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Morning Jay: Special "Southern Politics in 2010" Edition!

6:30 AM, Oct 13, 2010 • By JAY COST
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That could be hard because of the second problem.  Obama did much worse with white voters in the South than he did nationwide (where he won 43%).  Right now, Gallup has President Obama’s job approval among whites at a dangerously low 37%.  It’s an easy bet that it is lower in the South.  In fact, my back of the envelope calculation, based off the Gallup numbers, suggests that it is less than 25% approval.

The third problem for Democrats is that this is clearly a “nationalized” midterm.  My guess is that Bill Clinton was under 50% approval among Southern whites in 1998, but that year’s midterm was not nationalized in the sense that this one is.  Voters today are concerned about the state of the nation, and what we will probably see is a very tight correlation between approval of the President and midterm vote.

All of this adds up to a simple equation: the fewer African Americans that a Southern Democrat has in his or her district, the more endangered he or she is.  We can see this pretty clearly in the following chart.  Race rankings – once again – are courtesy of RealClearPolitics.

This chart includes all southern congressional districts that are south of metropolitan Washington, D.C., east of Texas, and northwest of Jacksonville (all of which are places where the New South’s political/social/economic dynamic creates a different electoral calculus).  As you can see, there is a strong correlation between the district’s racial mixture and the vulnerability of the Democrat. 

In all likelihood, white voters who supported John McCain for president and a Democrat for the House in 2008 are trending toward Republican House candidates.  Reduced African American turnout will only exacerbate what is a very real problem for Southern Democrats.

The good news for Democrats is that the GOP already dominates the Southern congressional delegations, so Democratic losses should be relatively modest.  Even so, I think when the dust settles on November 3rd, we’re going to see a Republican share of Southern congressional seats that is larger than at any point since Reconstruction.

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