Obama Could Galvanize Huge Turnout in the South

The New York Times‘ Southern correspondent Adam Nossiter has an interesting article today about how Barack Obama could galvanize hundreds of thousands of African-American votes in the South. He notes that black turnout in the South Carolina primary more than doubled from 2004, to 295,0000, and increased in Georgia from 289,000 four years ago to 536,000.

“Southern states with large black populations, like Alabama, Mississippi and Virginia, an energized black electorate could create a countervailing force,” writes Nossiter. “Already, turnout in Democratic primaries this year has substantially exceeded Republican turnout in states like Arkansas, Louisiana, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.”

This is very true, but the problem for Democrats is that all things will likely not remain equal. What I mean is that if black turnout is way up in the South fueled by enthusiasm for a black candidate, it’s likely that many conservative Democrats and yellow-dog Dixiecrats will choose the opposite candidate. The South does have some white liberals bastions in places like New Orleans and Nashville, but white, rural voters aren’t likely to support the Democratic nominee if he is being seen as carrying the banner for an African-American movement.

Of course, this because it’s a well-document phenomenon, but I think the West Virginia results (and Obama’s performance in Appalachian and Southern states throughout the primary process) has really reinforced it. Any boosted turnout in the African-American community is likely to be blunted by a loss of votes with rural whites. But at least the turnout will be high enough to make things interesting.

Buzz Jacobs, what’s your take? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this?.

Race in the South — The more purple means the more African-American.

Black Belt

Obama vs. Clinton Electoral Map — Obama is blue; Clinton is red.

Obama vs. Clinton Electoral Map

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3 responses to “Obama Could Galvanize Huge Turnout in the South

  1. I think in that map Clinton is red and Obama is blue (plus Edwards is green).

  2. Patrick Ottenhoff

    Good catch Tom. I guess it’s Dyslexia Friday.

  3. I think black turn out will be the wild card in states with signficant black populations and could concievably make the difference in southern states. If you look at the percent of blacks in the total electorate in NC and use a maximum turnout model and cede say 95% of those votes to Obama, he needs to get something less than 30-35% of the white vote to win the state. That is clearly doable. The risk for him are in states like OH where there are enough white voters who simply will not vote for an expereinced black man who comes out of balck separatist tradition in Chicago. Given the relative paucity of blacks in oH, approx 10% they are unlikely to work in his favor.

    Voting in WV and KY will show the depth of antipathy against Obama among white voters and will make clear the uphill battle he will face in getting white votes in the heartland.

    The mountain west has had scant turnout relative to total population as have the plains states so its much harder to extrapolate results from there.

    I think both McCain and Obama will pull a surprise or two, but they will trade relatively few states with McCain probalby having the edge on pure racial demographics, especially when you factor in an increasingly disaffected womans’ vote that may wind up staying home or voting for Nader, if they are liberal enough.

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