The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. - Wm. Blake

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Regional Parties

So I'd say that the underreported story of this election is the death of the Republican Party in the Northeast. It's been coming for awhile, but the South seems to loom so much larger in the national imagination than the Northeast (probably because the Northeast really includes both the Midatlantic states and New England, plus the distorting presence of New York City, its own region) that people don't really talk about it. There are a few reasons, but implicit in all of them is the idea that The South is critical to national power, while the Northeast is not. Presumably this dates back to the region's historic schizophrenia between mildly conservative Rockefeller Republicans and tough machine Democrats. Whereas the South has - except for relatively brief transitions - always been fairly unified, whether Democrat or Republican.

And just today some flack from AEI dismissed concerns about the GOP disappearing in the NE by pointing to "real problems" for Dems in the South. So I decided to do some counting.

Well, lo and behold. Looking at the above map (from the Times), we see 4 regions in the country: the "Solid South," the Northeast, the West Coast, and the Middle. The Solid South turns out to be not-so-solid (more on that in a moment), but if we look at the old Confederacy plus reliably Red KY and OK, we get a region that's almost 2/3 GOP in the House, and almost 100% GOP in the Senate. The Northeast, from PA & MD up to Maine, is actually much more thoroughly blue, as is the West Coast. The Middle, for our purposes, is the remainder - states that are either pretty well mixed, or don't add up to much electorally (I know those empty Plains states can add up in the Electoral College, but I think Senate Dems have shown that they're attainable for Team Blue).

So is it true? Do you need to compete in the South to win? Here's the breakdown by region:

South: 26 Senators, 141 Representatives
NE: 20 Senators, 91 Representatives
West Coast: 6 Senators, 67 Representatives
Middle: Doesn't matter for this discussion - it's not a cohesive region, culturally or politically

So we can see that the two Blue regions equal the South in the Senate. What about the House? Surely the Solid South gives the GOP a huge head start in the House? Not so much. The two Blue regions are much bluer than the South is red, and have more Representatives. The NE is now 77% blue in the House, the West Coast 66%, for a total of 72%. The Solid South, in contrast, is just 61% red. And while some of that is due to states like FL and AK that have never wholly left the Dems, you actually find Deep South states like GA and MS that have scant, if any, red majorities in their delegations. What's the upshot? 114 Dems come from their home regions, where the GOP gets only 86.

Obviously, none of this is set in stone, and political tides run both ways. But it turns out that, while the Dems need to retain credibility in the South, they don't necessarily need to do much more. They've got a decent presence there, and they OWN two regions that, combined, are significantly bigger.

So I can't wait for the anguished new stories about How Can the GOP Win Without New England.

Yup. Any day now.


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