southern politics

2016 Presidential Election Map - Average magine of presidential victory 1992-2008

The South is not completely red politically, just as it is not home to only rednecks.

Come November 8, Southerners will cast about 33 million votes in this oddest and nastiest of presidential elections. Of those, more than 15 million will be for the Democrat, Hillary Clinton. That’s a lot of blue living in what most assume is just red.

Yes, our region, just like our nation, is more purple than just red or blue. In Southern state and federal elections, we’re a reddish purple. In many urban areas in the South, we skew a little more blueish purple.

Recent polls indicate Clinton likely will replicate Southern electoral victories by Barack Obama in 2008, with narrow wins in Florida, North Carolina and Virginia. Republican nominee Donald Trump likely will carry the other Southern states, but 45 percent to 48 percent of voters in each probably won’t vote for him, based on past results. Many people don’t think of Alabama or Mississippi as being particularly friendly to Democrats, but 800,000 Alabamans will vote for Clinton and a half million Mississippians will vote Democratic. In South Carolina, look for about 850,000 voters to pick Clinton, compared to about a million for Trump.

These projections, of course, are dependent on recalibrations of voter behavior in a presidential contest that has defied logic and traditional strategic assumptions. If Clinton’s email issues get stickier or Trump’s temper gets worse, the margins could change.

Presidential election results in the South US 2008-2012But more than likely, Clinton will squeak out a national win in the popular vote, but crush Trump in the electoral college, garnering much more than the 270 votes she needs to win.

Had Trump been more disciplined in recent months, focusing on the country instead of being petty and narcissistic, the race could be much closer.

“He didn’t raise money. He didn’t build his ground game. And he didn’t stay focused on his key core message,” said College of Charleston political scientist Gibbs Knotts. “He got sidetracked.”

While Clinton has high negatives (just not as high as Trump’s), she’s still not a shoe-in. But her mostly calm demeanor, compared to off-the-cuff, stream-of-consciousness rants by Trump, may be what wins the day on November 8.

American Party member Emile DeFelice of Columbia, who operates a shop on Main Street, overheard a conversation among some prominent bankers he recognized in a coffee shop after one of the Clinton-Trump debates.

“They all seemed to have mutually agreed that there was no way they were going to vote for that guy (Trump),” he said. “Banks don’t like instability and Donald Trump is nothing but instability.”

Almost by default for many voters, Clinton seems to have become the candidate of the business establishment, even though Trump comes from the world of business. Sure, many Republicans will hold their noses and vote for Trump because he’s at the top of the ticket for a party they love. But a sizable number may not vote or will cast ballots for other party’s candidates.

If Clinton wins, what happens next to the GOP will be, in the understatement of understatements, most interesting.

Some will bemoan the demise of the Republican Party. But it’s been around a long time and won’t go away without a fight. In fact, we believe it will get stronger by coalescing around basic principles. If the alt-right wing of the GOP splits off with Trump-like politicians as leaders of a new party, traditional Republicans may be free of pests that have defined them in recent years.

Country club Republicans then will have a chance to reawaken messages of old-school Republicanism marked by frugality and moderation on social issues. It surely won’t take too long for the alt-right movement to lose its fire in a sea of disorganization just as happened a few years ago to the tea party when it fizzled like dud fireworks that never get off the ground.

If Clinton wins, Democrats will need to keep arrogance in check. They would be smart to reinvigorate their brand to keep from losing voters to a new GOP. And they’d be smart to try to work with Republicans.

You’ve probably heard the expression, “May you live in interesting times.” They’re about to get a whole lot more interesting.


Editor's Note: This story originally appeared at The map and chart were created by the author, Andy Brack.
Andy Brack

Andy Brack

Andy Brack is a syndicated columnist in South Carolina and the publisher of Brack, who holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, also publishes a twice-weekly newsletter about good news in the Charleston area, A former U.S. Senate press secretary and reporter, Brack has a national reputation as a communications strategist and Internet pioneer. Brack also is president and chairman of the Center for a Better South, a nonprofit regional think tank. Brack received a bachelor’s degree from Duke University. He, his wife, two daughters and dogs live in Charleston, S.C.