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« Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 142. | WILLisms.com | Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 489 - Opportunity Cities. »

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 488 - Electability.

Small Towns & Suburbs Still The Key-

It's not the greatest time to be a Republican running for office. While the economy is not actually in a recession, most Americans-- and the establishment media-- believe it is. While the situation in Iraq is nothing remotely like Vietnam, many Americans believe it is. Although gas prices have gone up by about a dollar and thirty cents since the Democrats took control of Congress in 2006, many people seem to be eager to blame Republicans. The same could be said about the unemployment rate, which is up half a percentage point since Democrats took over Congress. While Democrats are the ones killing free trade deals and raising taxes and torpedoing entitlement reform, the public still seems to associate the incumbent party with the Republican Party.

It's not a particularly fruitful time to be a Republican running for office in the United States of America.

And yet.

And yet, Democrats are poised to nominate one of two entirely unelectable candidates in a year when even Dennis Kucinich should have been electable. We know all about Hillary Clinton's problems. She is about as unelectable as they come. She would also harm down-ballot Democrats, the conventional wisdom goes.

But what about Obama? Could it be that Senator Barack Hussein Obama is actually less electable than Hillary Rodham Clinton? And that he might harm down-ballot Democrats even more?

Well, we're all familiar with the 2004 county-by-county map, with the red and blue counties:


Democrats-- the party of Jefferson and Jackson-- simply don't do all that well anymore with "real folks." Neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama will reverse that tide. Either might do very well in inner-cities and on college campuses, but Obama in particular seems vulnerable with regard to small towns and rural America:

In Missouri, his votes were very well placed, enabling him to win the Democratic primary by a margin of barely 10,000 votes. He won the state's two major cities (St. Louis and KC), populous suburban St. Louis County, two counties in the center of the state that include the state capital of Jefferson City and the large academic community in Columbia (home of the University of Missouri), and one rural county in the northwest corner of the state. That was it. Hillary Clinton swept the rest of Missouri.

In Ohio, Obama's vote was even more contained. He carried only the urban counties that include Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Dayton, plus one county on the outskirts of Columbus. Not a single county in the broad swath of rural Ohio went his way, as he lost the primary to Clinton by 10 percentage points.

In Pennsylvania, the Clinton margin was similar and so was the political geography. Obama won big in Philadelphia, with its large African-American population, carried two of its four suburban counties, and took a pair of counties on the outer orbit of greater Philadelphia. The two other counties that he carried were in the center of the state, and each contained a major academic institution. As for the rest of Pennsylvania, it was essentially a vast wasteland for Obama.







While it's difficult to extrapolate meaningful information about the general election from these results, we can make some assumptions based on history. Barack Obama is no Bill Clinton. He's also no Jimmy Carter. He was born in Hawaii, lived in Indonesia for a time as a kid, went to Harvard Law, and organized on behalf of left-wing causes in urban Chicago-- this is not the kind of life narrative that Bill Clinton or Jimmy Carter had. Obama's life story, taken together with his arrogant demeanor and his wonky policy prescriptions, all put him far more in line with Dukakis or Mondale or McGovern:


Barack Obama's electoral coalition is not broad-based. It is not particularly inclusive. If he can't win over small-town Democrats, how does he expect to bring small-town independents and Republicans into the fold?

And how does a candidate like Barack Obama at the top of the ticket impact Congressional races down the ballot?

In 2006, Democrats took Congress by storm from two flanks. First, they consolidated liberal districts in the Northeast that Republicans had very little business representing. Second, and more importantly, they aggressively recruited non-threatening down-home candidates in places like Ohio and Indiana. Contextually, in 2006, there was no John Kerry albatross around the necks of Democrats running in relatively conservative districts.

Democrats made a good chunk of their 2006 gains in districts that Bush won easily in 2004. Indeed, just eight Republicans won in districts carried by John Kerry in '04, while 60 Democrats won in districts carried by George W. Bush in '04.

Some interesting facts to ponder:

If in 2008 the Republicans only won those districts that performed 58% or more for Bush in 2004, they would pick up 20 seats.

If in 2008, the Republicans only win those districts that performed 55% or more for Bush in 2004, they would pick up 33 seats.

Now, neither of those things is going to happen, but compare those facts to these facts:

If in 2008, the Democrats win all of the districts that performed 58% or better for Kerry in 2004, they would pick up zero seats. They already control those seats.

If in 2008, the Democrats win all of the districts that performed 55% or better for Kerry in 2004, they would pick up zero seats. They already control those seats.

Sure, far more Republicans than Democrats are retiring this year. Sure, people are unhappy about the direction of the country. Ultimately, though, Democrats don't have a whole lot of easy seats to target in the House of Representatives. And if otherwise strong Democrats in small towns and rural America have the albatross that is Barack Obama around their necks, they better be hoping for some serious split-ticket voting.


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Greenhouse Gases.

Posted by Will Franklin · 30 April 2008 04:59 PM