Democratic Realignment in 2008?

Most of the head-to-head polling shows the Democrats with a slight advantage against the Republicans for the presidency in 2008. RealClear Politics aggregates them and finds the Democrats winning all conceivable matchups, with the exception of Rudy Giuliani vs. John Edwards, which is a tie.

Of course, we don’t elect presidents by a national popular vote but rather through 50 state elections plus the District of Columbia filtered through the Electoral College. Chris Bowers runs the numbers from recent state-by-state polls pitting the top Democrats and Republicans against one another and finds landslide wins for the Democrats.

He sees Hillary Clinton winning 335 Electoral Votes to Rudy Giuliani’s 203, losing only Connecticut but picking up Arkansas, Iowa, Florida, Kentucky, New Mexico, Ohio, and Virginia over what John Kerry won in 2004. Furthermore, several states are within 3 points. If Mitt Romney were to get the GOP nod, Hillary destroys him 430-108, losing no states Kerry carried and picking up Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Louisiana, New Mexico, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Now, all manner of caveats apply. It’s ridiculously early. People have very little knowledge of any of the candidates except Clinton and even that is based on vague impressions from her tenure as First Lady. And, even with the prospect of a cruel to dogs Mormon running against her, I’m willing to bet good money that Hillary Clinton isn’t going to win Alabama, Mississippi or Texas.

The Democratic nominee has the advantage because of President Bush’s horrendous approval ratings, the lingering effects of the Iraq War, and demographic trends that are turning once-Red states like Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, and Arizona Blue.

Even with all that, though, my guess remains that the race will be rather close yet again. Despite what people tell pollsters, they tend to remain true to form. Non-voters remain non-voters and Republicans remain Republicans. And, while the war is no doubt divisive, it’s unlikely to spark a political realignment so long as the opposition party’s main contribution to the debate is to carp about competence while arguing for minor changes in the current policy.

UPDATE (8/24): Larry Sabato has some more breakdowns and some arguments as to why the Democrats could in fact break out of the relatively static Red-Blue breakdown of recent elections.

Democrats are not only gearing up to contest the usual hot spots where they fell short the last time–such as Ohio, Iowa, Missouri and Florida, the latter the most highly competitive state of late within the “L.” But they also appear ready to make a run in a number of states that have long been considered part of the Republican base. Many of the Democratic targets of opportunity are in the Mountain West. But an early target list would also include Virginia, where Democrats appear to have found the formula for statewide success by establishing a beachhead in the burgeoning vote-rich suburbs of Northern Virginia.

While the Republicans have regularly carried the Old Dominion in presidential voting since 1964, their margins of victory have been shrinking. When George H.W. Bush won the White House in 1988, he swept Virginia by 21 percentage points. His son’s margin in 2004 was 8 points, marking the fourth straight election that the Republican advantage in Virginia was in single digits.

The trend is also encouraging for the Democrats in much of the Mountain West. Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Nevada and New Mexico all were carried by Clinton at least once in the 1990s. And Democrats came within 5 points of winning Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico again in 2004. Momentum is with the Democrats in the Mountain West. In 2006, they picked up a pair of House seats in Arizona, gained a governorship and an additional House seat in Colorado, and captured a Senate seat in Montana. In Virginia, Democrats followed two successive gubernatorial victories with an upset victory in the 2006 Senate race which gave them control of the U.S. Senate.

To be sure, Republicans have their own targets of opportunity in 2008, led by a quartet of major electoral vote prizes across the industrial Frost Belt including Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Each went Democratic last time by a margin of less than 4 percentage points.

Much more, including charts and maps, at the link.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Anderson says:

    I’m willing to bet good money that Hillary Clinton isn’t going to win Alabama, Mississippi or Texas.

    You got *that* right, tho I wonder whether Obama could carry Mississippi, assuming relatively little racism among white Dems and record-breaking black Dem turnout.

    Texas anyway may well be part of the Caliphate before the general election, so I’m not counting their votes.

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  3. James Joyner says:

    I wonder whether Obama could carry Mississippi, assuming relatively little racism among white Dems and record-breaking black Dem turnout.

    Obama’s a huge wildcard. If he gets the nomination, he could win in a landslide or go down in flames.

  4. Anderson says:

    Obama’s a huge wildcard.

    Agreed there, too. I have yet to understand the enthusiasm, other than Dem antipathy to Hillary.

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  6. Shawn says:

    Common sense tells us that whoever the Democratic nominee is will win the presidency. The only hope the GOP has is that the Dems will screw up…which is a distinct possibility.

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  14. superdestroyer says:

    The real question is whether the Republicans can survive losing in a landslide several times in a row. If Senator Clinton wins in a landslide and the Democrats get 60 seats in the Senate, the Republicans become irrelevant. Since it takes money to remain relevant in politics, the Repubicans could be the minority party with no prospects of fund raising.

    If you look at the changing demographics of the U.S., it become apparent that the U.S. will soon be a one party state much like states like Maryland, Mass, and California are now.

  15. just me says:

    I don’t see the dems being able to take more than 60 seats in the senate.

    They could conceivably increase their margin, but I don’t see them picking up that many seats.

    I also doubt the electorate, which is mostly center right will put up with a democratic congress and president for all that long, at the very least I would think one of the houses would quickly flip back to the GOP.

    The anomaly of the Bush administration was that both houses of congress and the WH remained in one party control for as long as it did. I don’t expect that to happen.

    I do think huge losses for the GOP will make it difficult for the GOP to recover, mostly because the party tends to write off predominately democratic states, rather than trying to compete. The DNC tends to screw up the easy things, but they at least haven’t written off states completely.

  16. Well the last election (06) was about Iraq. It’s very likely that this one will be too. It doesn’t look like we are going to see a drawdown anytime soon. The real question is what the Congressional Republicans do. I think that they can try to distance themselves from Bush to avoid the backlash of the violence in Iraq. However, even if they do, the Democrats will link them with Bush and thus retain the edge in the 08 election.


  17. Grewgills says:

    I also doubt the electorate, which is mostly center right will put up with a democratic congress and president for all that long, at the very least I would think one of the houses would quickly flip back to the GOP.

    I realize that this has become the conventional wisdom inside the beltway and in the MSM, but where is the evidence for this regularly made assertion?
    If you break it down by issue it looks to me like America is more center left. (abortion, healthcare, education, Iraq, etc.)