Thursday, November 04, 2010

South and Midwest: Reagan Democrats

[W]hat began as a problem for Obama in his primary battle against Hillary Clinton in 2008 — the lack of support among working-class white voters — has only grown worse. A recent Associated Press-GfK poll found that white voters without four-year college degrees now support Republicans by 22%, twice the margin they did in the 2006 and 2008 elections.

--A.B. Stoddard, “The Hill,” 11.3.10

Looking at Tuesday’s election returns, Stoddard concludes, “Democrats have now vacated the South and the Midwest.” Many Reagan Democrats, white, working-class, worried about the new economy, did vote Democratic in 2006 and especially 2008. On Tuesday, upset about high unemployment, they returned to Reagan’s party. Many descend from the union workers who helped form the Democratic base before Reagan pried them away in 1980. Democrats no longer seem the party of working class whites, a fact that seriously complicates Democratic plans to hang onto power.

Democrats remain strong in the West and in the Northeast, where their base of government-related workers, unmarried women, young people, and ethnic minorities is relatively more significant. I’ve noted the power of Tuesday’s Hispanic vote in California and Nevada, two of America’s most Hispanic/non-white states. Exit polls show Hispanics turned out in large numbers to vote Democratic in California, Nevada, and other Western states, and in fact Republicans didn't net a single House seat gain in the West, in contrast to their Midwest-South triumphs.

Minorities are a growing source of Democratic strength. Republicans will find it increasingly necessary to fight for the minority vote. For now though, the big story is Democrats again losing the working class white vote they temporarily gained back in Bush’s last two years.

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