5.23.2009

The South will rise again...or not.

The National Journal's Ron Brownstein explains how the Permanent Republican Majority is fairing:

Founded in the decade before the Civil War as the Northern voice of union, the Republican Party today is more electorally dependent on the South than at any point in its past.

In the House and Senate, nearly half of all Republicans were elected from that region, defined as the 11 states of the Confederacy, plus Kentucky and Oklahoma. In each chamber, Southerners are a larger share of the Republican caucus than ever before. Similarly, beginning with the 1992 presidential election, the South has provided at least 59 percent of the Electoral College votes won by the GOP nominee, including by George W. Bush in his 2000 and 2004 victories. That percentage is nearly double the South's share of all Electoral College votes and by far the most that GOP presidential nominees have relied on the region over any sustained period.

Republican strength in the South has both compensated for and masked the extent of the GOP's decline elsewhere. By several key measures, the party is now weaker outside the South than at any time since the Depression; in some ways, it is weaker than ever before.

Today the GOP holds a smaller share of non-Southern seats in the House and Senate than at any other point in its history except the apex of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's popularity during the early days of the New Deal. What is perhaps even more dramatic is that Republicans in the past five presidential elections have won a smaller share of the Electoral College votes available outside of the South than in any other five-election sequence since the party's formation in 1854. Likewise, since 1992, Republican presidential nominees have won a smaller share of the cumulative popular vote outside of the South than in any other five-election sequence since the party's founding, including the five consecutive elections won by Roosevelt and Harry Truman (1932 to 1948)....

[snip]

Questions about the GOP's regional balance may come to a head when the party picks its next presidential nominee. The 2012 race could pit several strong contenders from the South -- including Sanford, Jindal, and Barbour -- against competitors from other regions, such as Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Carrick predicts that a Southern Republican nominee in 2012 would "solidify all of the current trends" toward Democrats among young people and socially moderate white-collar suburbanites outside the South. Another Republican Southern nominee, Carrick maintains, "would say that it is a regional party but [also] that the prevailing ideology in the party is too far out to be competitive."

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