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Trump accelerates Republican shift in counties named for Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
(CFP) — 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 the alarming (for Democrats) degree to which white Southerners have forsaken their traditional political roots.
Of course, the South’s march toward the GOP is not news. Today, the term “Solid South” has an entirely different connotation than it did during the days of FDR or Lyndon Johnson. However, these namesake counties do provide a window into how these shifts in party preference have occurred over time and the role that race played in them.
The 2016 presidential results also show that the Republicanization of the South is accelerating in these counties that bear the mark of Southern heritage, which bodes ill for future Democratic prospects.
In 1976, when Democrat Jimmy Carter became the first Southerner to win the White House since Zachary Taylor in 1848, he carried nine of the 12 Davis and Lee counties. By 1992, Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush were splitting them six-to-six.
By 2000, Republican George W. Bush had flipped nine of the 12 namesake counties his way; his average share of the total votes cast for the two major party candidates in those counties that year was an impressive 64 percent. But in 2016, Trump trumped the younger Bush, carrying those same nine counties with an average of 70 percent of the two-party vote.
In 1976, Republican President Gerald Ford’s share of the two-party vote topped 50 percent in just three namesake counties (in Florida, Alabama, and Kentucky). But by 2016, Trump’s share of the two-party vote was more than 50 percent in nine counties and parishes; above 60 percent in eight; above 70 percent in four; and above a whopping 80 percent in two (Georgia and Kentucky).
The most dramatic changes were in Jeff Davis County, Georgia, where native Georgian Carter carried 79 percent of the vote in 1976 and Trump won 81 percent in 2016, and Jefferson Davis Parish, Louisiana, where Carter won 62 percent and Trump 75 percent. However, even in majority black Lee County, Arkansas, Trump’s 16-point loss in 2016 was less than half of Ford’s 38-point defeat.
In addition to Lee County, Arkansas, the only namesake counties Trump lost in 2016 were Jefferson Davis County, Mississippi, and Lee County, South Carolina, which are also majority black. However, even in these three counties, Trump carried a larger share of the two-party vote in 2016 than Mitt Romney did in 2012.
In fact, Trump improved on Romney’s result in 11 of the 12 namesake counties, save only Jeff Davis County, Texas, where Trump had to settle for merely matching Romney’s total.
The results in these namesake counties over time also illustrate the role race has played in the political realignment of the South.
In all seven of the overwhelmingly white namesake counties, the Republican share of the two-party vote was higher in 2016 than in 1976, by an average of 29 percent. Trump did better than Romney by an average of 4 percent.
By contrast, in majority-black Lee counties in Mississippi and South Carolina, the Republican two-party share fell by an average 2.5 percent from 1976 to 2016, but Trump outperformed Romney by the same 2.5 percent. These results indicate that the white Southern shift to the Republicans appears stronger than the corresponding black shift to the Democrats.
This is borne out by the results in Lee County, Arkansas, which has the smallest African-American population of any of the majority-black namesake counties (55 percent). There, the Republican share of the two-party vote actually climbed 11 percent between 1976 and 2016, and Trump beat Romney’s total by 5 percent.
Two of the namesake counties—Lee County, Florida, and Jeff Davis County, Texas—are outliers in that they have significant Latino populations. The Republican share of the two-party vote in both of those counties was higher in 2016 than it was in 1976, but Trump’s results were down from the numbers put up in 2000 and 2004 by George W. Bush, who, for a Republican, ran strongly with Latino voters.
The results in the namesake counties also illustrate the mountain which Democrats need to climb if they are to reduce Republican hegemony in the South.
The Democratic base once included small towns and rural areas across the Southern landscape, as well as urban areas. In 2016, Democrats still held the cities (with newfound and welcome signs of life in suburban Atlanta and Houston) and the mostly small rural counties with majority black populations, such as the namesake counties in Arkansas, Mississippi and South Carolina. Democrats also do well in college towns such as Athens, Georgia, and Gainesville, Florida.
But Democrats’ failure to compete for the votes of small town and rural white voters is what is killing them electorally, as the results in the Davis and Lee namesake counties without black majorities vividly illustrates.
Only one of these namesake counties is urban—Lee County, Florida, which includes Fort Myers—and Lee County, Alabama, contains Auburn University. The rest of these counties and parishes are all rural, white areas where Messrs. Davis and Lee are no doubt remembered fondly and Jimmy Carter ran reasonably well—and where Hillary Clinton couldn’t get elected dog catcher if she handed out $20 bills at the polling booth.
As a barometer of the past, these namesake counties illustrate how far Democrats have fallen in their former strongholds. But if Trump’s improved results over Romney’s are a barometer of the future, the bottom may not yet have been reached.
All of the no-shows represent districts carried by Hillary Clinton
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
WASHINGTON (CFP) — Thirteen of the 40 Southern Democrats in the U.S. House have announced that they will not take part in the January 20 inauguration of Donald Trump.
Lawmakers from Florida, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia are among the no-shows. All of the boycotting members represent urban or black-majority districts that were carried by Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Trump’s tweets castigating U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, for announcing an inauguration boycott seemed to particularly rankle some of the members opting not to attend; Trump’s reaction was called “repugnant,” “ignorant,” and “insensitive and foolish.”
“We are sending a message to Mr. Trump. Respect, like Pennsylvania Avenue, is a two-way street,” said U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, who will be among the no-shows.
However, none of the three other Democrats in Lewis’s own Georgia delegation have joined the boycott. Also not joining so far is U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who, as head of the Democratic National Committee during the presidential campaign, had been a sharp Trump critic.
As for the contention by Trump supporters that the inauguration is a celebration not of him but of the peaceful transfer of power, U.S. Rep. Julian Castro, D-Texas, said, “Every American should respect the office of the presidency and the fact that Donald Trump will be the 45th President of the United States. But winning an election does not mean a man can show contempt for millions of Americans and then expect those very people to celebrate him.”
U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Virginia, said Trump’s “behavior and harmful words during and after the campaign have left the country I love with open, bleeding wounds. Instead of binding those wounds, he has poured salt on them. Instead of unifying us, he has reveled in driving wedges between us.”
Trump won 108 of the 154 congressional districts across the South in the November election; none of them are represented by Democrats.
Lawmakers boycotting the inaugural are unlikely to pay a political price, as all but two of them represent districts that Clinton carried with at least 60 percent of the vote. However, U.S. Reps. Darren Soto, D-Florida, and John Yarmuth, D-Kentucky, come from districts where Clinton’s share was just 55 percent.
The list of boycotting Democrats includes:
- John Lewis, D-Atlanta
- John Yarmuth, D-Louisville
- Bennie Thompson, D-Jackson
- Steve Cohen, D-Memphis
- Gerry Connolly, D-Fairfax County
Clinton performed worse in the South than Barack Obama in 2012
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
(CFP) — 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.
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.
Donald Trump carried 53.3 percent of the vote and 13 out of 14 Southern states. That performance was not as good as Mitt Romney’s in 2012, when he came in with 54.4 percent (although Romney only carried 12 states.) However, the performance gap between Trump and Clinton was actually larger than the gap between Romney and Obama because Clinton’s underperformance was even worse.
She took just 42.5 percent of the Southern vote; Obama won 44.3 percent. Some of that was due to a larger third-party vote which, at 4.2 percent, was about 3 points more than it was in 2012. However, the gap between the Republican and Democratic share of the vote went up everywhere except Texas and Georgia and the lone Southern state Clinton carried, Virginia.
A look at raw vote totals shows the degree to which Clinton hemorrhaged Obama supporters.
In Mississippi, Clinton’s raw vote total was nearly 101,000 less than Obama’s in 2012, a huge shift in a state where less than 1.2 million votes were cast. Given that African-Americans play an outsized role in the state’s Democratic base, Clinton’s numbers are a clear sign that black voters did not turn out for her as they did for Obama.
But if Mississippi was bad for Clinton, Appalachia was even worse — down 51,000 votes in Kentucky, 92,000 in Tennessee, and 52,000 votes in West Virginia, where Trump’s percentage of the vote soared 15 points above Romney’s number. Those three states together have 270 counties; she carried exactly five.
In Arkansas, where Clinton was first lady and her husband governor for 10 years, she lost 16,000 votes and managed just 33.6 percent of the vote, 3.3 points lower than Obama’s vote in 2012. At the same time, Trump’s vote went up 34,000 over Romney’s, a net difference of nearly 50,000 votes.
Even in Virginia, which Clinton won, her vote total was 11,000 less than what Obama put up in 2016. She won because Virginia Trump’s vote total came in less than Romney’s by about 59,000 votes.
Meanwhile, as Clinton’s vote was fading, Trump’s was surging, beating 2012 GOP totals in every state except Virginia and Mississippi.
In Florida, where a growing Latino population was supposed to lead Clinton to victory, Trump added 442,000 votes to Romney’s tally, while Clinton added just 245,000 to Obama’s. In North Carolina, he added 69,000; she lost 16,000 in a battleground state she visited repeatedly.
In total across the South, Trump added more than 1 million votes to Romney’s haul; Clinton managed to add 448,000 by offsetting her losses in 11 states with gains in Texas, Florida and Georgia.
This led to some remarkable net vote changes between the two parties — 128,000 in Alabama, 166,000 in Kentucky, 150,000 in Tennessee and 118,000 in West Virginia.
The only glimmer of light at the end of this dark tunnel for Democrats was their improved performance in both Georgia and Texas.
In the presidential race, Democrats closed the gap with Republicans from 8 to 5 points in Georgia and 16 points to 9 points in Texas. Clinton also carried two big suburban counties in Atlanta, Cobb and Gwinnett, that had not gone Democratic in 40 years, along with Fort Bend County in suburban Houston, normally a no-man’s-land for a Democrat.
So perhaps Democratic wistfulness for those two states may not have been entirely misplaced, although that’s cold comfort when Trump carried Florida and North Carolina on his way to the White House.
And if the presidential results were grim, the U.S. Senate races were just as bad. Republicans went eight-for-eight, with a race in Louisiana heading for a December 10 runoff in which Republican State Treasurer John Kennedy is favored to keep the seat in GOP hands.
Democrats didn’t even bother contesting Alabama, Oklahoma or South Carolina; they did recruit credible candidates in the rest of the races, such as Conner Eldridge in Arkansas, Jim Barksdale in Georgia and Jim Gray in Kentucky. But all lost by double-digit margins.
The Democrats’ best shots to pick up GOP-held seats were thought to be in Florida, where U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy was challenging Marco Rubio, and in North Carolina, where Deborah Ross was challenging Richard Burr. Murphy lost by 8 points; Ross, by 7. Both actually underperformed Clinton in their states.
The only good news for Democrats came in races for governor in West Virginia, where Jim Justice kept the office in Democratic hands, and in North Carolina, where Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper appears to have ousted Republican Governor Pat McCrory, although that race may be headed for a recount.
Clinton takes just one Southern state, Virginia
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
Trump won 13 of 14 Southern states, with a combined 167 electoral votes, a better performance than Mitt Romney had in 2012, when he took 12.
Trump’s haul of Southern electoral votes made up 58 percent of his national total.
Clinton’s only Southern victory came in Virginia, where she defeated Trump by a margin of 50-46 percent, thanks to a late vote surge from the Washington, D.C. suburbs.
Trump defeated Clinton by a margin of 49-48 percent in Florida and 51-47 percent in North Carolina.
Across the rest of the South, Trump rolled up double-digit margins, including winning by a whopping 43 points in West Virginia. 36 points in Oklahoma and 30 points in Kentucky.
Trump outperformed Romney’s totals in every Southern state except Georgia and Texas. In Georgia, the GOP result was down 3 points; in Texas, 6 points.
Results of a new Mason-Dixon poll expose Trump’s general election vulnerabilities
JACKSON, Mississippi (CFP) — A new poll shows that if Republicans pick Donald Trump as their nominee, Mississippi could be in play in the general election for the first time in 36 years–a stark illustration of the uphill battle he may face across the country come November.
The Mason-Dixon poll of Mississippi voters showed Trump leading the likely Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, by just 3 points, 46 percent to 43 percent, with 11 percent undecided. That is within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent, which means that, statistically speaking, Trump and Clinton are in a tie.
The last time Mississippi was in play in a general election was in 1980, when Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter by less than 2 points. The last Democrat to carry Mississippi was Carter in 1976.
How rare is it for a Democratic nominee to carry Mississippi? In the last 60 years, it has happened exactly twice, in 1956 and 1976. And in the last four elections, the Republican candidate has won by an average of 15 points.
The poll results are likely to add fuel to arguments by Cruz and Kasich that Trump would be a general election disaster for the GOP. Cruz leads Clinton in a general election match-up 51 percent to 40 percent; Kasich does even better, 52 percent to 37 percent.
Clinton holds an astounding 90-point lead among African-American voters, who make up a third of the Mississippi electorate. A mere 3 percent of black voters said they support Trump.
Clinton also has an 8-point lead among women and is taking a 15 percent share of Republican women.
And while Trump pulls only 8 percent of Democrats, the poll showed Clinton winning 11 percent of Republicans. Self-identified independents broke for Trump 49 percent to 37 percent.
The poll also showed that while both Clinton and Trump have high negatives among voters in the Magnolia State, Trump was viewed slightly more unfavorably. The difference between his favorable and unfavorable ratings was 11 points; hers was 8.
The poll of 625 registered Mississippi voters was conducted March 28-30. The margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage votes, which means there is a 95 percent probability that the actual result if all voters were surveyed would fall within a range 4 points above and below the reported figure.
Marco Rubio has another hard night, finishing last in two contests
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
JACKSON, Mississippi (CFP) — Donald Trump rolled through the Mississippi GOP primary, nearly capturing an outright majority in one of his strongest wins of the primary season.
Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas won the Republican primary in Idaho, notching his sixth win in the GOP presidential contest. But it was another hard night for the other Southerner in the race, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who could finish no better than third in any of the four March 8 contests.
In addition to the Republican primaries in Mississippi and Idaho, Michigan held a primary, and Hawaii had a caucus; Trump won them both.
The only other Democratic contest was in Michigan, where Sanders defeated Clinton in the night’s biggest upset.
In Mississippi, Trump took 47 percent of the vote, compared to 36 percent for Cruz. Rubio managed only a meager 5 percent, coming in fourth behind Governor John Kasich of Ohio.
Buoyed by the Magnolia State’s large African-American vote, Clinton won 83 percent to 17 percent for Sanders
In Michigan Cruz finished second and Rubio fourth. The Florida senator came in third place in Hawaii and Idaho.
Heading into pivotal March 15 contests in Florida and North Carolina, Trump has 458 delegates; Cruz, 359; Rubio, 151; and Kasich, 54. A total of 1,237 delegates are needed to win the nomination.
On the Democratic side, Clinton has 1,221 to 571 for Sanders, with 2,383 needed for the nomination.
Special election will be held to replace the three-term Republican
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com
TUPELO, Mississippi (CFP) — U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnelee died February 6 after an eight-month battle with brain cancer. He was 56.
His death at his home in Tupelo was announced in a brief statement from his family:
“Congressman Alan Nunnelee has gone home to be with Jesus. He was well loved and will be greatly missed,” the statement said.
Nunnelee, a former state senator, was elected to the House in the Republican wave of 2010, representing the Magnolia State’s 1st District, which takes in the northern and northeastern parts of the state.
Nunnellee was re-elected last November, despite surgery for brain cancer in May that led to a stroke. He was undergoing rehabilitation until January, when the cancer recurred.
Governor Phil Bryant will have 60 days to call a special election to fill Nunnelee’s seat.