Cook Political Report moves projections for four Southern states toward the Democrats
WASHINGTON (CFP) — Now that Donald Trump has secured the Republican presidential nomination, the respected Cook Political Report is shifting its projections for four Southern states, with 73 electoral votes, toward Democrat Hillary Clinton.
The more pessimistic projections for Trump are due to his “historic unpopularity with wide swaths of the electorate,” according to the report.
The four Southern states where Clinton is projected to have increased opportunity are Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia. Those states are four of the five largest in the region, and all have large populations of suburban swing voters Clinton is expected to target.
Of the largest Southern states, only Texas remains solidly Republican, according to Cook. The remaining nine states in the South–Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, South Carolina, Kentucky and West Virginia–are also still rated as solidly Republican.
After Trump became the presumptive nominee, the Cook report shifted its projections toward Clinton in 12 states. In only one state, Maine, did it project an increased opportunity for Trump.
Nationwide, states with a combined 309 electoral votes are projected as either solidly for or leaning toward Clinton, 40 more than she needs to win. By contrast, the states solidly behind or leaning toward Trump have just 190 electoral votes.
Perhaps the most significant shift in Cook’s projections was for Florida, with 29 electoral votes, which went from a toss-up to leaning Democratic.
History shows how vital the Sunshine State is to any GOP presidential candidate: The last Republican to win the White House without carrying Florida was Calvin Coolidge way back in 1924. Five of the last six times a Democrat won, he carried Florida.
The most surprising shift in the projections was for Georgia, with 16 electoral votes, which moved from solidly Republican to leaning Republican.
The last time a Democrat carried Georgia was in 1980, when native son Jimmy Carter was on the ballot. Republican Mitt Romney won it by eight points in 2012.
The Cook report moved Virginia, with 13 electoral votes, from a toss-up to leaning toward Clinton. Although the Old Dominion became reliably Republican in presidential contests in the 1960s, Barack Obama won it in both 2008 and 2012 with a strong performance in the Washington, D.C. suburbs, something Clinton hopes to replicate.
North Carolina, which had been leaning Republican, is also now a toss-up, according to Cook. The Tar Heel State has been a swing state in recent elections; Obama won it in 2008, but Romney took it back in 2012.
Obama’s victories show just how important keeping the South solidly Republican is for a GOP nominee. Winning just three Southern states in 2008, and just two in 2012, was enough for him to put the Electoral College out of reach for John McCain and Romney.
In 2000, George W. Bush took 168 electoral votes out of the South, more than 60 percent of what he needed to win. In 2012, Romney carried only 138, barely half of what he needed, forcing him to make up the differences in regions that were less Republican-friendly, which he failed to do.
An April Mason-Dixon poll of voters in Mississippi also illustrated the scope of Trump’s potential problems in the South. His lead over Clinton was within the margin of error, meaning that the race in the Magnolia State was a statistical dead heat.
If deep-red Mississippi were to be in play come November, the rest of the South would likely also be in play, which could mean a very long election night for Trump.