Expanding On Matt Hurley's Point A Bit

The point of this post is to expand on, rather than supplant, Matt Hurley's post below on Ohio, because I think Matt really hits the nail on the head with regard to the problems Obama's candidacy is likely to encounter, and why his problems with white working class voters are likely to be a real problem come November. I just think the post doesn't show the full depth of Obama's problems.

This map expands upon Matt Hurley's map.  The reddest counties are the counties that were won by Bush twice, by Mike Dewine in his losing 2006 Senate race, and by Ken Blackwell in his losing Governor's race.  The bluest counties are the counties that voted Democratic in all four elections.  The pure purple counties are the true swing counties, the counties that if the Republicans win, they most likely win the election, but if the Democrats win, they most likely win the election.

 

As you can see, as Matt pointed out, as you move West, the map gets redder.  The key counties for Republicans are the counties in the east-central part of the state.  If the Republican wins there, he wins the state.  If he loses, he loses the state.  And if he starts to lose the west-central counties, he loses the state, big time.

 

Now, let's see how Obama did in his matchup with Hillary.  In this map I have adjusted for the statewide results, such that the purple counties are those where Hillary won with 50-60% of the vote.  The dark red counties mean that Hillary won with 65%+ of the vote; the dark blue mean he won with 55%+ of the vote.

 

As you can see, he had deep strength in the counties that Democrats only lose in a blowout, like Cuyahoga (Cleveland), Montgomery (Dayton) and Franklin (Columbus).  He also held his own -- though he still lost in absolute terms -- in the reddest counties, and overperformed in Hamilton county, where Democrats also typically perform poorly. 

But in the purple counties, he got blown out.  To look at this another way, look at this map.  It shows the "basic" red-blue map in it, with counties where he carried 40% of the vote or less marked with crosshatches. 

 

 

So what does this mean?  Well, first off it means that, within the Democratic party, Obama starts out the weakest in the counties that a Democrat needs to worry about the most in order to win.  More worrisome for the Obama campaign is that, if he is not popular with Democratic partisans in those counties, how would he fare with independents or weak Republicans?

Similar problems manifest in Pennsylvania and Virginia -- the counties that Democrats win when they typically win, Obama performs well.  But the counties that Democrats lose when they lose narrowly, Obama performs abysmally in.

Now you may argue that his strength in the Northwest could mean that a Democrat can afford to underperform in the counties in the Southeast.  Unfortunately for that argument, the counties in the West are heavily, heavily Republican.  He could double Democratic turnout, and it wouldn't make a deny in Bush's 2004 percentages.

So we're left with what he will probably try to do:  Jack up his numbers among African Americans, college students, and wealthy suburbanites.  In short, he is going to try to build the McGovern coalition, but on steroids.  Indeed I think this is exactly why Democrats like Pelosi are fighting so hard for him:  If he can win, then they can ditch those blue dog Democrats who stand in the way of true progressive reform.  Of course, the problem is that every Democrat since McGovern save Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter has tried to win with some version of that formula, and hasn't performed particularly well.  And the other problem is that maps and political alignments tend not to change quickly; rather, realignments occur gradually over time.  But that is a story for another post.

Cross-posted at Race42008.com

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Comments

I concur...

Obama ignores the southeastern part of Ohio at his peril.  I don't think he can appeal to that region anyway.  If they do vote for a Democrat, it's usually of the stealth Blue Dog variety.  And your point about Obama and Pelosi wanting to jettison that type of Democrat is right on target.

I think Obama has to look for a strategy wherein he loses Ohio.  I'm hard pressed to think of a larege enough red state that would flip for Obama that didn't already make that choice for Kerry...

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They were fiercely

They were fiercely independent to the point of absolutely refusing any kind of government handouts such as welfare or unemployment.

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Sean,

Weren't you the one that did the colorful Appalachian analysis a couple months ago? That was one of my favorite pieces of analysis this season...insightful, informative, and one of the earliest pieces to identify just what Obama's primary weakness was/is. I'd be curious to see how that map filled out as we completed the primary season.

Anyhow, thanks for that effort. Hope we see more of your work as we enter the GE.

 

Question. Why was Obama able

Question. Why was Obama able to perform well with white working class voters in, say, Montana, and do so poorly with the same demographic in Appalachia? It's true that in Montana Obama lost the rural Eastern counties and the two counties around Butte, but even in those we didn't see near the blowout we saw in states like West Virginia and Kentucky. What's the difference in mindset between these Rocky Mountain voters and the Appalachian voters? Does anyone know happen to know?

Lisa

That was my map, and you can expect to see a lot more of me as the election drags on.

 

And your question here is the million dollar one.  I have no easy answer.  Even in Indiana, Obama did better in the North among WWC voters, and poorly in the  South.

 

I suspect in the North, conservative WWC voters are Republicans, while in the South they may have retained their ancestral Democratic allegiences.

Rocky Mountain Demographics vs. Appalachian Demographics

Great maps Sean, I hope we see a lot more of you as the election drags on, and hopefully that includes seeing California turn redder this year.  I live in a typically conservative Southern California county, which is on the border.  Our rural, inland counties tend to stay red whereas the urban, coastal counties (having the highest population density, of course) trend blue.  I consulted in Seattle, WA for a year and it was much the same there - high density urban areas like Kings County were blue, whereas inland/rural areas like Spokane County remained red.

I went to university in Ohio (Fairborn) and Indiana (W. Lafayette), and I've also lived in Glasgow, Montana and Louisville, TN.  Glasgow Air Force Base was 20-30 miles south of the Canadian border in the northeastern prairie (closest city was Great Falls).  In Montana there was a very troubled history between the U.S. Army, white settlers and a mostly  segregated Native American culture (think Custer County).  In northeastern Montana there was the Ft. Peck Indian Reservation, home to Sioux and the Assiniboine tribes.  When my dad was stationed there, we witnessed appalling American Indian poverty in the mid-20th century.  Of course settlers became ranchers, farmers and agricorporations, and it seems that Montana today has a large and active independent/progressive contingent.  There's a significant Green Party presence there also. Interesting factoid: a former Montana Green Party nominee won the Republican Primary for US Senate this year.  My recollection of churchgoing there was very laissez-faire. 

I worked in Gatlinburg, TN in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is considered part of the Appalachian Highlands.  My neighbors were extremely traditional, religious, laid back and well integrated with the native Cherokee Indian population.  My recollection of churchgoing there was not only mandatory, but also segregated between genders at church breakfast and at the house afterward.  Women were in the kitchen, men were in the living room, and the kids were all outside playing basketball.  Some of our friends lived in cabins without plumbing in Gatlinburg, and would never for a moment have considered themselves "poor".  They were fiercely independent to the point of absolutely refusing any kind of government handouts such as welfare or unemployment.   The Green Party is a very new phenomenon in WVA (2004, I believe). 

I don't recall that Montana provided the same kinds of textile and other factory jobs that existed in some small towns in Tennessee and Ohio (near Kentucky).  It may be more accurate to describe rural Southerners as White Working Class, but it's a different kind of working class than ranchers, cowboys, waitresses in diners on the I-90. 

Great maps

How do you create your maps?  Is there a program you use to do so?

yes

adobe illustrator.