd vote the same. They're roughly the same size rust belt metropolises with a history of heavy manufacturing, ethnic based neighborhoods and politics, and a not too pleasant legacy of segregation and racial strife. To be more specific, I've dug up some demographic statistics, as well as the voting data from the Wisconsin and Ohio primaries.

I should note first off that I haven't been able to find the final vote tally for the city of Cleveland yet. Also, for the city of Milwaukee, the best I've been able to find, apart from the overall city totals (89,899 Obama to 34,462 Clinton) is the above map produced by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. So I've decided to go out a level and look at Milwaukee county and Cuyahoga county (essentially the 10th and 11th congressional districts). What we see are two very, very similar metropolitan areas.

While Cuyahoga County is larger (1.4 million vs. 915 thousand), in all other respects these two counties are almost identical. Milwaukee county is 66% white, 25% African American, and 9% Hispanic (Milwaukee city is 44% white, 40% African American, 15% Hispanic). Cuyahoga is 67% white, 27% African American, and 3% Hispanic (Cleveland city is 42% white, 51% African American, 7% Hispanic). The median household income in both counties is $39,000/year. Milwaukee county's poverty rate is a bit higher at 18.5% versus 13% in Cuyahoga.

In the Wisconsin primary, Obama won Milwaukee county 64% to 35% for Clinton. So, going into the primary, what might we have expected?? Given that Clinton was polling ahead of Obama among voters making less than $50,000/year, we might not have expected much advantage to Clinton given the parity of the two counties in terms of median income. In fact, the county's lower poverty rate might have actually been a net benefit to Obama. Cuyahoga county is slightly more African American than Milwaukee, which should have helped Obama, especially within the city of Cleveland.

How did Cuyahoga county go?? While Obama won, his numbers were much smaller than he saw a few weeks earlier in Milwaukee. The final vote was 53% Obama to 46% Clinton. So what happened? There are a number of workable explanations that I'm sure will be fleshed out over the coming weeks. First, given Clinton's success statewide, there was obviously some spillover effect within Cuyahoga county and the city of Cleveland. Just compare the county by county maps of both states to see this. A second hypothesis would by the role that race may have played. The Milwaukee city map above shows that Clinton did indeed win a few wards in the city of Milwaukee, namely on the Polish and German dominated south side. John highlighted a few days ago how this dynamic may have played out in Cleveland, especially with Dennis Kucinich facing a tough primary (which would drive up turnout). Indeed, Clinton won in Kucinich's district. Again using the county by county data, Obama did much better in the overwhelmingly white counties in outer Wisconsin (he won the vast majority of them) than he did in Ohio (he lost the vast majority). Looking at this more historically (see earlier posts), George Wallace did much better in Cleveland than he did in Milwaukee in 1968, so maybe there's some faint remnances of this dynamic still at work. A third hypothesis would be the attention each candidate paid to these states. In the compressed schedule between the Potomac Primaries and Wisconsin, Obama was much more visible and active in Wisconsin than Clinton was. He spent much more money and was on the air to a greater extent. A final explanation might be the role of local leaders and their advocacy for each candidate. In Milwaukee, Obama had the support and network of both Governor Jim Doyle and Congresswoman Gwen Moore. In Ohio, it was Clinton with the advantage, having the endorsement of Governor Ted Strickland and Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones (11th district).

Anyhow, there is a lot of work yet to be done examining these numbers but this offers a jumping off point. It shows, though, that we can't assume all cities--even those that look very similar on the surface--are going to behave the same. There will be other factors at work.

Primary on the MOON!: Cinchy Beats Traffy!

Two Quirky Congressman, both Ohio Dems known for their extraterrestrial mutterings/musings, made quixotic runs for 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW in the past 20 years. How'd they fare at home? Future Sec. of the Peace Dept./Rep. Dennis Kucinich mustered just about half the vote to win a competitive renomination bid this week, but, focusing on a reelection in question, he never filed for the Ohio Dem presidential primary.

Four years ago, on the ballot for a late March primary, "UFO cover up 'skeptic'" "'Cinchy" mustered 26.66% to eventual nominee Kerry's 42% - while securing renomination to the House with 85% - in his home CD, OH10, and posted a respectable 23% in neighboring Afro-Am majority OH11 .

In 1988, the Hon. James A. Traficant, Jr., aka Inmate #31213-060, a minor C-SPAN sensation for his "one minute" speeches punctuated with "beam me up," waged a spirited, if quirky, populist bid for the Dem pres nomination, focusing on his home CD, OH17, but only managed a meager 18.4%, just behind the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., for third place.

Traficant was later expelled from the U.S. House for relatively minor corruption matters and fell to Rep. Tim Ryan (D) in a jailbird indy bid to regain his seat in 2002, gathering only 15% as, despite the name of his hometown newspaper, Youngstown and Mahoning County refused to dub him the "The Vindicator."

To add insult to injury, perhaps the last "favorite son" presidential candidate, former U.S. Rep. Doug Applegate, who only appeared on the ballot in his home CD - next door to Traficant's - racked up 29.3% while losing the CD's apportioned delegates to Dukakis.

What's "Traffy" up to these days? Drop him a line:
James A. Traficant, Jr. #31213-060
Allenwood Low FCI
P.O. Box 1000
White Deer, PA 17887

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Buckeye SuperDelegate Standoff

Even though Ohio fell to the HRC "juggernaut," the Buckeye State’s Dem U.S. House Members are keeping their SuperDelegate votes in play. Politico reports that a “a bloc of Ohio superdelegates is withholding endorsements from Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton until” they exact a commitment to take up their economic populist agenda. Needless to say, that includes renegotiating NAFTA, a hot button issue in the Rust Belt.

Pressure to commit to the candidate that won their constituency’s electorate over seems to have backfired. Politico identifies U.S. Reps. Marcy Kaptur and Tim Ryan among this bloc, and notes that the rest of the Dem Ohio U.S. House delegation - save for prominent Cleveland-based Afro-Am HRC surrogate Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones - has yet to commit.

Prof. Murray analyzed OH Dem Pres primary results in CD's 18 & 6 here.

For the record, here’s how OH Dem-held CD’s broke down (note the only Dem held CD to vote Obama was Tubbs-Jones’ and that on-the-fence Kaptur’s CD was pretty even. More on that later…):
OH06 (Rep. Charlie Wilson) HRC 70-27%
OH18 (Rep. Zack Space) HRC 66-31%
OH17 (Rep. Tim Ryan) HRC 63-35%
OH10 ('Cinchy!) HRC 61.5-37%
OH13 (Rep. Betty Sutton) HRC 56-42.5%
OH09 (Rep. Marcy Kaptur) HRC 54-44%
OH11 (Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones) Obama 69.5-30%

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Southeastern Ohio

Going into the Ohio primary, Hillary Clinton's hope rested on her ability to stop Obama's momentum among white men and those at the lower end of the economic ladder. She had lost much of this part of her coalition in Wisconsin. When looking at Ohio, the southeastern part of the state, namely the 6th and 18th congressional districts are where you would find the battleground for these voters. Largely rural and dotted with small towns, this is an area that has been acutely hit by the state's declining economic fortunes. It is as much West Virginia as it is Ohio. CQ's Politics in America describes the sixth thustly: "Many of the district's counties, especially those along the Ohio River in old coal mining territory, suffer high unemployment and have difficulty retaining younger people. Meigs county has Ohio's lowest median household income."

This part of the state has also been a battleground for both parties. The sixth district was previously represented by now Governor Ted Strickland (and now held by Dem. Charlie Wilson). A big Clinton backer, he had an incentive to turn out his district for her. During his time in Congress (split following a loss in the Republican landslide of '94), Strickland had to fight a number of close races. President Bush won the district in both 2000 and 2004. The 18th is the home of disgraced former Rep. Bob Ney. Captured by Democrat Zack Space in 2006, the district gave Bush 75% in 2004. In the lead up to yesterday's vote, Bill Clinton was dispatched to the region a number of times, in addition to Senator Clinton's visits.

Looking at the results from yesterday, we see that Clinton was indeed successful in building her firewall in Ohio, especially in this corner of the state. The Athens News breaks down the returns here. While Obama was able to win around Ohio University in Athens, he got trounced in the surrounding areas. Overall, Clinton received 70% of the vote in the 6th district and 66% in the 18th (see results here).

Back to Illinois

On Saturday there will be a special election in Illinois that many suggest will be a test case for this fall (and serves also as a test case of "The Emerging Democratic Majorty" thesis). In the race to fill the seat of retiring Rep. and former Speaker Dennis Hastert, Republican Jim Oberweis squares off against Democrat Bill Foster. Polling suggests a dead heat.

For decades, the district has been solid Republican country but as the Politico notes, it has been changing dramatically in recent years. Becoming less rural and more suburban (especially on the more populated eastern edge), Democrats feel they have a real chance at a pick-up. In the recent Illinois primary, slightly more Republican votes were cast in the district (75,000 vs. 66,000) as both parties had contested races for their nominations. Both Obama and McCain have made appearances and campaigned on the nominees' behalf and the parties' congressional campaign committees are contributing mightily to the effort. As with most special elections, turnout will be the key, especially for a Saturday vote. Never fear though, as there will be an encore performance of this race in November for election to a full term.

Texas First Look

Here is our first look at the results of yesterday's Texas Democratic primary. I'm going to be updating as I get more data and analyze it. Obama counties are in green, Clinton counties in red. At first glance, the candidates appear to have performed as we would have expected. Obama did well in the urban areas with the largest African American or college/young professional presence. He won Dallas county (see map) with 61% of the vote, Travis county (Austin) with 63%, Harris county (Houston) with 56%, and Tarrant (Ft. Worth) with 54%. Obama also won among those casting early ballots. Thus, as the Ohio data is showing as well, Obama lost some steam in the final days of the campaign.

Clinton, however, also did well in the urban context. Her success, as we would have expected given recent trends (and now supported by the exit poll data), occurred in those populous counties with a large Hispanic electorate. Specifically, she received 69% in El Paso county and 56% in Bexar county (San Antonio). Also of note is Hidalgo county, on the far southern tip of the state. One of the fastest growing counties in the country, it cast roughly 85,000 votes, with Clinton garnering 73%. As the map shows, Clinton won the vast majority of the counties statewide but their relative small size compared to the urban centers didn't allow her to run up her statewide total beyond 51%. Nonetheless, it was an impressive win.

Part two of the Texas two-step however are the caucuses. Here, Obama came out on top, as narrowly as Clinton did in the primary. The delegate allocation from the caucuses hasn't been finalized yet but the early reporting seems to suggest that after both the primary and the caucuses, the delegates should be essentially evenly split, if not slightly in favor of Obama.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Hillary's Hail Mary: Ripped from the Koach Karl's (Rove) Playbook?

It’s Ohio primary eve and HRC is pausing, on its 68th anniversary, to “mark the Katyn Massacre of Polish prisoners during World War II” by Soviet troops. Sen. Clinton is also speaking up for Polish Americans and the “Polish nation and for all the peoples of Eastern Europe who have emerged from the darkness of the 20th century,” who also just so happen to enjoy a long and storied legacy in Cleveland’s historically working class white neighborhoods. Turnout in ethnic Cleveland is likely to be boosted even higher in Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s OH10 CD where the former presidential candidate is struggling to win renomination.

When you consider the strategy, it’s hard to not speculate that HRC really is making her last stand in Ohio; even taking a cue from Karl Rove’s playbook. Cuyahoga County is now famous as ground zero in George W. Bush’s reelection campaign, where Rove reportedly stanched steep losses with a ground game that fanned out to Catholic and Orthodox churches on Sundays with leaflets appealing to the conservatism of elderly parishioners in historically labor heavy precincts, tying John Kerry with the opposition to a statewide gay marriage ban initiative on the ballot that year. That minimized loss in urban areas, coupled with heavy gains in rural and exurban counties, the legend goes, saved Ohio, and reelection, for Bush.

It may have pulled a Republican electoral majority out of the fire one more time, but it’s not a very forward looking strategy as it relies on voters who may turnout in big numbers now, but who are literally dying out. Prof. Murray documented how George Wallace identified these voters decades ago - and taught Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan how to win them over - when they were far more numerous. (Check out Ward 14, home to St. Stanislaus Church, an anchor of Cleveland’s Polish community, and nearby wards where Wallace cracked 20%.) But, it was their very “white flight” - and hence, diminishing numbers - that defined their new voting habits.

While working these areas - home to the white working class voters and where HRC’s strongest demographic, older white women, turn out in droves, may pay off one more time - just like it did for Bush in 2004, the socially conservative or anti-foreign trade messages that win votes here are likely to alienate the growing numbers of younger, increasingly college educated white voters moving into the city and swelling the inner suburbs - or bleeding electoral votes to places like Northern Virginia or the Denver suburbs, coloring previously deep red states in a purple hue. More affluent, educated, liberal and integrated Shaker Heights, in contrast, is likely to be Obama territory.

The fantastic map above highlights this divide starkly by overlapping the 2004 presidential vote with results from the gay marriage referendum on the same day. It includes all of Cuyahoga County, but Cleveland’s cleavages are clear, too. HRC will try to maximize her performance with “Blue Collar Whites” and “Rural/Exurban Whites” - dwindling demographics in decimated precincts - and minimize her own losses in areas heavy with black voters and among “rich conservatives” and “urban liberal sophisticates,” groups that have performed well this cycle for Obama.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Maryland Primary--Assessing PG County

Before we get into the results that will be coming from Texas, Ohio, Vermont, and Rhode Island, I want to spend a bit more time on some results from an earlier primary--Maryland. One county that's political history is quite interesting and that has been undergoing noticeable change in recent years is Prince George's County. Encompassing the suburban area directly east of the Washington, DC line, PG County is notable in that it is the wealthiest county in the country with a majority African-American population. Currently, in a population of close to 900,000, PG County is roughly 63% African American, 27% Caucasian, and 7% Hispanic. A recent Brookings Institution study gives a nice overview of the county. It is summarized in this Washington Post story.

As you would expect from these demographics, PG County is solid Democratic territory now, especially in presidential contests. In 2004, Kerry won 82% of the vote; in 2000, Gore got 80%. However, PG County wasn't always so Democratic in its leanings. Nixon got nearly 60% in 1972, for example and Carter received just a slight majority in 1980. So who gave these Republicans such numbers? The culprits would seem to be the county's white working class population. Cities like Bowie, Laurel, Hyattsville, and Suitland had sizable numbers of such voters going back generations. In fact, it was in PG County that George Wallace did particularly well--he received 19% of the vote in 1968 (compared to 13% nationwide). Moreover, Wallace won the 1972 Democratic primary in Maryland, despite being shot while campaigning in Laurel.

It is this background that got me wondering about what the recent primary results would show. More specifically, are there any remnants of this white working class community left? If so, how would they vote? Are their numbers sizable or concentrated? The natural heir to Wallace's economic populism would seem to be Mike Huckabee. Southern, culturally conservative, and anti-establishmentarian in temperament, Huckabee is in many ways a modern version (absent the racial appeals) of Wallace. So, what do the numbers show???

First off, we need to reckon with the vast disparity between the Democratic and Republican contests in terms of turnout. While some of this disparity was certainly due to the relatively settled nature of the Republican contest, the fact remains that county wide, 160,000 Democratic votes were cast compared to 12,000 in the Republican primary. Thus, this is an overwhelmingly Democratic county (as the presidential results cited above attest).

In the Democratic race, Obama received 79% compared to Clinton's 20%. Clearly, the demography of the county (African-American) propelled Obama's numbers as he outperformed his statewide total of 61%. On the Republican side, Huckabee out performed his statewide total of 29% by receiving 33% of the vote in the county. So does this mean that Huckabee has inherited Wallace's legacy? Not so fast. A few days ago, John pointed to a Washington Post article about Huckabee's success in Washington, DC's overwhelmingly African-American wards 7 and 8. Did the same thing happen in PG County? I decided to look at the Republican race more closely and there seems to be some reason to suspect this.

One thing that should be noted right off the bat is not only the small number of Republican votes county wide, but how small these numbers get when you go precinct by precinct. Across the 216 precincts in the county, there was no precinct in which more Republican votes were cast than Democratic. The average precinct cast 687 more Democratic votes than Republican. There were an average of only 56 Republican votes per precinct. What this does is not only amplify the party leanings of the county but it makes it difficult to make definitive conclusions about how strong a pro-Huckabee trend might be. Only a small handful of votes (oftentimes less than 5) determined whether Huckabee won a precinct versus McCain. Nonetheless, of the 216 precincts, Huckabee won 41 of them.

So what can we say about these precincts? To determine whether these were in mostly white or mostly African American areas, I decided to look at the Democratic vote versus the Republican vote in each precinct. Specifically, I compared the number of total Democratic votes with the number of total Republican votes per precinct and used this as a proxy for how "black" or how "white" the precinct is. I'm assuming that there are relatively few highly integrated precincts. This is obviously a crude measure but absent more detailed demographic portraits of each precinct, this will have to do for now. So, those precincts with a greater difference of D to R votes was deemed more "black" and those with a lower difference of D to R votes was deemed more "white."

I next divided these 216 precincts into 5 quintiles based on this continuum. What do we see about Huckabee's performance? In the "blackest" quintile, Huckabee got 9 of his 41 precinct wins; in the second quintile he got 12 of his wins; the middle quintile produced 8 of his wins; the fourth quintile produced 7 of his wins; and finally, the last and thus "whitest" quintile produced 5 of his wins. Thus, we generally see that the more Democratic the precinct was, the more likely it was to go for Huckabee. Why might this be? One thing we must realize is that whatever group of people we look at, there will be some political diversity. In a lot of these precincts, Huckabee is getting a dozen or so votes. You can find a dozen people to support just about anything. However, there might be some reason to expect some African American support for Huckabee. As the Washington Post story shows, Huckabee's evangelical, Baptist faith and social conservatism would be expected to play well in the African American community. The key is to find enough African American voters, in a vast sea of Democrats, willing to pull the Republican lever. For all practical purposes, it wouldn't really make sense for a Republican presidential candidate to campaign in PG County. However, digging into the numbers unearths some interesting tidbits.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Buckley and New York, 1965

Continuing our remembrance of William F. Buckley, I wanted to write more on his 1965 mayor's race. As this masterful portrait of the race in the New York Times Magazine recalls, Buckley entered the race almost on a whim. Running on the recently established line of the Conservative Party, Buckley didn't so much "campaign" in the traditional sense as use the race as an opportunity to give voice to the maturing conservative ideology that he had spent years developing. He knew he had no chance of winning and joked about the realities of the race. In retrospect, one sees that the race was rather an opening shot in the ascendancy of modern conservatism. In order for this new order to rise, the old order had to be vanquished.

This old order was, of course, a technocratic and bureaucratic liberalism that had become universally accepted by the political, academic, and journalistic classes. Social problems could be solved, society could be perfected, and government was the instrument. For Buckley, it was John Lindsay, the Republican congressman and mayoral candidate who embodied all that was wrong with this regime and who drew most of his fire. As Walter Lippmann commented at the time, Buckley was "determined to wreck the party in order to rule the wreckage."

While I haven't been able to find precinct level returns yet, the borough by borough numbers are available. Lindsay, of course, won followed closely by Democrat Abe Beam. Buckley received 13% city wide. Breaking down the numbers further, Buckley's totals were:

New York (Manhattan)--7.2%

So who were Buckley's voters and why are they important? In his portrait of the race, Sam Tanenhaus argues: "Though he failed to capture any single district, he finished second in parts of Queens and fared especially well among Irish and German Catholics. Once again, ethnic group interests and values--'who hates who,'--in the shorthand used by Kevin Phillips, author of 'The Emerging Republican Majority'--held true. The difference was that those aggrieved white ethnic voters now appeared to be Republicans..." In his biography of Lindsay, Vincent Cannato comes to a similar conclusion: "The twelve strong Buckley districts were in the white Catholic outer boroughs." Thus, Buckley expanded on the project begun earlier, as so ably described by Phillips, of giving voters a reason to use fear as the basis for their vote. Even though Buckley claimed to not want to divide the electorate into groups and pander to each in order to build a coalition, the result of his campaign was that just such a strategy would be viable in the future.

The importance of the race, I believe, was not so much felt in New York--although there were certainly repurcussions as Lindsay found it virtually impossible to govern a disintegrating city. What is of greater import is what this race said about the future of American politics. These Buckley voters were in fact all across the country. They lived in big cities that were in decay. They felt they were being left behind and that other groups were being given privileges--affirmative action, busing, etc. While they had at one time been the backbone of the New Deal Coalition, they would soon begin casting votes for George Wallace and comprise part of Nixon's "Silent Majority." Finally, they would provide the margin for Reagan's ascendancy. In metropolitan areas like Detroit, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Chicago, they were on a path toward realignment. There can be no doubt that this process was, in many ways, an ugly one. Race was used as a cleavage and latent fears and prejudices were exploited. Crime, welfare dependancy, and illegitmacy were used as metaphors for liberalism's failure. In retrospect, the tactics and language these candidates (including Buckley) often used were deplorable. However, if we want to be honest about our political history, we must reckon with them. As someone interested in why people vote the way that they do, I have to acknowledge that these reasons are not always admirable. But they must be studied.

In earlier posts on this blog, I have shown a number of examples of this, focusing on George Wallace. I wondered how a small state governor from the deep south, despite never winning the presidency, could change American politics so much. The answer, I believe, is that he gave voice to the rage and alienation of millions of Americans. At certain times in history, individuals are a perfect reflection of their times. They are the vessel in which others' aspirations, and sometimes fears, are placed. Here we have a Yale educated, patrician, son of an oil magnate drawing large numbers of votes from blue collar, lunch bucket carrying voters in Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. Tempermentally and intellectually, Buckley was the polar opposite of Wallace. Reflecting on his death this week, I have to conclude that Buckley, like Wallace, was a crucial actor in this play. His influence on our politics over the past half century is incalculable.

Update: Here is a column by Buckley that I just found, written just prior to the 1968 election, on the subject of Wallace. The crux: votes for Wallace are votes that would otherwise go to Nixon. Thus, Buckley seems to agree that these were voters on the path to becoming Republicans, away from the Democrats. Here is a longer column from the same year, laying out his objections to Wallace at greater length.