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Posted by on Jul 1, 2008 in Politics | 8 comments

Tom Schaller says: The South Will Fall Again

Tom Schaller’s by the numbers analysis always wreaks of often elicits southern bashing to me. (Who wrote that headline?) He repeats it again today on the OpEd page of the NYTimes:

Two pervasive and persistent myths about racial voting in the modern South are behind the notion that Mr. Obama might win in places like Georgia, North Carolina and Mississippi.

The first myth is that African-American turnout in the South is low. Black voters are actually well represented in the Southern electorate: In the 11 states of the former Confederacy, African-Americans were 17.9 percent of the age-eligible population and 17.9 percent of actual voters in 2004, analysis of Census Bureau data shows.

And when socioeconomic status is held constant, black voters go to the polls at higher rates than white voters in the South. In other words, a 40-year-old African-American plumber making $60,000 a year is, on average, more likely to vote than a white man of similar background.

The second myth is that Democratic presidential candidates fare better in Southern states that have large numbers of African-Americans. In fact, the reverse is true, because the more blacks there are in a Southern state, the more likely the white voters are to vote Republican.

I’ll follow the commentary his piece evokes through the day and tack it on to this post.

LATER: At 11 a.m. I’m finding only a chorus of agreement with Schaller. No one’s making the Barr’s from Georgia argument. Or noting the 600,000 unregistered black voters. Yet.

LATER STILL: James Joyner quotes a bunch of blogger agreement then concludes:

Schaller’s right, then, that Obama can win the presidency without competing in the South.  But campaigning in such a way as to give himself a chance — or make McCain spend money in — the South will likely help himself in those other states as well.

Josh Orton at MyDD:

When all is said and done, I actually think Obama could increase black turnout in Mississippi more than just 5% over Kerry. But even then, I agree that Mississippi is likely out of the question.

But what about Georgia? As Jonathan has documented, the Libertarian candidacy of Georgia-native Bob Barr could very much cut into McCain’s vote.

Steve Benen says he’s learned never to question his friend Schaller’s math — but he also quotes numbers from the WSJ that I read as doing just that (of course I’m no statistician). His conclusion:

I’d just add, though, whether he should or not, Obama is eyeing the South, and will be investing time, energy, and resources in picking up some electoral votes in the Republicans’ dominant region. Unless the McCain campaign is prepared to gamble that Schaller’s thesis is iron-clad, McCain won’t have a choice but to invest resources of his own in the South, which in turn, will limit his ability to spend elsewhere.

Something to keep an eye on.

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