Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Stool Has No Legs

Writing at AOTP, FreeDem discusses the apparently curious electoral map that may be in the works for this fall, in which Obama could do far better than recent Dems in traditionally Republican areas like the Southeast and Mountain West, and far worse in traditionally Democratic areas like the Northeast.

To which I replied:

To me the most interesting thing about all this is the combination of Obama’s relative weakness in the Northeast and relative strength in the Mountain West. I’m not sure that Obama’s relative strength in the Southeast (outside of Virginia, which is a special case) will hold up in the end. But the numbers on the Northeast and Mountain West suggest that the coalitions are definitely shifting as the Republicans become officially the “anti-terruh” party rather than the party of the fabled “three-legged stool.” The Mountain West has tended to be Republican over the years mostly because of the libertarian-ishness of that region combined with the comparative strength of the
libertarian-conservative coalition. Obama’s strength in the Mountain West largely confirms what I’ve been saying for about a year now: the Republican-libertarian coalition is officially dead.

That said, there’s been a lot of talk that Obama’s support has decreased a bit the last couple of weeks. I haven’t seen much state-level polling in that period, but my suspicion is that the area where that support has dropped off the most is in the Mountain West states. If true, that would exemplify how and why Obama’s FISA vote was - contrary to conventional wisdom - bad politics that actually hurt him with more “independents” than it helped him with.

McCain’s strength in the Northeast (presumably not including Vermont and - maybe - New Hampshire) is largely attributable to the importance of the “anti-terrorism” issue in this area. This isn’t to say that the Northeast is necessarily a hotbed of support for the Iraq War, just that in recent years it has been far more willing to trade liberty for security (actually, that’s a pretty longstanding trend that largely predates 9/11- it’s safe to say that you’ll be hard-pressed to find two less libertarian states than NJ and NY).

The bottom line is that it's a tremendous mistake to think of the political map as being simply a divide between monolithic "red" states and "blue" states. That kind of thinking ignores the political reality that coalitions are ever-shifting, and just because the political map might look a particular way in one or two given elections there is no reason to believe that it will continue to look that way in future elections.