Chicken Fried Politics

LATEST COVERAGE

FLORIDA REPUBLICAN U.S. REP. DENNIS ROSS ANNOUNCES HE WON’T SEEK RE-ELECTION

Dennis Ross

Ross’s decision not seek a fifth term in November opens up a congressional seat in Tampa’s eastern suburbs. His announcement came shortly after House Speaker Paul Ryan announced he too was retiring from Congress, amid projections of a Democratic wave that could flip control of the House this year. Ross said he would resume his law practice and pursue “opportunities to increase civic education for our youth.” Ross had been considered a prohibitive favorite to retain the 15th District seat, where he was being challenged by six little-known Democrats. (Posted April 11)

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GOP FLORIDA GOVERNOR RICK SCOTT WILL CHALLENGE DEMOCRATIC U.S. SENATOR BILL NELSON

Rick Scott

Criticizing “career politicians” who have left Washington “dysfunctional,” Scott made official what was widely expected — he will take on Nelson in what is likely to be a hugely expensive battle for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat, with control of the chamber in the balance. At his April 9 announcement, Scott touted his record of job creation and tax cuts during his two terms as governor and called on Floridians to “stop sending talkers to Washington. Let’s send doers.” Nelson is seeking his fourth term. (Posted April 9)

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MISSISSIPPI AGRICULTURE COMMISSIONER CINDY HYDE-SMITH PICKED FOR U.S. SENATE SEAT

Hyde-Smith accepts Senate appointment (From WJTV)

Hyde-Smith, picked by Governor Phil Bryant to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Republican U.S. Senator Thad Cochran, will become the first women to ever represent Mississippi in Congress. But the question now is whether Hyde-Smith, a former Democratic state legislator who switched parties in 2010, can keep the seat permanently in a November special election that is likely to become a bruising battle for conservative votes against State Senator Chris McDaniel. McDaniel accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of orchestrating Hyde-Smith’s selection, a charge dismissed by Bryant, who said the decision was “mine and mine alone.” In the special election, Hyde-Smith and McDaniel will face Democrat Mike Espy, a former congressman who served as federal agriculture secretary in the Clinton administration. (Posted March 21)

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FIELDS NARROWED IN TEXAS U.S. HOUSE PRIMARIES; RUNOFF IN DEMOCRATIC RACE FOR GOVERNOR

Texas primary voters narrowed crowded fields vying for 11 open or potentially competitive U.S. House seats, while the Democratic race for governor is heading to a May runoff to find a nominee for an uphill climb against Republican Governor Greg Abbott. While Democrats have high hopes of riding a wave of enthusiasm to put a dent into the GOP’s 25-to-11 advantage in the Texas House delegation, 530,000 more voters picked up Republican than Democratic ballots in the March 6 primaries, although that was a better showing by Democrats than in the last midterm primary in 2014. In the U.S. Senate race, as expected, Republican incumbent Ted Cruz and Democratic U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke both easily won their primaries. The Democratic governor’s runoff will be between former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and Andrew White, a Houston investment banker and son of the late former Governor Mark White. (Posted March 7)

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U.S. SENATOR BOB CORKER STICKS WITH RETIREMENT, SETS UP BLACKBURN-BREDESEN SHOWDOWN

Corker

After reconsidering his decision to retire from the U.S. Senate, Corker has now ruled out seeking another term this year, setting up a general election match-up between U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn and former Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen that could determine control of the Senate. In an interview with Politico, Corker’s chief of staff said the senator decided to stick with his decision last September not to seek a third term, despite being urged by other Republicans to reconsider amid fears that Blackburn could have trouble keeping the seat in GOP hands. (Posted February 27)

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SOUTH CAROLINA U.S. REP. TREY GOWDY ANNOUNCES HE WON’T SEEK RE-ELECTION IN 2018

Gowdy

Gowdy, who drew national attention for leading a congressional investigation into the 2012 terror attacks in Benghazi, Libya, plans to return to work as a prosecutor after leaving Congress. In a statement announcing his departure, Gowdy said his skills “are better utilized in a courtroom than in Congress, and I enjoy our justice system more than our political system.” Gowdy, who was named chairman of the House Oversight Committee last summer, becomes sixth Southern Republican committee chair to forgo a re-election bid this year.

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U.S. SENATOR RAND PAUL’S NEIGHBOR FACES FEDERAL ASSAULT CHARGE FOR NOVEMBER ATTACK

Rene Boucher

Rene Boucher, 58, has agreed to plead guilty to assaulting a member of Congress resulting in personal injury and could face up to 10 years in prison, according to the federal prosecutor handling the case. No sentencing date has been set. Boucher tackled Paul outside his home near Bowling Green, Kentucky last November in an apparent dispute over yard trimmings, breaking multiple ribs, according to the prosecutor. Boucher has denied any political motivation for the attack. (Posted January 20)

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U.S. SUPREME COURT STAYS RULING INVALIDATING NORTH CAROLINA’S U.S. HOUSE MAP

The high court has indefinitely put on hold a ruling by a panel of three federal judges that invalidated the Tar Heel State’s congressional map for unconstitutionally diluting the voting strength of Democrats. The January 18 decision by the high court means state legislators will not have to redraw the map for the 2018 midterm election, a prospect that threatened to throw the election process into chaos. Two members of the court’s liberal bloc, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, opposed the stay requested by Republican lawmakers. (Posted January 19)

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U.S. REP. RON DESANTIS LAUNCHES FLORIDA GOVERNOR RUN AFTER FAVORABLE TRUMP TWEET

DeSantis

DeSantis, a member of the House Freedom Caucus serving his third term in Congress, announced his run for governor on Fox & Friends just two weeks after Trump tweeted that he would “make a GREAT Governor of Florida.” His decision to enter the race sets up an epic primary battle with Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a former congressman who has the backing of much of Florida’s GOP establishment. DeSantis is vowing “to drain the swamp in Tallahassee, which needs to be drained just like Washington.” (Posted January 5)

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GOP KEEPS CONTROL OF VIRGINIA HOUSE OF DELEGATES AFTER DRAWING DECIDES WINNER

Yancey

Republicans have kept control of the Virginia House of Delegates after a random drawing to settle a race in that remained tied after a disputed recount. Republican Delegate David Yancey will get to keep his seat after his name was drawn from a bowl by the chairman of the State Board of Elections. But Yancey’s Democratic challenger, Shelly Simonds, refused to concede and said “all options are on the table,” including possible legal action to contest the outcome. With Yancey’s win, Republicans will hold 51 seats in the House of Delegates, to 49 for Democrats. (Posted January 4)

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ALABAMA DEMOCRAT DOUG JONES SWORN IN AS U.S. SENATOR, NARROWING GOP MARGIN

U.S. Senator Doug Jones is sworn in. (Courtesy C-SPAN)

Jones was officially sworn in as a U.S. senator on January 3, capping the remarkable and improbable political feat of capturing a Senate seat in one of the nation’s most Republican states. Flanked by former Vice President Joe Biden, Jones took the oath of office from Vice President Mike Pence, alongside Democrat Tina Smith, who assumed the Senate seat from Minnesota vacated by Al Franken. Jones now holds the seat once held by his mentor and former boss, the late U.S. Senator Howell Heflin, who was the last Democrat to represent the Yellowhammer State when he retired in 1997. With Jones in the Senate, Republicans will hold a scant 51-49 advantage. (Posted January 3)

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HOUSE ETHICS COMMITTEE EXPANDS INVESTIGATION OF TEXAS U.S. REP. BLAKE FARENTHOLD

Farenthold

The Ethics Committee is now investigating allegations that Farenthold may have used staff resources on his political campaigns, pressured staffers to perform campaign-related tasks, and lied to the committee, which was already investigating sexual harassment allegations involving the congressman that had been settled using taxpayer dollars. Meanwhile, CNN is reporting that a former staffer has told House investigators that she was pressured to perform campaign-related tasks during regular work hours in Farenthold’s congressional office, activity that is not allowed under House rules.  (Posted December 22)

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FORMER FLORIDA U.S. REP. CORRINE BROWN GETS 5 YEARS IN PRISON FOR LOOTING CHARITY

Brown

Brown, 71, a Democrat who represented metro Jacksonville in Congress for 24 years, was sentenced December 4 by U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan, who said her behavior was “born out of entitlement and greed,” according to a Florida Times-Union report. Prosecutors charged that Brown used her clout as a member of Congress to solicit money for a charity that claimed to provide scholarships to underprivileged children but was actually diverted by Brown and two associates for their personal use. She is appealing the conviction. (Posted December 4)

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TEXAS GOP U.S. REP. JOE BARTON TO FOREGO RE-ELECTION IN 2018 AMID FLAP OVER NUDE SELFIE

Barton

Barton, the dean of the Texas House delegation, announced he will not seek re-election in 2018, a week after acknowledging that he exchanged a nude selfie with a woman with whom he was having a consensual extramarital relationship — a photo which wound up on social media. Barton, 68, told the Dallas Morning News that “there are enough people who lost faith in me that it’s time to step aside.” He said that while he still thinks he could win re-election in the 6th District, “it would be a nasty campaign, a difficult campaign for my family.” (Posted November 30)

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U.S. REP. JEB HENSARLING WON’T SEEK RE-ELECTION IN 2018, CREATING THIRD OPEN SEAT IN TEXAS

Hensarling

Hensarling, chair of the powerful House Financial Services Committee, announced his retirement October 31, less than two weeks before filing begins for the 2018 primaries. Hensarling, 60, first elected in 2002, said he has stayed in Congress “far longer than I had originally planned” and decided to leave at the end of his current term, when term limits would have forced him out of his chairmanship. He is the third Texas House member to forgo running in 2018, joining Democratic U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke and GOP U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson. (Posted October 31)

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WEST VIRGINIA GOVERNOR JIM JUSTICE SWITCHES TO REPUBLICAN PARTY DURING TRUMP RALLY

Justice

Just nine months after winning West Virginia’s top job as a Democrat, Justice took center stage as Trump looked on and announced he was switching to the GOP, telling his voters that “I can’t help you anymore being a Democrat governor.” The newly minted Republican — who, like Trump, was a billionaire businessman with no political experience before being elected — sang the president’s praises, saying he has “backbone” and “cares about us in West Virginia.” With Justice’s defection, Democrats hold just three Southern governorships. (Posted August 3)

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U.S. HOUSE BUDGET CHAIR DIANE BLACK ANNOUNCES RUN FOR TENNESSEE GOVERNOR IN 2018

Black

Black, who became chair of the House Budget Committee earlier this year when Tom Price left to join President Trump’s Cabinet, is now the the third Republican woman running for governor in a state that has never had a female chief executive. In her announcement video, Black burnished her conservative bona fides, declaring that people in her state “believe in absolute truths — right is right, wrong is wrong, truth is truth, God is God, and a life is a life. And we don’t back down from any of it.” Black worked as a nurse before entering politics. (Posted August 2)

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TRUMP ALLY COREY STEWART VOWS “VICIOUS, RUTHLESS” RUN FOR VIRGINIA U.S. SENATE SEAT

Stewart

Just a month after narrowly losing a Republican primary for Virginia governor, President Trump’s one-time state chairman, Corey Stewart, is vowing to run “the most vicious, ruthless” campaign to unseat U.S. Senator Tim Kaine in 2018, accusing Hillary Clinton’s running mate of having “blind hatred” for Trump and trying to stop the president’s agenda. Stewart, chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, lost June’s GOP gubernatorial primary by just 4,500 votes to former Bush White House aide Ed Gillespie. (Posted July 13)

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ANALYSIS: SOUTH IS GOP’S ACE IN THE HOLE TO KEEP CONTROL OF U.S. HOUSE IN 2018

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics editor

With President Trump’s approval ratings at historically low levels, Democrats have high hopes of taking back the U.S. House in 2018. But those hopes are tempered by a giant geographic obstacle standing in their way — namely, the South. To reclaim the House, Democrats need to flip 24 seats, shifting about 10 percent of the seats that Republicans now hold. But a 10 percent shift in the South would require winning 11 seats, and, if Democrats fall short of that total, they will need to shift an even higher percentage of seats throughout the rest of the country — as much as 19 percent if they come up empty in the South. And as right now, they have a realistic shot at flipping just seven Southern seats, five of which have been in Republican hands for decades and only one of which is currently open. (Posted July 12)

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KAREN HANDEL REBUFFS DEMOCRATIC CHALLENGE, KEEPS GEORGIA U.S. HOUSE SEAT IN GOP HANDS

Handel

Handel, Georgia’s former secretary of state, won a runoff for the state’s 6th District U.S. House seat, dashing Democratic hopes of embarrassing President Trump by snatching away a seat that has been safely in GOP hands for decades. Handel won 52.1 percent in the June 20 vote, defeating Jon Ossoff, a 30-year-old filmmaker and former congressional aide, who took 47.9 percent despite raising more than $23 million. All told, more than $50 million was spent on the race, making it the most expensive House contest in U.S. history. (Posted June 20)

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GOP KEEPS SOUTH CAROLINA 5TH DISTRICT U.S. HOUSE SEAT WITH VASTLY DECREASED MARGIN

Norman

Republican Ralph Norman has won the special election for South Carolina’s 5th District U.S. House seat, but Democrat Archie Parnell trimmed more than 17 points from the GOP’s 2016 margin. Norman, a former state representative, won 51.1 percent to 47.9 percent for Parnell, a former Wall Street executive. That 3.2-point margin was a major drop from November, when President Trump won the district by 19 points and Mick Mulvaney, who gave up the seat to become director of the Office of Management and Budget, won by nearly 21 points. (Posted June 20)

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SOUTH CAROLINA U.S. REP. TREY GOWDY NAMED TO HEAD HOUSE INVESTIGATIVE PANEL

Gowdy

Gowdy, who gained national prominence for his investigation of the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, was selected June 8 by the Republican Steering Committee to chair the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, replacing U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah. Gowdy’s Benghazi probe led to the disclosure that Hillary Clinton had used a private email server during her time as secretary of state, which dogged her throughout the 2016 presidential campaign. A former federal and state prosecutor in South Carolina, Gowdy represents the state’s 4th District. (Posted June 8)

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U.S. SUPREME COURT SAYS NO TO GOP RACIAL GERRYMANDERING IN NORTH CAROLINA

The high court has upheld a ruling striking down the congressional map approved by North Carolina lawmakers after the 2010 census because it relied too heavily on racial considerations in drawing the new lines. Although the May 22 ruling will have little impact because the map was already changed after the state lost in a lower court, it could affect a pending case in Texas and curtail the ability of GOP majorities in Southern statehouses to maximize safe GOP seats by packing black voters into a small number of districts. (Posted May 23)

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FORMER FLORIDA U.S. REP. CORRINE BROWN CONVICTED OF MISUSING CHARITY FUNDS

Brown

Brown, an icon in North Florida’s African-American community who served 24 years in Congress, is likely headed to prison after being found guilty of 18 fraud and tax charges related to a scheme to divert money from a fraudulent scholarship charity to pay personal expenses. No sentencing date has been set, but, given the number and magnitude of the charges, the 70-year-old former Democratic congresswoman could potentially spend much of the rest of her life behind bars.  (Posted May 12)

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GOP U.S. REP. EVAN JENKINS WILL CHALLENGE DEMOCRAT JOE MANCHIN IN WEST VIRGINIA

Jenkins

Jenkins announced that he will try to defeat U.S. Senator Joe Manchin in 2018, in what is expected to be one of the South’s hottest Senate races. Although Manchin, a former governor, styles himself as a moderate, Jenkins put out a blistering campaign video accusing Machin of straying from the values he was elected to represent by supporting Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Jenkins also tied himself firmly to Donald Trump, who won the Mountaineer State by a staggering 41 points in 2016. (Posted May 8)

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5 SOUTHERN REPUBLICANS IN U.S. HOUSE BREAK RANKS TO OPPOSE TRUMP ON OBAMACARE REPEAL

Hurd

Comstock

While five Southern GOP members defied party leaders and President Trump to oppose a bill to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a new blueprint for U.S. health care, five other GOP lawmakers holding potentially vulnerable seats took a different tack and supported it. Two of the Southern GOP no votes came from Will Hurd of Texas and Barbara Comstock of Virginia, who represent districts that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016. A third lawmaker from a district Clinton carried, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, also voted no but is retiring in 2018. The other two Republicans who voted against the bill, Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Walter Jones of North Carolina, did so because they thought the repeal measure didn’t go far enough. Among the potentially vulnerable members voting yes were Florida’s Carlos Curbelo, Brian Mast and Mario Diaz-Balart; John Culberson of Texas; and Ted Budd of North Carolina. (Posted May 4)

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FLORIDA U.S. REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN TO RETIRE IN 2018, PUTTING GOP-HELD SEAT IN JEOPARDY

Ros-Lehtinen

Ros-Lehtinen, dean of Florida’s House delegation and the first Cuban-born member of Congress, is not seeking re-election in 2018 to her 27th District seat, closing three decades of service that have made her an icon in Miami’s politically powerful Cuban-American community. Republicans will now have to defend a seat from a district Donald Trump lost by 20 points but which returned Ros-Lehtinen to office term after term. The moderate congresswoman has been at odds with Trump and members of her own party, but she insisted neither the current Washington political climate nor her district’s increasing Democratic tilt prompted her retirement. (Posted May 1)

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TWICE-OUSTED ALABAMA CHIEF JUSTICE ROY MOORE RUNNING FOR U.S. SENATE SEAT

Moore, the controversial favorite of the Christian right twice elected and twice ousted as chief justice after battles over same-sex marriage and the Ten Commandments, is running against U.S. Senator Luther Strange to fill the seat vacated when Jeff Sessions became U.S. attorney general. Moore is the third Republican to challenge Strange, who was appointed to the seat in February but now must defend it after new Alabama Governor Kay Ivey reversed a decision by her predecessor, Robert Bentley, and called a special election. (Posted April 26)

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BENTLEY RESIGNS ALABAMA GOVERNORSHIP OVER “LUV GUV” SCANDAL; KAY IVEY SWORN IN

Sign seen at Alabama state line (From Facebook)

Facing likely impeachment and possible criminal charges, Robert Bentley resigned and pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors stemming from his efforts to extricate himself from a scandal over his relationship with former aide Rebekah Mason. Lieutenant Governor Kay Ivey was then sworn in as the state’s new chief executive, becoming only the second woman to ever hold Alabama’s highest office.

Bentley’s resignation capped a remarkable fall from grace for the dermatologist-turned-governor from Tuscaloosa, whose good name, marriage and political future were all swept aside by the salacious story of a septuagenarian Baptist grandfather of seven carrying on with a married mother of three who is nearly three decades his junior. Under terms of a plea deal, Bentley avoids jail time and keeps his medical license, but he is barred from seeking political office again. Ivey said her first priorities would be to “steady the ship of state and improve Alabama’s image.” (Posted April 11)

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SOUTHERN SENATORS SPLIT ALONG PARTY LINES OVER ENDING SUPREME COURT FILIBUSTERS

Gorsuch

With the support of all 24 Southern Republicans, the U.S. Senate changed its rules to eliminate filibusters for Supreme Court nominations, clearing the way for confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to a lifetime seat on the high court. Three of the four Southern Democratic senators — Bill Nelson of Florida and Mark Warner and Tim Kaine of Virginia — supported a filibuster to block Gorsuch, prompting Republicans to end the practice. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who did not join the filibuster but voted against changing the rules, criticized both sides for “hypocrisy,” saying the filibuster flap illustrates “precisely what is wrong with Washington.” (Posted April 6)

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TEXAS U.S. REP. BETO O’ROURKE KICKS OFF CAMPAIGN TO UNSEAT U.S. SENATOR TED CRUZ IN 2018

O’Rourke kicks off campaign in El Paso.

O’Rourke, who is giving up his safe House seat in order to make a long-shot bid to unseat Cruz,  kicked off his campaign March 31 with a rally in his hometown of El Paso, which he represents in Congress, followed by a weekend of stops in major cities around the Lone Star State. Without mentioning Cruz by name, O’Rourke accused him of putting political ambition above his job as a senator, saying that to meet the challenges of the future, Texans will need “a senator who’s working full time for Texas, a senator who’s not using this position of responsibility and power to serve his own interests, to run for president, to shut down the government.” O’Rourke is also positioning himself as aDonald Trump critic, saying the new administration is “focused on the wrong things instead of the right things that (are) going to get us ahead.” (Posted April 1)

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AGREEMENT TO REPEAL NORTH CAROLINA’S TRANSGENDERED BATHROOM LAW COMES WITH STRINGS

Cooper

After a year of turmoil and economic losses, North Carolina legislators have passed a bill that rolls back HB2, which prohibited transgendered people from using restrooms in public facilities that didn’t conform with their their birth gender. However, the compromise hammered out by Democratic Governor Roy Cooper and GOP legislature leaders also forbids local jurisdictions from passing ordinances protecting LGBTQ people until at least 2020, a compromise being criticized by LGBTQ advocates. Cooper, propelled to office on a pledge to repeal HB2, said the compromise wasn’t perfect but “begins to repair our reputation.” (Posted March 30)

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FORMER CONGRESSMAN STEVE STOCKMAN BLAMES “DEEP STATE” FOR HIS CORRUPTION INDICTMENT

Stockman

Federal prosecutors are blaming former U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman and an aide for an ongoing scheme to bilk $1.25 million from charitable foundations and divert it for personal use. But Stockman, in the dock, is blaming the “deep state” for his legal woes. Stockman, a Republican who served two stints in the House before losing a Senate primary in 2014, is facing charges of mail and wire fraud, money laundering, violating campaign finance laws and filing a false tax return. Stockman, arrested while trying to catch a flight to the Middle East, said the “deep state” was trying to exact revenge for his longtime opposition to the IRS, according to the Houston Chronicle. (Posted March 30)

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OKLAHOMA U.S. REP. TOM COLE: TRUMP SHOULD APOLOGIZE TO OBAMA FOR WIRETAP CLAIMS

Cole

Cole, who serves as a deputy whip in the House GOP leadership, told reporters that there is “no indication” that Trump’s allegation that Obama had his phones tapped during the presidential campaign is true. “It’s not a charge I would ever have made. And frankly, unless you can produce some pretty compelling proof, then I think … President Obama is owed an apology,” said Cole. “If (Obama) didn’t do it, we shouldn’t be reckless in accusations that he did.” Cole represents Oklahoma’s 4th District, which stretches from the southern Oklahoma City suburbs south to the Texas border. Trump carried the district by 38 points in November. (Posted March 18)

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ANALYSIS: CONFEDERATE NAMESAKE COUNTIES SHOW DEMOCRAT DECLINE BUOYED BY TRUMP

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

Davis

Davis

Lee

Lee

Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee loom large as icons of the Southern Confederacy, so much so that 11 Southern counties and one Louisiana parish bear their names. But if these lions of the South are aware of what is happening in their namesake counties today, they may be rotating in their graves. Changes in presidential voting in these counties over the past 40 years illustrate just how far the Black Republicans against which Lee and Davis fought are now transcendent—and how much white Southerners have forsaken their Democratic roots. The 2016 presidential results also show that the Republicanization of the South seems to be accelerating in these counties that bear the mark of Southern heritage. (Posted March 3)

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ANALYSIS: DEMOCRATS STILL A LONG WAY FROM BEING COMPETITIVE IN THE SOUTH

♦By Rich Shumate, Chicken Fried Politics.com editor

Prior to the November 8 election, Democrats were publicly hopeful that they might finally be turning back Republican hegemony in the South, to the degree that pro-Hillary Clinton ads were running not only in the battleground states of Florida and North Carolina but also in reliably Republican Georgia and Texas.CFP Facebook Mugshot

Election results show that thinking was not just wishful, it was magical.

In fact, Clinton did comparatively worse in the South than Barack Obama did four years ago (which, oddly, seems to undercut the notion that the South’s resistance to Obama was based on his race.) A look at regional and state-by-state figures in the presidential race shows just how grim election night was for Southerners with a D attached to their name. (Posted November 11)

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