Changing Electoral Maps
Looking back at the Electoral College results of the modern era--and ahead to November.
Brendan Loy tweets, “The 1976 electoral map looks just so freakin’ weird by today’s standards, doesn’t it?”
Yes. Yes it does.
Granted, Democrat Jimmy Carter was a Southerner and born again Christian who was more socially conservative than his Republican opponent, Gerald Ford. And there was that whole Watergate thing.
But the American political landscape realigned itself in 1980 when Ronald Reagan managed to bring Southern white conservatives into the Republican fold. And again in 1992 when Republican immigration policy (at the state level) finally drove California into the Democratic column.
Still, there’s been considerably fluidity even in modern times. Dave Leip’s Political Atlas has electoral maps going back to the beginning, although they’re slightly confusing because he maintains the long-defunct practice of coloring Democrats red and Republicans blue and because he uses additional colors in cases where a third party candidate prevented either major party candidate from winning a majority. But it’s an excellent resource.
In 1960, Nixon took all of the West except Nevada and Kennedy took most of the South, including Texas.
In 1964, Johnson almost ran the table against Goldwater, losing only Goldwater’s native Arizona and a band of states in the Deep South from Louisiana to South Carolina.
In 1968, Nixon took the West except Washington state and most of the Midwest, Humphrey took Texas and most of the Northeast, and Wallace took most of the South.
In 1972, Nixon pretty much ran the table against McGovern, losing only Massachussets and DC.
In 1976, as seen on the above map, it was almost an East-West split.
In 1980, Reagan took everything but Minnesota, West Virginia, Maryland, DC, Massachussets, and Carter’s native Georgia.
In 1984, Reagan took everything but DC and Mondale’s native Minnesota.
In 1988, Bush took all but a handful of states, with West Virginia the most surprising loss from today’s perspective.
In 1992, we had a bizarre patchwork of outcomes, with Southern Democrat Clinton taking a handful of Southern states and, as noted earlier, putting California in the Democratic column for the first time in years.
1996 looks much more familiar to modern eyes although, again, Clinton managed to peel off a handful of Southern states.
2000 and 2004 both conform to modern expectations in terms of geographical breakdown.
2008, of course, saw quite a number of traditionally Republican states go to Democrat Barack Obama. Given the incredibly low approval ratings of George W. Bush at the end, the timing of the economic meltdown, the weak candidacy of John McCain, and the disastrous choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate, there was something of a perfect storm for Democrats in that election.
It’s almost certain that Obama will not win as many states in 2012 as he did in 2008, given diminished enthusiasm among the Democratic base and the youth cohort and the fact that the economy is now his. But it’s quite possible that 2008 was the beginning of a trend rather than an aberration, with several traditional Republican states (notably Colorado, North Carolina, and Virginia) becoming swing states if not Democrat-leaning.
Public Policy Polling’s Tom Jensen has taken a look at the 2012 electoral map and concludes “Obama’s in pretty good shape for reelection.” Looking at recent state-level polls, he finds,
Obama should find this heartening- he has 255 electoral votes locked up in states where we found him with at least a 5 point average poll lead in 2011. If he can win just one out of Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina that puts him over 270.
It’s funny that for all the talk of the changing electoral map that Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania are still the key states. But Obama’s continued strength in Virginia and Colorado now makes it so that he only needs to win one out of that trio of states to get to 270 electoral votes, where John Kerry and Al Gore both lost because of their inability to carry two of them.
There’s of course still a long time between now and November 6. A lot will depend on what happens to the economy, which will be heavily influenced by events in Europe and China almost completely out of Obama’s control. The Republican nominee will matter a lot, too, with Mitt Romney (or, implausibly, Jon Huntsman) having a much easier time winning swing states than Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, or Newt Gingrich.
Right now, though, of the states Jensen says will be key–Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina–Obama has a tiny lead in all four.
That practice is not “long-defunct” – it really only changed consistently with the 2000 presidential election.
An interesting counter-factual for 1976 would be to discuss what might have happened if the Democratic nominee had been someone other than a former Southern Governor (although looking at the candidate’s gallery from that year I can’t for the life of me figure out who could’ve been a credible nominee other than Carter. Scoop Jackson maybe?).
It was Carter’s ties to the region that kept the south in the Democratic column. Or, more properly, brought it back after the 1972 election. If the Democrats hadn’t been able to hold on to those states, Ford probably would have been re-elected (or, to be precise about the matter, elected). Two or three Southern states going Republican that year would’ve changed the outcome.
@Dave: Indeed. Prior to the 2000 election there was not consistent application of red and blue.
@Steven L. Taylor:
I do distinctly remember ABC’s coverage of the 80 and 84 elections and red being used for Republican states. It seems to have changed in the Clinton era.
Yeah I think red and blue didn’t become the standard until the protracted fight of 2000 which sort of cemented the idea of blue for Dem red for Repub for most of us and the media has stayed with it ever since instead of switching.
The trend for the Democrats since the 1990’s is that most states have become blue and those states are larger. California is lost to the Republicans forever and has more to do with demographics and a failed amnesty law in the 1980’s that propositions on the California ballot.
The Democrats now have a lock on states like California whereas the Republicans have picked up West Virginia.
AS the demographics trends in the U.S. continue more states that the Republicans used to compete in such as Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, and even Texas will become blue. Yet, no currently blue state will become a red state.
What the maps really indicate are demographic changes in the U.S. and changes in the economy. As those changes continue, the U.S. will become a one party state like California, Maryland, or Mass., and the current Republican blocks (libertarians, social conservatives, neo-cons, cheap labor) will just become blocks inside the Democratic Party.
The long term impact to the U.S. of the changing map is that taxes will go up to provide more government to the most powerful blocks inside the Democratic Party.
@Doug Mataconis: Although many Washingtonians hoped that Jackson would be a viable candidate, my recollection was that he had little pull outside of Washington State, which at 7 electoral votes, was not a political powerhouse. Carter may well have been the only card in the deck for the Dems. Under the circumstances, it wasn’t a huge problem.
The south was once solid Democrat – until LBJ messed up and ruined south forever for the Democrats. The Democrats need to broaden their platform and outlook. We used to have Kennedy, Truman, Russell, Stennis, Ervin, Eastland, and Rayburn. That’s the mix we need now.
@Just nutha ig’rant cracker:
Yea, that’s why I don’t really think there was anyone in the field that was viable in the national sense other than Carter. It took a while for the party to figure that out (the biggest vote getter in the 1976 Iowa Caucuses was “Uncommitted,” Carter came in second technically) but I seriously doubt Jerry Brown or Udall or Bayh could have competed nationally
@Dexter: The use of Democrat instead of Democratic betrays you.
And on the topic of coloring, Wikipedia has a great article about it: Red states and blue states
@Just nutha ig’rant cracker:
the Democrats see no point in appealling to whites in the South. The Democratic Party would rather maintain open borders and unlimited immigraiton to change the population of states like Georgia and North Carolina into a population that will automatically vote for the Democratic Party candidate.
California and Maryland haven shown the Democratic party the future: increase the number of non-whites and employment as many as possible in the public sector. No conservative party can exist in such states and the Democrats know that their strategy will work no matter the state of the economy.
Yes, yes, we know. Brown people will forever vote for the Democrats, because they want to steal our money. Soon it will be the tyranny of the minorities, and oppressed white people will be bereft of political power. Behold the dystopian nightmare!
In addition to being a race-obssessed bigot, you’re a crashing bore. Wrong, too, but that’s almost beside the point. You’re beyond that; in the category of “that’s not even wrong.”
The GOP can decide to be a more inclusive party if it wants to. It can do this w/o sacrificing its most virtuous themes (such as, for instance, its emphasis on individual responsibility, hard work, no free lunch, etc*). What is required is an end to demonizing non-whites as you do. They have to sacrifice the stuff that appeals to you. In return, they can make inroads amongst the non-white population. The trouble is that the transition would be hard. Convincing non-whites that the GOP no longer considers them all basically criminal would be hard work. Doing that work would alienate a chunk of the current GOP base (as personified here by you). Short-term pain for long-term gain. As these are politicians we’re talking about, they will resist the short-term pain.
And so they remain hitched to you. Sad, really.
* – I critique these things at times, but ultimately I agree with them too. It’s a matter of balancing them. It’s not that individual choices don’t matter. It’s that they can be swamped by societal forces. Both are true, and we should (and currently do, in our hodge-podge way) account for both.
“The Democratic Party would rather maintain open borders and unlimited immigraiton ”
This is a position that is more closely aligned with libertarian thought. Not wanting to build a costly and likely ineffective fence is not the same as wanting open borders.
@superdestroyer: I would never like to see these straw democrats you invented in charge. They sound awful.
@PJ: Actually, that strikes me as a perfectly non-pejorative use of “Democrat,” which is a perfectly acceptable noun. For example, “Barack Obama is a Democrat” is not pejorative. Indeed, the only pejorative is the sneering use of “Democrat Party” instead of the proper “Democratic Party.
“It’s almost certain that Obama will not win as many states in 2012 as he did in 2008, given diminished enthusiasm among the Democratic base and the youth cohort and the fact that the economy is now his. ”
This cake is not yet baked. The GOP is nowhere near done coming apart at the seams. This theory relies on some future coming together of the pieces of the GOP, and these folks brook zero compromise. Their rhetoric paints them into corners that are wet-dreams for videographers. The footage that will be used against the Flipster or The Newster will be crushing, and for this simple reason: this is what he said. It Exists.
A new party will emerge, likely in the wake of this years’ defeat of the GOP, especially when they insist on the same failed Congressional leadership. How did McConnell still have a job after 2006? After 2008, especially?
SuperDestroyer sees only Armageddon in this, and he would be correct: his ways are going away, and good riddance. But there will be no Rapture, so he’d better figure out how he’s going to get along in life without being mad at everyone in the world. The complaining is getting old.
With good reason.
Another map that shows just 10% of white voters in Alabama voted for Obama last time:
The idea that Reagan turned the South can be greatly overstated. The trends that moved the South into their current Republican position were in motion by 1948 election when Truman worked to appeal to minority voters in northern states. Also, note that Reagan barely won some of those states in 1980 (he won SC by 1%, imagine that today?). From say 1982 one can find articles about Democratic chances of beating Reagan in the South. It wasn’t really cemented until the 1984 Mondale debacle, and even when it was, it was merely Southern voters finally realizing what frankly was obvious at least since the mid-60s. What really fueled the changes since 1980 was not so much Reagan realigning voters but was the shift of Southern conservatives into the GOP (which was going to happen with or without Reagan), which forced the GOP to the right on social issues which in turn scared off the median voters in places like California, Illinois, and the northeast.
Wow, funny to see Carter’s 1976 nomination discussed as such an obvious choice. At the time, he was considered a surprise. When he first told his mother he was going to run for President, she supposedly said “President of what?”
Perhaps. There was even an “Anyone But Carter” movement in the Democratic Party in 1976. As with today’s “Not Romney” movement, though, there was nobody credible in the race to take his place.
The one name missing from the 76 Democratic race, of course, is Ted Kennedy, who arguably would have been a very strong candidate but considering that it was only 7 years past Chappaquiddick at the time it’s perhaps understandable that he didn’t even attempt a run
“Actually, that strikes me as a perfectly non-pejorative use of “Democrat,” which is a perfectly acceptable noun. For example, “Barack Obama is a Democrat” is not pejorative. Indeed, the only pejorative is the sneering use of “Democrat Party” instead of the proper “Democratic Party. ”
The quote at issue was “The south was once solid Democrat “. Correct grammer would have been “The South was once solidly Democratic”, as a noun should not have been used there. I also disagree that the only perjorative is “Democrat Party” as in general, using the noun “Democrat” instead of the adjective “Democratic” anywhere (“Democrat Congress”, “Democrat bill”, etc.) fits.
@Nightrider: I agree. Everett Dirksen got pissed while he was writing or helping to write the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and he became the subject of a protest by African-Americans. He spat out that he had supported every civil rights law in Congress and you
blackspeople never vote for me anyway. Its an odd arrangement that Republicans were expected to act as the party of Lincoln and the party that waives the bloody shirt, when it stopped gaining any electoral support for doing so.
Ahh, so passing laws to ensure the civil rights of black people was “messing up”…
Umm, no, we really don’t need the likes of Russell, Stennis, and Eastland in any kind of mix…
@superdestroyer: “the Democrats see no point in appealling to whites in the South.”
I recall Howard Dean saying that he wanted to be the candidate of guys with confederate flags in the backs of their pickup trucks, and that didn’t go to well for him.
A good example is when the Democratic party in Georgia ran Denise to replace Zell Miller. To the Democrats in the south it is more important to run token blacks than to find quality candidates that can appeal to more than 10% of the white population. The same can be said with the Democrats running Alvin Green in South Carolina. Look at how the Democrats turned on Artur Davis when he tried to moderate his positions in order to run in the general election. Look at how the Democrats in Louisville, Ky took a forced busing case to the Supreme Court. They obviously to not care about appealing to whites.
In the south, the Democrats regard the maintaining of the minority-majority districts as more important than trying to appeal to middle class whites.
However, the Democrats know that they can win the majority of theCongressional Districts without putting any effort into appeal to middle class whites.
You are either quite stupid or completely disingenuous in trying to imply that the Democratic Party ran an organized effort for Alvin Greene…
Umm, when a politician actively turns his back on his base in an attempt to come across as a “moderate”, he shouldn’t be surprised when that base turns on him…the same thing would happen to any white Republican (yes, I realize it is redundant to use those two words together) in the South who voiced support for the President in an attempt to be seen as a “moderate”…
@Gustopher: It might not have gone so well in his presidential run, but during his time as head of the DNC, the Dems picked up a lot of those marginal congressional districts. The Tea Party won a lot of them back in 2010, but that seems to indicate they will be in play again. I recall a MS district, a MO district or 2 and a KS district for sure switching from red to blue.
@An Interested Party:
Every Republican was blamed for Sharon Angle. Every Republican was blamed for Christine O’Donnell. If the Republican Establishment is blamed for bad candidates and Republicans blamed for supporting a party with bad candidates, then the Democrats should be subjected to the same criticism. Why didn’t the Democrats in South Carolina find adequate, quality candidates for run for office.
The topic was about appealing to whites and how the Democrats in the South just do not care about appealing to white. The behavior of the Democrats in Alabama reinforce that idea. That the voters in Alabama would not nominate a moderate black man because he was moderate shows that the Democrats do not care about being seen as moderate. No wonder 90% of whites in Alabama do not vote for the Democrats.
@Rob in CT:
You demonstrate the idea that all white progressives believe that all Democrats are like themselves. In reality, the idea of individual responsibility is seen as a racist idea in the black community. Do you really think that a demographic group that supports race-based reparations at over 80% really cares about individual responsibility versus group benefits, group punishment, and race-based government. Do you really think the idea of free lunch is going to work on a demographic group that supports set asides, quotas, affirmative action, and reparations. Do you really think that a demographic group where the illegitimacy rate is over 80% will care about social conservative issues, smaller government, or less regulations?
The only odd thing about black voters is that 5% of them do not automatically vote for the Democrats.
Any appeal to blacks and Hispanics will destroy any conservative party. Appeal to blacks and Hispanics will lose more votes than it gets. Whites voters are not like black voters. White voters will revolt when taken for granted (See the Tea Party) whereas blacks remain loyal to the Democrats no matter what. In addition, to appeal to blacks and hispanics would mean that the Republicans would have to move so far to the left as to be indistinguishable from the current Democratic Party. The Republicans could come out in support of race-based reparations and 80% of blacks would still automatically vote for Democrats.
Actually, Teabaggers were blamed for these two particular jokes…
If that were really true, there would be no white Southern Democrats who hold any political offices…as this is not the case, your little theory needs work, but what else is new…
@An Interested Party:
You should look up Steve Cohen, D-TN. He is one of the few whites that represents a majority black district. He is one of the most liberal congressmen and has zero chance of ever winning a higher office.
There are a few white Democrats in the south who tried to appeal to the white middle class. They are called blue dogs, they were hated by the Democratic Party establishment, and most of them were voted out of office in 2010.
Look at Georgia where there are four Democratic congressmen and they are all black. The Georgia Democratic party has shown little interest in appealing to whites. Maintain the four CBC districts is what is important to the Democrats in Georgia.
See folks, these are the real reasons why blacks overwhelmingly support the Democratic Party…the irony is that since so many Republicans seem to believe the racist horse$hit displayed above, Democrats will continue to receive the overwhelming support of blacks and other minorities…it isn’t like superdestroyer doesn’t regularly let the mask slip, but this is quite a nice example of what a racist pig he is…
@An Interested Party:
OK. If you were a consultant paid $1000 dollar an hour to help the Republicans appeal to blacks and Hispanics, what would you tell the Republicans to do? How does a party that should support smaller government and low taxes appeal to a demographic group that overwhelmingly support race-based reparations?
Just saying that conservatives should stop being raicst does not cut it. Give specific policy positions that would appeal to blacks and Hispanics without alienating a larger number of whites.
@An Interested Party:
I suggest you look up the polling data on blacks in the U.S. The vast majority of blacks in the U.S. support race-based reparations. The base majority of blacks in the U.S. support quotas and affirmative action. Most black children born these days are born to single mothers.
Please provide statistical data that shows that more than a smaller minority of blacks are against reparations, quotas, or race-based government.
Thank you, superdestroyer, for proving my point with every comment you post here…
Indeed, just earlier today, I spent my dinnering time (a baconized cheesburger and beany soup) watching the cabelized news on the televisible set, when it occured to me how wrong it is to ever use a noun as an adjective.
@An Interested Party:
Actually you prove the point that progressive refuse to face reality while claiming that they are the reality-based individuals. I suggest you look up the polling data on blacks and reparations. http://law.jrank.org/pages/10314/Slavery-REPARATIONS.html 80% of blacks wanted a formal apology for slavery and 67% want race-based reparations while only 4% of whites support reparations (I guess the Tim Wise’s of the world).
Do you really think that the Republicans can ever appeal to a demographic group that so overwhelmingly supports race-based government and government hand-outs?
Please provide the polling data that would show that blacks really do support individual responsibility.
MSNBC reported that more than 70% of blacks born in 2010 were born to single mothers. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39993685/ns/health-womens_health/t/blacks-struggle-percent-unwed-mothers-rate/#.TwgYyjVWq8A Do you really believe that a group where most children are born to single mothers will support the idea of ending the “free lunch” and more individual responsibility?
I suggest you face the world as it is today and reality that no conservative party stands a chance of appealing to blacks.
So you find it odd that a group of people whose ancestors were enslaved and then treated to systematic, institutionalized discrimination (something that happened within living memory) might want an apology? You also find it weird that in a poll in which people are asked if they might get something that they might answer in the affirmative?
You don’t by the way, provide a link to the actual poll, which makes its difficult to assess it.
You forget, too, that discussions of reparations and apologies were in the context of reparations and apologies linked to Japanese internment.
There is also the minor problem that a question asked in the abstract is not the same thing as an actual policy initiative.
@superdestroyer: Dude I imagine you’d get similar results if you polled white people over the question of “Would you like free money just because you’re white?” That’s basically what those polls are doing. I say yes to free money as much as possible in the form of scholarships and grants..
I doubt that it would reach the level of support that blacks have. Have you heard any white politicians say that whites should be paid for the government for being white. Yet, it is very common for black politicians, community leaders, and religious leaders to all speak openly of support for something as unconstitutional as race=based reparations.
There question has always been whether any conservative party can appeal to blacks. And the best that progressives can do is nitpick polling data? Please provide any data that would show that the U.S. is not headed toward being a one party state. Please provide any data that suggests that there are issues that would cause blacks to leave the Democratic party.
My guess is that progressives only know how to nitpick others without providing data, models, or information of their own.
In reality, the idea of individual responsibility is seen as a racist idea in the black community.
The black people I’ve known certainly don’t think that way. You have no basis for this, other than your own prejudice, which you display with each and every post.
Black people vote D for pretty obvious reasons that you work hard to ignore (but have ably demonstrated by your posts).
Reparations are a red herring here. There will never be such a policy. The Dems do not current support reparations and, therefore, it is clearly not necessary for a political party to support such in order to get votes from black Americans.
The problems faced by black Americans are rooted in history, and aren’t going to be fixed by the snapping of fingers. They also aren’t going to be fixed by yelling “get a job, you parasite!” at black people.
I love the polling dodge. You spout a figure. Someone challenges it. You refuse to produce a link, whining that others have not presented data to prove a negative (e.g. “show me data that shows the US is not becoming a 1 party state”).
You made a specific claim, and your backup leaves something to be desired. When challenged, all you’ve got is “you haven’t disproven one of my wild claims with data, so I don’t have to back up any claims with data.”
Pathetic, but par for the course.
@Rob in CT:
@Rob in CT:
If a single school broadmemeber in Arkansas is used to represent all Republicans on homosexuals http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/arkansas-school-district-board-members-anti-gay-rant-12002856 then I think that 40 Democratic Party members in the U.S. House do a good job of representing the views of Democrats on race-based government http://conyers.house.gov/index.cfm?FuseAction=Issues.Home&Issue_id=06007167-19b9-b4b1-125c-df3de5ec97f8
I see you support the idea that what one Republican says applies to all Republicans but that Democrats only speak for themselves. Given that the elementary students in the U.S. are less than half white, the push for reparations will eventually become overwhelming. The idea of taxing whites to transfer wealth to non-whites is one of the main ideas pushed by the left in the U.S.
Be vewy vewy scared, SD! The blacks are coming for your money! Booga-booga!
A few things to note:
1) the bill was introduced in 1989. It is 2011, and it hasn’t gone anywhere. It’s not going anywhere.
2) I disagree with reparations as a solution to the problem. However, the problem outlined on that webpage exists. That stuff really happened and various problems exist today because of it. It was not addressed properly at the end of the Civil War, and our country is still suffering the consequences (though IIRC, the 40 acres & a mule “promise” was apocryphal). That’s why I don’t get worked up about affirmative action. I’d prefer to transition the program over to one based on socioeconomic status rather than race at this point, but I just can’t get too upset considering the history here. Even more so, I can’t get too fired up about a bill seeking reparations that’s not going anywhere.
3) I never said, and do not believe, that 1 GOPer = all of the GOP, whereas 40 Dems != the Democrats. No. The GOP message regarding minorities has been quite consistent. It’s not just 1 Republican saying something. Claiming that is dishonest. As for the 40 Democrats: it’s not nothing, but it’s not nearly enough. This bill isn’t going anywhere, and being a cosponsor to set up a commission to study reparations is not the liability it would be if the bill might actually get to the floor. I strongly suspect some of that support would evaporate under different circumstances, because…
4) If the Democratic party really pushed reparations, they would lose a ton of support and not only amongst white Americans.
The best way to defuse this sort of desire, by the way, is to make damn sure that black American kids have a fair shot. If they do, their desire for redistribution of wealth will be muted. If they are systematically screwed over, as they have been for most if not all of our history? Hmm, maybe they’ll be thinking along with Representative Conyers.
@Rob in CT:
I can tell that you have not been involved in the ethnic grievance industry for very long. The government is incapable of regulating “equal opportunity.” The only thing that the government can regulate is equality of outcome. The CBC and black politicians are only interested in outcomes, not opportunities. Equal outcomes create the requirement for quotas, set asides, and afirmative action. That is why the vast majority of back voters have zero interest in any conservative issues. When more than 50% of the country is eligible for affirmative action, no conservative party can survive. And no progressives politicians will ever question affirmative action because those politicians are scared to death of being called a racist.