Taking a look at an electoral map of the election, one thing jumps out at you:
Note that the vast majority of states won by President Obama border on the water. The Atlantic, Pacific, and Great Lakes are bastions of Democratic Party power.
Should Red states that also border on the water be worried?
Obama won Virginia and Florida and narrowly missed victory in North Carolina. But he also polled as well in Georgia as any Democrat since Jimmy Carter, grabbed 44 percent of the vote in deep-red South Carolina and just under that in Mississippi — despite doing no substantive campaigning in any of those states.
Much of the post-election analysis has focused on the demographic crisis facing Republicans among Hispanic voters, particularly in Texas. But the results across other parts of the South, where Latinos remain a single-digit minority, point to separate trends among blacks and whites that may also have big implications for the GOP’s future.
The results show a region cleaving apart along new electoral fault lines. In the region’s center, clustered along the Mississippi River — where Bill Clinton polled most strongly — the GOP remains largely unchallenged and the voting divide between blacks and whites is deepening. Nearly nine of 10 of white voters in Mississippi, for instance, went for Republican nominee Mitt Romney this year, according to exit polls. About 96 percent of black voters in the state supported Obama.
The pattern is markedly different in the five states that hug the Atlantic coast from Virginia to Florida, which together hold82 of the South’s 160 electoral votes. A combination of a growing black population, urban expansion, oceanfront development and in-migration from other regions has opened up increasing opportunities for Democrats in those states.
“Georgia is an achievable target for Democrats in 2016,” said Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, a frequent Obama surrogate during the campaign. “What you’re going to see is the Democratic Party making a drive through the geography from Virginia to Florida.”
This may be the product of wishful thinking. The reason given for the surge in Democratic votes was that the black population of the coastal states has grown at a faster rate than whites. Clearly, a white Democratic candidate will not get the level of support in raw numbers or even percentage as that given to Barack Obama.
But while Atlantic southern coastal states might be changing, making them more Democrat-friendly, what’s happening along the Gulf Coast in Texas, and to some extent Louisiana, should also concern GOP strategists looking at the big picture. Immigrants from the north as well as a burgeoning Hispanic population might make both of those states more competitive in the near future. Losing Texas to Democrats would doom the GOP in national elections for the foreseeable future, unless a way can be found to begin to cut into support for Democrats among Hispanics.
It may be coincidence that Democrats are strongest in states that border on large bodies of water. But whether it’s something in the drinking water or a state of mind, or perhaps the kind of voter attracted to living near water, the GOP better solve the puzzle soon or risk becoming irrelevant.