Tag Archives: Southwest

Navigating the “Southwest Passage”

In a fascinating article in The American Prospect today, Tom Schaller dissects whether or not John McCain will thwart the Democrats’ hopes to capture the southwest in 2008. He makes the usual key points that McCain has good name recognition in the West and has a good rep with Hispanics.

But Schaller also adds some counterpoints that I hadn’t thought about. The Arizona senator might face pressure from both conservatives who have issues with “Juan McCain” and Hispanics who think that he walked away from the immigration bill when the going got tough. Popular Democratic govs and Senate candidates could also offer a reverse-coattail effect.

But Schaller ends with perhaps the most important point: The West is growing at such a rapid clip that it’s tough to handicap these voters. As Schaller notes, “the Southwest should be the most difficult to project because Arizona, Nevada and Colorado are consistently the three fastest growing states in the nation, and therefore the hardest to figure out.”

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Catholics Could Redraw the Electoral Map in 2008

The 2008 election could be won or lost on the Catholic vote. There are nearly 70 million Catholics in the United States, according to Mark Penn‘s estimates in “Microtrends,” and most of them reside in crucial swing states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, New Hampshire and the Southwest.

More importantly, they have a track record of picking the winner. “In every presidential election since 1972 the winner of the Catholic vote has won the national popular vote, something no other religious group – Jews, evangelicals, Protestants – can boast,” Tom Schaller noted in his Salon article on Monday.

Catholics have historically sided with Democrats, but George W. Bush made significant inroads in 2000. “One of the untold stories of the [2000] campaign is how the Bush forces worked subtly through little-publicized channels to win over strong, tradition-minded Catholics, obviously with some success,” Michael Barone wrote in a 2001 National Journal election postmortem.

Bush barely lost the Catholic vote in 2000, but four years later he took 52%. In 2006, when the issues shifted back from guns to butter, Democrats picked up 55% of the Catholic vote on their way to a national rout. In 2008, Catholics will be decisive but it’s uncertain which issues will motivate them.

To be clear, the Catholics are not as homogenous a voting bloc as some other religious groups (Jewish voters, for example, gave Gore nearly 80% of their vote in 2000) and different issues will motivate different kinds of Catholics.

Schaller suspects that abortion could be a key issue and major thorn in the side of Catholic Rudy Giuliani if wins the Republican nomination. But if terrorism is the issue of day, Rudy could redraw the whole map, wooing millions of Catholics.

Consider the Carmella Soprano vote. My colleague Howard Mortman at New Media Strategies wrote earlier in the year that she’s a suburban Catholic “security mother” who sided with Bush in 2004. “If she hasn’t been whacked by the time of the 2008 presidential primary, which Republican would Carmela back? An obvious first choice is Rudy Giuliani,” Mortman reasoned.

Schaller calculated that a Giuliani anti-terrorism platform tailored to Catholics could unlock the Northeast for Republicans:

“Catholics cast at least 31 percent of the vote in nine Northeastern states: New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. Realistically, in a close election, only New Hampshire and Pennsylvania would truly be in play next fall. But both would represent GOP pickups, and Pennsylvania alone would be a crucial loss of electoral votes for Democrats.”

If the major issue “is the economy, stupid,” many Catholic voters could break a different way. Seth Gitell predicted in an October 23 column in the New York Sun that “It’s very possible that many Catholics voters will move back to the Democratic Party on economic grounds.” This could be especially true of lower middle-class Catholics voters in Rust Belt state and especially among Hispanic Catholics in the Southwest.

Gitell added that Hillary Clinton “has done well among upstate New York Catholic voters, a demographic that resembles other Rust Belt inhabitants.”

Both parties have candidates that can make a strong case in the Catholic community and both have issues that will win Catholics votes. Time will tell who is nominated and what issues prevail. But it’s certain that Catholics will be a major deciding factor in who ultimately wins the White House.

Catholic Adherents as a Percentage of Total Population

Catholic Voters

Democrats and a Southwestern Strategy

Simon Rosenberg and Pete Leyden believe that Democrts could be poised for a generation takeover, much in the same way that FDR ushered in a new era in 1932 and Ronald Reagan redrew the map in 1980. In the latest issue of Mother Jones, the two Democratic strategist lay out their blueprint for that new order.

They argue that a key component is focusing on the so-called “Hispanic Belt.” If Democrats turn blue Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico and hold states that voted Democratic in 2000 and 2004, then they would capture 277 electoral votes.

But Rosenberg and Leyden think that the Southwest Strategy might just be the beginning. They add:

“Adding Florida would put it at 304. If you throw in swing states where Democrats have scored impressive wins in recent years—Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, Virginia, maybe even Arkansas—Democrats could construct a durable majority of 354 electoral votes: landslide territory.”

Of course, this theory is flush with “if’s.” For starters, it assumes that blue states from 2000 and 2004 are part of the Democratic “base.” Is Michigan part of the base? Or Wisconsin? The article also assumes that Democrats can woo recent immigrants without alienating other groups — a tall task in border states where immigration is a hyper-sensitive issue. Lastly, it references Thomas Schaller, author of “Whistling Past Dixie.” Do Rosenberg and Leyden endorse Schaller’s thesis that Democrats should cede the South? And does that include Virginia?

Rosenberg and Leyden’s three supporting maps are below. The first outlines the Hispanic Belt; the second highlights the Southwestern Strategy; and the third presents “landslide territory.”

UPDATE: I talked with Simon and he clarified some points. He said that Democrats should not cede any part of the country, but it’s possible to win the White House without winning the South. If Dems pick off Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Nevada and New Mexico — the so-called “Hispanic Belt” — then Republicans will have to win states that they haven’t won since 1988.

He added that 1 million immigrants were naturalized in 2006, which is a record, and almost all of them were Hispanic. He also noted that if Hispanic election results from 2006 were plugged into the 2004 elections, John Kerry would have won.

Hispanic Belt

Southwestern Strategy

Landslide