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by inoljt

Could Mike Huckabee Have Beat Mitt Romney?

5:09 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

By: inoljt,

Mike Huckabee (photo: Gage

The Republican Primary race is essentially over. Rick Santorum, having finally hit the end of his rope, has announced a suspension of his campaign. It’s going to be Romney versus Obama in November.

Rick Santorum was never a really strong candidate. For the longest time he polled at 1% in Iowa. Only when all the other non-Romney options were exhausted did Santorum begin to rise. But Santorum’s strength was always more anti-Romney than pro-Santorum. People voted against Romney, not for Santorum.

There was, however, another candidate who didn’t enter the field in 2012. This was Mike Huckabee. Mike Huckabee is a much stronger politician than Rick Santorum. Huckabee would have built the same coalition that Santorum built. And unlike Santorum, the people in Huckabee’s coalition would actually be voting for Huckabee rather than merely against Romney.

This leaves us a very interesting question: Could Huckabee have beaten Romney?

In many ways Huckabee would have been a super-charged version of Santorum. He would have done several considerably better amongst Santorum’s voters. On the other hand, he would have had many of the same weaknesses that eventually doomed Santorum. Given that Santorum never really came close to winning the nomination, that’s not good for Huckabee.

On the positive side, Huckabee would almost certainly have won conservative, evangelical Iowa – and probably by a lot. More likely than not he would have taken the state by double-digits. Huckabee would then have probably lost New Hampshire. But next would be South Carolina. Newt Gingrich, not exactly the strongest politician, won South Carolina with 40% of the vote. Huckabee probably would have broken 50%.

Here things get tricky. After South Carolina would have been Florida. This would have been one of those “must-win” states for Huckabee. At the same time, demographically Florida would have pretty unfriendly territory. Could Huckabee have developed momentum after two big victories in Iowa and South Carolina? Perhaps; Florida did give Gingrich some very good numbers before Romney started spending money.

After Florida the most symbolically important states would have been the Midwestern consortium of Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Wisconsin. Rick Santorum lost all of these states, which is why he’s not the nominee.

There’s a decent chance that Huckabee would have won Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Add 10% or 20% to Santorum’s score in the rural counties, along with higher turn-out by voters excited to vote for Huckabee rather than merely against Romney, and things start looking pretty bleak for Romney.

So it looks like Huckabee would have won quite a bit more than Santorum.

But that doesn’t mean that he would have won the nomination.

In 2008 Huckabee was quite weak in urban and suburban areas. There’s no reason to think that he would have done much better in 2012. It’s hard to imagine Huckabee winning in big-city states like California, New York, and Illinois. Losing those three states is pretty devastating for a campaign. To this you have to add Romney give-mes like Arizona, Massachusetts, and Utah.

Huckabee would have had to rely on winning the big states Florida and Texas. Both of these are quasi-Southern states, but they’re also home to a lot of non-Southern voters. Winning these states would not have been a cake-in-the-walk for Huckabee.

But more important than this are two structural weaknesses which doomed Santorum – and which Huckabee would also have had.

Firstly, Huckabee would have been heavily outspent. This was a big reason why Romney won: he outspent Santorum by outrageous margins. Unfortunately for Huckabee, the same thing would have happened with him. In 2008 Huckabee’s campaign was consistently on the brink of going bankrupt. There’s no reason to think that anything would have changed in 2012.

Secondly, the Republican establishment would have backed Romney. The establishment went heavily against Huckabee in 2008 (for reasons that are mysterious to me). It would have been firmly in the camp of Romney in 2012. By the end of the campaign, Fox News was pretending that Rick Santorum didn’t exist. Something similar might have happened with Huckabee.

All in all, it’s a roll of the dice whether Huckabee could have won. The best case scenario: Huckabee pounds Romney in Iowa, runs a close second in New Hampshire, breaks 50% in South Carolina, and then Mitt Romney says that he doesn’t care about poor people. It’s an open question whether momentum for Huckabee would have started setting in at this point, but let’s say it does and Huckabee takes a double-digit national lead. Huckabee wins Florida and then Michigan at the end of February. On Super Tuesday, Romney’s final stand, Huckabee breaks 65% in the South and wins Ohio by double-digits. Romney drops out and endorses Huckabee.

All in all, it’s fun to guess what would have happened in this alternate scenario. I personally would have preferred the Republican nominee to be Mike Huckabee rather than Mitt Romney. In the end, Huckabee stayed out because he thought that Barack Obama would win. That was probably the right reasoning.

by inoljt

Romney’s Shifting New Hampshire Coalition

11:46 am in Uncategorized by inoljt

This is part of a series of posts analyzing how Mitt Romney’s 2012 coalition has changed from his 2008 coalition. Hopefully such analysis will provide clues as to Romney’s performance in the general election. A previous post, which I will refer to multiple times, looked at Iowa. This post will analyze New Hampshire.

New Hampshire

To do that, this post will examine exit polls of the New Hampshire primary in 2008 and exit polls of the New Hampshire primary in 2012.

We should also note, as has been stated before many times, that these exit polls should be taken with two heavy grains of salt. Exit polls consistently fail when it comes down to something as simple as predicting who will win the election. This fact should always be taken into account when using exit polls to examine much more complex relationships (such as the relationship between income and support for Romney). Only when a pattern appears again and again in multiple exit polls should it be possibly noted as valid.

With that said, let’s begin:

Gender Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Male 31% 39%
Female 32% 40%

Not much of interest here. Romney’s strength amongst males and females is virtually identical, as it was in Iowa.

Let’s take a look at age:

Age Romney 2008 Romney 2012
18-24 17% 28%
25-29 33%
30-39 28% 34%
40-49 31% 42%
50-64 30% 42%
65+ 44% 42%
Oldest vs. Youngest Support Gap 27% 14%

Romney does considerably better amongst elderly voters, which is something that occurred in the Iowa exit polls as well. Interestingly, however, the age gap has narrowed since 2008. The opposite occurred in the Iowa exit polls.

Education next:

Education Romney 2008 Romney 2012
High School or Less 28% 39%
Some College/Associate Degree 32% 35%
College Graduate 31% 43%
Postgraduate Study 35% 39%
Most vs. Least Education Support Gap 7% 0%

Education is something that the Iowa exit polls didn’t look at. In general, Romney seems to perform slightly better amongst more educated voters. On the other hand, the relationship isn’t very clear. It could very well be sampling error. For what it’s worth, the education gap seems also to have narrowed in 2012.

Next is marital status:

Married? Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Yes 34% 42%
No 27% 35%
Married vs. Unmarried Support Gap 7% 7%

This is something else which the Iowa post didn’t look at. Romney does slightly better amongst married individuals. Not very surprising, considering his strong family record. Interestingly, the difference in support he draws between married and unmarried individuals is completely unchanged.


Income Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Less than $30,000 18% 31%
$30,000 – $49,999 28% 31%
$50,000 – $99,999 31% 35%
$100,000 – $199,999 33% 47%
$200,000 or more 34% 52%
Highest Income vs. Lowest Income Support Gap 16% 21%

As was the case in Iowa’s exit polls, Romney does substantially better amongst higher-income families. The income gap has also widened since 2012. Something to watch for the general eleciton.

Here is the polling on party affiliation:

Party Affiliation Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Republican 35% 49%
Independent 27% 30%
Republican vs. Independent Support Gap 8% 19%

Romney does better amongst Republicans than Independents, and the gap has widened since 2008. This is something that also occurred in Iowa.

Here is a similar question on political registration:

Voter Registration Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Republican 33% 49%
Independent 30% 33%
Republican vs. Independent Support Gap 3% 16%

The difference here is that this question asks what party people are actually registered with, while the previous question asks what party people mentally identify with. This question is less accurate; for instance, many people registered decades ago as Democrats but now vote consistently Republican. They merely have been too lazy to change their registration, which is why conservative states like Kentucky or North Carolina still have massive Democratic registration advantages.

Anyways, we see basically the same thing as before. Romney does better with Republicans than Independents, and the gap has widened since 2008.

Next is political philosophy:

Political Philosophy Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Very Conservative 43% 33%
Somewhat Conservative 35% 48%
Moderate 27% 40%
Somewhat Liberal 15% 33%
Very Conservative vs. Somewhat Liberal Gap -28% 0%

In 2008, the more conservative the voter, the better Romney’s performance. This had a lot to do with John McCain’s candidacy (the same pattern didn’t exist in Iowa). However, in 2012 Romney’s support crests amongst somewhat conservative voters. This is different from Iowa, where he did best in 2012 amongst moderate voters.

Let’s take a look at born-again evangelical Christians:

Born-Again Evangelical Christian? Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Yes 27% 31%
No 34% 40%
Non-Evangelical vs. Evangelical Support Gap 7% 9%

Non-evangelicals, as in Iowa, are more likely to support Romney. The evangelical versus non-evangelical support gap has slightly widened, again as happened in Iowa. However, New Hampshire’s evangelical versus non-evangelical support gap is substantially narrower compared with Iowa.

The next question is very interesting, and it wasn’t asked in Iowa:

Religion Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Protestant 31% 35%
Catholic 38% 45%
None 22% 23%

There’s pretty substantial variation on Romney’s support depending on one’s religion (this recalls the elections of the nineteenth century, when religious affiliation was a powerful indicator of one’s political party). Atheists dislike Romney the most, Protestants are lukewarm, and Catholics are fans.

It should be noted that this same pattern occurred in 2008. However, in later primaries (such as California), the exit polls showed Romney doing better amongst Protestants (even white Protestants) than Catholics. One should be cautious about concluding that Protestants like Romney less.

Here’s a question which tells a lot about the 2012 campaign:

More Important Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Issues 33% 31%
Personal Qualities 28% 55%
Personal Qualities vs. Issues Support Gap -5% 24%

On voters who find issues more important, Romney’s doing about the same as in 2008. However, he jumps double-digits ahead amongst those voting based on personal qualities.

Next is another question on income:

Family’s Financial Situation Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Falling Behind 26% 32%
Holding Steady 32% 36%
Getting Ahead 32% 45%
Good Financial Situation vs. Bad Financial Situation Support Gap 6% 13%

Romney’s doing better amongst those who are getting ahead. The support gap has also widened. Both are unsurprising considering how much more this year Romney has been attacked on class. It bodes poorly for him for the general election, however.

The next question almost contradicts the previous one:

Worried About Economy? Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Not Too Worried 35%
Somewhat Worried 33% 36%
Very Worried 24% 41%
Most Worried vs. Least Worried Support Gap -11% 5%

In 2008 Romney did steadily better amongst voters less concerned about the economy. In 2012, however, he actually does slightly better amongst those most concerned (unsurprisingly, the number of people not too worried about the economy has declined to basically zero). Apparently a lot of wealthier voters who are getting ahead are still very worried about the economy.

How important are debates?

Importance of Debates Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Very Important 31% 39%
Somewhat Important 34% 32%
Not Important 32% 38%

Not very.

What about when voters decided who to support?

Decided Whom to Support… Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Today 33% 31%
Past Few Days 29% 32%
Last Week 25% 41%
In December 32%
Before That 33% 56%
Earliest Decision vs. Latest Decision Support Gap 0% 25%

In 2008 there wasn’t much of a relationship. However, this year Romney opens an enormous gap between voters who decided late and those who decided early.

Finally, there’s the rural-urban gap:

Size of Community Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Rural 27% 33%
Suburban 34% 43%
Urban 34% 42%
Urban vs. Rural Support Gap 7% 9%

Romney does somewhat poorer amongst rural voters. The support gap hasn’t changed much since 2008.


In the 2008 New Hampshire Republican primary Romney did best, out of all these categories, amongst voters older than 65 (44% of the vote) and worst amongst voters describing themselves as somewhat liberal (15% of the vote). In 2012 Romney did best amongst voters deciding whom to vote for before December (56% of the vote) and worst amongst voters aged 18-24 (28% of the vote).

In 2008 the greatest gap in support for Romney was between conservatives and somewhat liberals (a 28% support gap); in 2012 it was between voters who decided before December and voters who decided on election-day whom to support (a 25% support gap).

There are several interesting similarities to the Iowa caucuses here. In 2008 Romney’s weakest Iowa supporters, amongst the categories examined in the Iowa post, were also those who decided whom to support on election-day. In 2012 his weakest supporters were voters aged 18-29. In addition, the greatest gap in support in 2012 occurred between conservatives and moderates.

So it seems so far that Romney is weak amongst young people and people who decide on election-day whom to support, and that Romney’s appeal differs substantially between those of different political philosophies.

A next post will examine the differences between Romney in 2008 and Romney in 2012 with respect to the South Carolina primary.


by inoljt

Romney’s Shifting Iowa Coalition

11:47 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

Mitt Romney has famously been running for president for the past four years. He seems to be having more success this time; at the moment, Romney is the unquestioned frontrunner for the Republican nomination.

A previous post analyzed Romney’s voting coalition based off of exit polls. Given that Romney also ran for president in 2008, there are also a lot of exit polls which provide information of Romney’s coalition in 2008.

Exit polls were conducted in both the 2008 and 2012 Iowa Republican Caucuses; the 2008 exit poll can be found here, and the 2012 exit poll can be found here. This post takes all the questions which the two exit polls had in common and then places them side-by-side. The fact that Romney got 25.2% of the vote in 2008 and 24.5% of the vote in 2012 makes the comparison especially interesting. By examining the exit polls one can get a sense of how Romney’s 2012 supporters are different from his 2008 supporters.

The results are quite revealing.

Let’s start with a pretty basic question:

Gender Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Male 26% 23%
Female 24% 25%

This is probably the least interesting of the polls. There is essentially no gender gap in Romney’s support. The differences in support are minuscule enough to be a function of sample size error.

Here is the next question, which asks about something much more interesting:

Born-Again Evangelical Christian? Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Yes 19% 14%
No 33% 38%
Evangelical vs. Non-Evangelical Support Gap 14% 24%

These exit polls indicate that Romney does substantially better amongst evangelicals than amongst non-evangelicals. In fact, in 2008 the gap between evangelical support for Romney and non-evangelical support for Romney was greater than any other divide in the 2008 exit poll questions this post examines.

What is even more revealing is that in 2012 this gap widens. Evangelical support for Romney is even less in 2012; non-evangelical support is even greater in 2012. The 2012 evangelical versus non-evangelical divide in support is also greater than all but one in support amongst the questions examined in this post.

One should be a bit cautious, of course. Saying that Romney is doing worse amongst evangelicals in 2012 than in 2008 is very premature. Exit polls are notoriously unreliable, and to draw firm conclusions from unreliable polls of just one caucus is ill-advised.

The next question also shows something very interesting:

Age Romney 2008 Romney 2012
18-29 22% 13%
30-44 23% 20%
45-64 25% 25%
65+ 28% 33%
Oldest vs. Youngest Support Gap 6% 20%

Unlike religion, age has not often been thought of as a factor in whether or not one supports Romney. Yet as these results make clear, there is actually a substantial age gap between support for Romney amongst the elderly and amongst the young. Older voters like Romney more; younger voters are less enthusiastic.

In 2008 the gap is not very wide. Romney’s support does rise slightly with voter age, but the divide is small enough to perhaps be a function of sample error. In 2012 the divide has widened considerably. Romney almost falls into single digits with young voters, while gaining a healthy third of the elderly vote. Much as evangelicals became less likely to vote for Romney in 2012, younger voters – cool to Romney in 2008 – are even less enthusiastic in 2012.

Let’s take a look at income:

Income Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Less than $30,000 19% 15%
$30,000 – $49,999 16% 16%
$50,000 – $99,999 27% 21%
$100,000 or more 32% 36%
Highest Income vs. Lowest Income Support Gap 13% 21%

There have been considerable attacks on Romney on the basis of class; Romney is one of the richest Americans, and it is fair to say that he has never really experienced hardship. Unsurprisingly, poor voters are not exactly enamored of Romney. As with age, there’s a steady progression of increasing support as income increases.

This was so true in 2008, where the lowest income voters were actually more likely to support Romney than the income tier above them. In 2008 the wealth attack was used much less against Romney (back then the main issue was his flip-flops on social issues). In the 2012 campaign Romney has been criticized much more on the issue of wealth, and unsurprisingly the income divide in support has correspondingly increased.

The next question deals with political philosophy:

Political Philosophy Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Very Conservative 23% 14%
Somewhat Conservative 27% 32%
Moderate 26% 38%
Moderate vs. Very Conservative Gap 3% 24%

In 2008 Romney ran as the conservative religious candidate, attempting to win Iowa by running to the right of all the major candidates. His strategy backfired when Mike Huckabee began rising in the polls, and Romney actually did worst amongst very conservative voters that year. Still, 2008 didn’t really feature a big divide in support for Romney; all three numbers are pretty much within the margin-of-error.

In 2012 Romney ran as something quite different: a moderate, business-oriented Republican. Moderates were thus much more likely to support Romney in 2012. Conservatives, however, were turned off by the similarity of his Massachusetts health care plan to “Obamacare.” Their support, always lukewarm, plummeted. In 2012, the moderate-conservative gap thus tied the evangelical versus non-evangelical gap as the largest divide in support for Romney. Out of all the divides in support for Romney, this divide widened the most between 2008 and 2012.

The next table is a bit puzzling:

Party Affiliation Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Independent 19% 19%
Republican 26% 27%
Republican vs. Independent Support Gap 7% 8%

Republicans are more likely to support Romney than Independents. Unlike the case with most of the other questions, the gap in support hasn’t really widened since 2012. This is actually a strange result; it seems to contradict the fact that moderate voters are the most enamored of Romney. It also would suggest some weakness in the general election.

The next questions involves depth of support:

Opinion of Candidate You Support Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Strongly Favor 24% 22%
Some Reservations 26% 29%
Some Reservations vs. Strongly Favor Support Gap 2% 7%

Romney’s share of voters who strongly favor their candidate and his share of voters who favor their candidate with some reservations was essentially the same in 2008. In 2012 the gap has widened somewhat (a pattern that’s coming up again and again). This is perhaps not so surprising considering the many attacks that Romney has received since 2008.

Finally, another question of some utility:

Decided Whom to Support… Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Today 18% 22%
In the last few days 26% 23%
In December 23% 22%
Before That 29% 28%
Earliest Decision vs. Latest Decision Support Gap 11% 6%

This table indicates that Romney generally does best amongst those who make their decisions earliest. This is one of two categories in which the gap between Romney’s strongest and weakest supporters in 2008 narrowed (the other being gender).


The differences between Romney’s 2008 coalition in Iowa and Romney’s 2012 coalition in Iowa can be revealed just by examining his strongest and weakest supporters out of all these categories. In 2008, out of these nine categories, Romney’s strongest supporters were non-evangelicals; he got 33% of their vote. His weakest supporters were people who decided whom to support on election day; Romney got 18% of them. The greatest gap between Romney supporters and opponents was the 14% gap between evangelicals and non-evangelicals.

In 2012 things were somewhat different and similar at the same time. This time, out of these nine exit polls questions, Romney’s strongest support was with non-evangelicals and moderates. The candidate took 38% of their vote. On the other hand, his weakest supporters were voters aged 18-29; Romney won a mere 13% of them. The greatest divide was amongst evangelicals versus non-evangelicals and very conservative voters versus moderate voters. In both, there was a 24% gap.

Consider these statistics in light of the fact that Romney got essentially the exact same share of the vote in both caucuses.

Nevertheless, his coalition has changed in several interesting ways. In general, Romney is doing better with the voters who supported him the most in 2008. On the other hand, he is doing worse with the voters who were most lukewarm towards him in 2008. His coalition has become less broad but more deep.

Of course, it should be noted that one should hesitate before drawing firm conclusions. This is, after all, an analysis of a form of surveying which has proven to be flawed in the past, which has very high margins of error, and an analysis of only one caucus.

A next post will examine the differences between Romney in 2008 and Romney in 2012 with respect to the New Hampshire primary.


by inoljt

Why Don’t Hmong-Americans Vote Republican?

2:04 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

Perhaps no group in America has suffered more from Communism than the Hmong community.

The CIA first recruited the Hmong, impoverished tribes living in the hills of Southeast Asia, to help fight the Communists in Vietnam and Laos. When the Communists won in Vietnam and then Laos, the Hmong were persecuted and sent to camps for their anti-communist role. Eventually many found their way as refugees to the United States. They faced opposition from the Clinton administration, but strong support from Republicans enabled most to come to America as immigrants.

How do the Hmong vote?

It’s not always easy to pick out the voting patterns of smaller communities, like the Hmong. One has to take account of many confounding factors, ranging from participation rates to the voting patterns of other communities.

Nevertheless, it seems pretty clear that the Hmong vote Democratic.

There are several lines of evidence behind this statement. Firstly, Hmong elected officials – individuals such as former Minnesota State Representative Cy Thao and former Minnesota State Senator Mee Moua – belong to the Democratic Party. Secondly, Democratic candidates tend to attend official Hmong events. For instance, only Democratic candidate Al Franken attended this Hmong townhall meeting; Republican candidate Norm Coleman was invited but declined the invitation.

Finally, polls indicate that the Hmong vote Democratic. This poll found that 57% of Hmong identify as Democrats, while a mere 4% identify as Republicans. Done before the 2008 presidential election, it also showed Democrat Barack Obama gaining 65% of the Hmong vote, to Republican John McCain’s 4% support.

Those are some pretty stunning numbers. Even if the poll is badly flawed, or has a very leftward bias, it seems safe to say that the Hmong are a strong Democratic constituency.

There is a good reason for this; the Hmong community is quite poor. Indeed, 30.2% of Hmong-Americans receive public assistance income, more than triple the rate amongst Americans overall. Democratic economic policies tend to favor the poor more, and this is a strong draw for the Hmong.

But it’s still quite shocking that the draw of the Democratic Party’s economic policies is so strong as to produce a 57-4 registration advantage among the Hmong. One would think that the Republican Party would do better. After all, Republican lobbying is the reason why many Hmong are today in America, instead of refugee camps in Thailand.

Moreover, the Democratic Party is closer ideologically to the Communist Party which the Hmong fought for decades. This is why Cubans and Vietnamese-Americans, also refugees from Commmunist persecution, vote Republican. And the Hmong have certainly suffered from Communism; Democratic Hmong politicians Cy Thao and Mee Moua both had families who came from Thailand refugee camps.

The ultimate irony is that the very economic policies which put the Democratic Party closer on the ideological spectrum to the Communist Party are the reason why the Hmong vote Democratic.


by inoljt

The Curious Story of How Daniel Boman Switched Parties

10:58 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

Alabama is a state in which the Democratic Party is on its death-bed. Ever since the Civil Rights Movement, the state has been in a slow drift Republican. First it stopped voting Democratic on the presidential level. Then it started electing Republicans for senator, then congressman, then state office, and finally local office.

The Democratic Party fought hard in this losing battle. As late as 2008 it had miraculously won three out of seven seats in the congressional delegation, and still held majorities in the state legislature. To be fair, many of these local Democrats were so conservative that they would be better described as “Republicans.”

The end came in 2010. Republicans won all but one seat in congress. They flipped the state legislature for the first time since Reconstruction, something which should have happened a long time ago. Democrats today hold no elected state office in Alabama.

There was a lot of party-switching after the 2010 elections. Many extremely conservative Democrats finally admitted that they were in fact Republicans.

In this state of affairs, something quite remarkable happened: a Republican politician, State Representative Daniel Boman, switched to the Democratic Party.

This has no effect on Alabama politics. Republicans still hold a supermajority in the chamber.

It also doesn’t appear that Mr. Boman switched for political reasons. His district is very white and very strongly Republican. He will probably lose his re-election campaign.

It thus seems that an extraordinarily rare event has occurred in American politics: a politician acting on behalf of his conscience, without any possible political gain. The Gadsden Times quotes Republican House speaker Mike Hubbard commending Mr. Boman for “formally affirming what he has likely felt in his heart for some time now.”

That is quite something. Mr. Boman seems to be a very good man, if not the wisest politician out there. This poster wishes him the best of luck in whatever his future holds.



by inoljt

Why Does Mississippi Vote Republican?

1:29 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

"Welcome to Mississippi"

"Welcome to Mississippi" by J Stephen Conn on flickr

This post will attempt to explain why Mississippi is a Republican stronghold today.

But before doing that, let’s describe another state – call it State X. Looking at State X is very useful for analyzing why Mississippi votes Republican. I invite you to guess what state it is.

Here is a description of State X. Demographically, State X is very rural and very white. There are no major cities in the state; one has to cross state lines and drive more than a hundred miles to find the nearest metropolitan area. Racially, the state is homogeneously white; indeed, it is the second whitest state in the entire nation.

State X has almost always been a one-party stronghold, and that party has generally been the Republican Party. The Republican Party has almost always taken this state’s electoral votes; indeed, it voted for a Republican president for more than a century. State X has only elected one Democratic senator in its entire history.

I am talking, of course, about Vermont. Read the rest of this entry →

by inoljt

Analyzing Swing States: Pennsylvania, Conclusions

2:23 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

This is the last part of a series of posts analyzing the swing state Pennsylvania. The previous parts can be found here.


For many decades, Pennsylvania constituted model of Democratic strength based upon working-class votes. Today that is changing, especially in the southwest. For the moment, nevertheless, the swing state Pennsylvania remains Democratic-leaning. This is more because of an unusually strong Democratic machine than any natural liberalism in Pennsylvania.

In 2008 Democrats won Pennsylvania by double-digits, amassing a coalition based upon poor blacks in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, rich whites in the Philadelphia suburbs, and working-class votes outside Appalachia. It is a strange-looking combination, but it works.

Republicans built their strength upon small towns and exurban communities in "the T," along with working-class votes in the southwest.

For decades, Republicans have been strengthening in western Pennsylvania, while weakening in eastern Pennsylvania. This map indicates these changes.


Although it doesn’t look like it, the 2008 Democratic candidate (who won by 10.32%) actually did better than the 1992 candidate (who won by 9.02%).

From all this, the best news for Democrats would be the blue shift Philadelphia’s suburbs have undergone. Republicans will take heart in the Appalachan southwest’s even stronger movement right.

I have previously opined that these changes benefit Democrats on the whole. Indeed, this whole series of posts has inclined toward a theory of continuing Democratic strength in Pennsylvania. I will conclude this chain of posts, therefore, with a map Republicans will like – the 2008 Pennsylvania results by municipality. This illustrates how President George W. Bush almost won Pennsylvania in 2004.



by inoljt

Analyzing Swing States: Pennsylvania, Part 5

2:56 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

This is the fifth part of an analysis of the swing state Pennsylvania. It focuses on the traditionally Republican region between the Democratic strongholds in the southeast and southwest. The last part can be found here.


Outside the Pittsburgh and the Philadelphia metropolis, Pennsylvania is a very different place. Political analysts often label this area "the T," while others call it Pennsyltucky.

Popular culture mythologizes Pennsyltucky as red-neck capital – a rural region dominated by NASCAR-loving red-necks. Politically, James Carville compared Pennsyltucky to Alabama without the blacks.

In fact, this stereotype is inaccurate on two accounts. Firstly, Pennsyltucky contains far more than so-called rural red-necks; most of its counties are fairly populated (they are far more densely peopled than, say, rural Arkansas). Secondly, many of these supposedly NASCAR-loving red-necks also belong to the local union and vote Democratic on economic issues. The majority may support Republicans, but that majority certainly is below the 88% of Alabama whites that voted for John McCain.

Nevertheless, the "T" does constitute the Republican base in Pennsylvania. Former president George W. Bush pulled 48.42% of the state’s vote in 2004, and he had to get those votes somewhere.

(Note: This statistic, and all the ones mentioned afterwards, come from )

Pennsylvania’s 2006 Senate election provides a geographic illustration of this base. In that election, former Senator Rick Santorum lost by a landslide 17.36% margin; only the reddest counties supported him:


Although they cover a lot of land, not all these counties are rural enclaves of Pennsyltucky (if they were all rural, Senator John Kerry would have won by double-digits in the state). In fact, fast-growing exurbs constitute a substantial source of Republican votes. Located east of the Philadelphia metropolis, these are somewhat wealthy and mostly white. They include Lancaster County (where Bush won 65.80% of the vote) and York County (where he won 63.74%); the former president came out of these two counties with a 121,832 margin, enough to offset Pittsburgh, Erie, and Scranton.

Erie and Scranton both constitute solidly blue areas belonging to "the T." They give lie to the myth that all Pennsyltucky votes loyally Republican. Like the southwest, Erie and Scranton contain a number of working-class Democrats; unlike the southwest, however, cultural appeals have not swayed these folk into voting Republican.

Indeed, Democrats do respectably in many parts of Pennsyltucky. Here is President Barack Obama’s performance:


Mr. Obama did not just win Erie and Scranton; he took several other counties and ran closely elsewhere. These included Centre County, home to Pennsylvania State University, and Dauphin County, which has a relatively high black population. All the Lehigh Valley – somewhat an extension of Philadelphia’s suburbs – voted for the president. More surprisingly, Obama ran very closely in several rural, lily-white regions of the T; one such county (Elk) even gave the president a 4% margin of victory.

Obama was not the only Democrat to do well in parts of Pennsyltucky. Here is how former president Bill Clinton performed:


Mr. Clinton, of course, was a fellow with immense appeal to so-called "red-necks." Since his time, much of Pennsyltucky has moved to the right. Yet not all of it is deep-red: while some counties gave Mr. McCain more than 70% of the vote, others – demographically identical – gave him barely more than 50%. These are substantial and curious variations.

While Pennsyltucky as a whole votes strongly Republican, it is wrong to generalize the area. Its most populous regions – the exurbs – constitute a vital part of the Republican coalition, while some rural counties have a fairly weak Republican habit. Finally, a number of places dependent upon industry routinely support Democrats. To stereotype the "T" as a composed solely of Republican-voting red-necks would do injustice to the region’s complexities.

(Note: Some pictures modified from the NYT.)


by inoljt

Analyzing Swing States: Pennsylvania, Part 4

1:30 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

This is the fourth part of an analysis of the swing state Pennsylvania. It focuses on the industrial southwest, a once deep-blue region rapidly trending Republican. Part five can be found here.

Pittsburgh and the Southwest

Pennsylvania’s southwest has much in common with West Virginia and Southeast Ohio, the northern end of Appalachia. Electoral change in the region is best understood by grouping these three areas together as a whole.

Socially conservative (the region is famously supportive of the NRA) but economically liberal, the industrial southwest voters typify white working-class Democrats. These voters can be found in unexpected places: Catholics in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, loggers along the Washington coast, rust-belt workers in Duluth, Minnesota and Buffalo, New York.

It was President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal that brought the working-class to the Democratic Party; before his time, the party constituted a regional force confined mainly to the South. In Pennsylvania, a Republican stronghold that had voted for President Herbert Hoover, Mr. Roosevelt laid the foundations for a lasting Democratic coalition.

For decades, voters in southwest Pennsylvania constituted this coalition’s foundation. Take, for instance, Democratic nominee Walter Mondale:


In 1984, the industrial southwest, badly hurting from a receding recession, cast a strong ballot for Mr. Mondale. It did so again for Governor Mike Dukakis, and twice for President Bill Clinton.

Ironically, it was during the presidency of Mr. Clinton – a man much liked by Appalachia – that the Democrats became regarded as the party of the coasts and the elite. Ever since his time, Pennsylvania’s industrial southwest has been in a bad way for Democrats.

Thus, whilst metropolitan Philadelphia has been moving steadily left, Pittsburgh and the industrial southwest have been marching in the opposite direction.

To get a sense of the movement in this region, compare these two maps:

In less than a generation’s span, one sees Democratic strength in northern Appalachia utterly vanish.

In a state where things have been going badly for Republicans, southwest Pennsylvania provides some consolation. Were it not for the southwest’s rightward trend, Pennsylvania would today be a fairly solid Democratic state.

Nevertheless, if I were to choose between Pittsburgh and the industrial southwest or Philadelphia and the suburban southeast, I would much prefer the latter. While Philadelphia itself is in declining, its metropolitan area as a whole has experienced rapid growth. The southwest’s population, on the other hand, remains basically stagnant, suffering the effects of economic decline.

In absolute terms, moreover, eastern Pennsylvania holds far more votes:


Republicans might take comfort in Allegheny County’s vote reservoir – were it not consistently blue. Indeed, Democratic strength in Pittsburgh ensures that, as a whole, the southwest will still vote Democratic for some time yet. Although – unique to practically every other major city – Republicans have been improving in Pittsburgh, its substantial black population limits their potential.

The puzzling thing, however, is why Appalachian working-class whites are moving so rapidly right. It cannot be simply race: both Vice President Al Gore and Senator John Kerry were white, after all, yet they still did progressively worse. It cannot be simply elitism, either: Governor Mike Dukakis and Governor Adlai Stevenson were intellectual technocrats, yet they won what Mr. Kerry and Mr. Gore could not.

Finally, it is not as if all the white working-class has suddenly turned Republican: voters in Michigan, northeast Ohio, upstate New York, and Silver Bow and Deer Lodge Montana, amongst other regions, still retain the Democratic habit. In Pennsylvania, working-class strongholds such as Scranton and Erie, surrounded by a sea of Republican counties, also continue to vote deep blue. They will be the topics of the next post.