Democratic leaders are excited about recent special House election victories, as they have managed to steal seats long-standing Republican districts. The latest was in the Republican 1st Congressional District in Mississippi. Consequently, Democrats are gaining confidence they can retake the Deep South. But can they?
The most confident Democrats aren’t predicting a return to the Dixiecrat era just yet, when Southerners would rather vote for a “yellow dog” than a Republican, but the the party is having more success in recruiting politically attractive candidates who reflect the changing cultural attitudes in their respective districts.
“This is really not about ideology. It’s about power,” said Leon Panetta, a one-time chief of staff to President Clinton. “Republicans as well as Democrats look for candidates who best appeal to their districts that they’re running in,” he said.
“There is no way a Democrat can win in November if you’re not able to bring together not only African Americans but blue-collar workers, Catholics, women, the base vote that has gone to Hillary,” Panetta said. “If those divisions remain, Democrats are not going to win in November. It’s that simple.”
Read more Panetta comments here…
The poll data and primary trends would suggest a dismal outcome for Barack Obama as well. Southern political analysts believe that whatever changes are happening will not be enough to help Sen. Barack Obama, the likely Democratic White House nominee, win enough states in the South to overcome John McCain. In fact, a state-by-state SurveyUSA poll in March of this year, in a head-to-head matchup with Republican Sen. John McCain, showed that Obama would lose all Southern states except Virginia, where the two candidates were in a dead heat at 47 percent.
Obama did win a string of Southern primaries over Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, however, as I have indicated in prior posts, it was done on the backs of black voters. This factor will not change the math in a general election because blacks have voted overwhelmingly Democratic for decades, regardless of who topped the ticket. This leaves middle class and poor rural white voters, and across this entire demographic, Obama has not done well.
Tom Baxter, editor of the Southern Political Report, said, “Carrying any Southern state, I just think it’s still a long shot at this point. He could put Florida and Virginia in play, but the rest of the South is a steep climb.”
Democrats will continue to siphon off House and Senate seats, but the White House may elude them yet in 2008, in spite of what progressive radio is saying.
The facts are what they are.