One State, Two State, Red State, Blue State
By Bruce Walker
May 18, 2009
The establishment of political punditry simmers with warnings that the Republican Party is in danger of becoming a....regional party. This means permanent minority status for an increasingly shrinking, and finally vanishing, political party. It is quite true that the two political parties are broken along regional lines and it is also true that these lines tend to reflect ideology, but the conclusion that this dooms Republicans is silly.
Examine the presidential election maps in 2000 and in 2004. The two almost perfectly overlap. Republicans carried New Hampshire and Iowa in 2004 and lost New Mexico in 2004. Otherwise, the electoral map is virtually identical in those two elections. In 2008, an election in which Obama received 53% of the popular vote (more than any Democrat in the last sixty years except for LBJ in 1964), Obama added eight states that Kerry did not carry - Ohio, Indiana, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Iowa, Colorado, and Nevada. The vote in Indiana, Florida, and North Carolina were very close, and Virginia elections in a few months will tell us how liberal that state has really become.
Except for New Mexico and Iowa, Bush in 2004 carried all of those states which Obama took from the Republicans in 2008 by fairly comfortable margins. These Republicans states (except Alaska and New Hampshire) are all contiguous as well. This "regional party" as it is being called, is nothing more or less that the Leftist elites' "Flyover Country."
Conceding Iowa, New Mexico, and New Hampshire, what kind of political clout does this "Flyover Country" have? Well, it has 274 electoral votes, enough to elect the president. It has 28 of the 50 states, enough to elect a strong majority of the Senate (if we include the states that Bush actually carried in 2000 or in 2004, then this "Flyover Country" party can elect 60 or 62 members of the Senate, a filibuster proof majority.
The House members who come from states that Bush carried in 2004 total 224 members of the House of Representatives, a small, but working majority. That is misleading because there are many liberal congressional districts in Red states and many conservative congressional districts in Blue states, but today the number of "conservative leaning" districts in the House outnumbers the number of "liberal leaning" districts, and so the inherent conservative advantage in the House remains.
"Flyover Country" is also growing faster than the regional areas liberals and Democrats govern. If the party of Flyover Country simply holds its own, then its natural majority in the Senate, its natural majority in the House, and its natural majority in the Electoral College will stay intact.
So what is the problem with Republicans now? They are losing Flyover Country. If Obama lost Ohio, Indiana, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Nevada, Colorado, and Iowa - not even all of them, really - he would not have won the election. If Republicans held the Senate seats in Ohio, Indiana, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Colorado, Nevada, Alaska and Montana, then they could not only control the Senate but have a filibuster-proof Republican Senate. This calculus does not even include states like New Mexico (which Bush carried twice in his elections) or Iowa (which Bush carried almost carried once and did carry in his reelection bid.)
Take those states in the infamous "Jesusland" map after the 2004 election, and those states - just those states - provided a clear majority of the Electoral College votes, a small but demographically growing majority of the House seats, and a filibuster proof majority in the United States Senate - some regional party!
The weakness of the Republican Party, particularly in the Senate, is not because of northeastern Republicans like Specter or Jeffords defecting to Democrats. The weakness is because in states that McCain carried, like Arkansas and West Virginia, four liberal Democrats holds seats that four conservative Republicans should hold; it is because North Dakota and Montana, states Republicans always sweep, have four liberal Democrats in the Senate. Nebraska, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Dakota - states by any definition "Red" states - have four liberal Democrats in the Senate.
Both major political parties are, and have for many years, been regional parties. The balance between the regions of the two parties actually favors Republicans. In good years, Republicans are competitive in states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Iowa, and Oregon as well. If Republicans wish to regain their natural majority status, they need to stop worrying about holding Senate seats in Maine and start fighting furiously for Senate, House, and state governments in that majority of America which is natural territory for conservative Republicans. When that happens, the "regional" party will, again, be Democrats.
Bruce Walker is a long-time conservative writer whose work is published regularly at popular conservative sites such as American Thinker.