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Southern Outlier

Anyone familiar with sentiment in the region is aware that Barack Obama isn´t very popular among white voters in the Deep South. The Obama-Biden ticket did worse than Kerry-Edwards `04 among white voters in much of that area, despite the Democratic breakthroughs in nearby North Carolina and Virginia.

But the scope of the continuing unpopularity of Obama and Democrats in the South is graphically demonstrated in recent analysis from DKos-R2K. Obama´s overall national favorable/unfavorable ratio in its October poll was 55/37. In the South, it was 27/68. The Republican Party´s rating nationally was 21/67. In the South, it was 48/37. The Democratic Party´s national rating was 41/51. In the South, it was 21/72. And on the congressional ¨generic ballot,`` Democrats led nationally 35/29; GOPers led in the South 47/21.

These are regional averages which almost certainly overstate Democrats´ problems in Florida, NC, and Virginia, but may also understate the problem in the Deep South.

Such numbers will undoubtedly reinforce already strong tendencies by non-southern Democrats to ``write off`` the region as intractably reactionary if not incurably racist. That would be a major mistake. Most of the congressional districts held by southern Democrats are far friendlier to Obama than the regional averages indicate, and we need to hold as many of them as possible (the same is true of many statewide offices, and in the state legislative contests that will determine control of redistricting). And as the 2008 results in FL, NC and VA showed, there are demographic trends in the region that give Democrats considerable future hope wherever sufficient concentrations of minority voters, upscale professionals, and academic/research centers co-exist.

What the current numbers probably reflect more than anything is the exceptional unhappiness of southerners with the economy, which has reversed decades of sunbelt growth. If high southern unemployment rates begin to turn around by 2010 or 2012, the South´s outlier status may moderate as well.