Rhodes Cook recently posted an excellent, data-rich take on the new Democratic Presidential majority. His data break down the specific reasons that that the national Democratic advantage is durable and further suggest that the demographic trends behind it it are also having trickle-down effects on other elections in purple states like Virginia and Colorado.
Cook builds his analysis by comparing Obama’s performance in 2012 to Dukakis’ performance in 1988, the last election before the Democrats went on their current run of popular vote victories (five of six elections). Cook remarks:
Democrats have made great strides on the electoral map since 1988. They have established firm bases of support on both coasts, more than held their own in the battleground states of the industrial Midwest, and made inroads into Republican terrain in the South and the Mountain West. But the Democratic vote share has not increased everywhere since 1988, when Michael Dukakis lost the popular vote 53.4% to 45.6% to Republican George H.W. Bush. In a total of 19 states, Dukakis drew a larger share of the vote in 1988 than the victorious Barack Obama did in 2012. These states were predominantly rural in complexion and scattered about the country — in Appalachia, the South and border South, the upper Midwest, the Plains states and the Mountain West.
Cook provides a map that usefully summarizes these disparate trends between 1988 and 2012:
Driving these trends within and across states have been sweeping changes in how urban, suburban and rural residents vote. As Cook puts it:
It is no mystery how the Democrats transformed themselves from an also-ran in presidential politics in the 1970s and 1980s to a dominant force since 1992. In the last two decades, they have expanded their majorities in the nation’s major urban centers and flipped populous suburban counties adjacent to such cities as New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., in their favor. But Democrats have tanked of late in rural America, from the “God and guns country” of western Pennsylvania and the Appalachian states to the small towns of the South and the Plains.
Cook illustrates these trends with a handy table:
Cook concludes his analysis with a look at the stunning transformation of Northern Virginia. In 1988, Dukakis could only carry the liberal bastions of Arlington and Alexandria. But in 2012, Obama carried every major suburban jurisdiction in Northern Virginia, running up a margin of a quarter million votes in the area, more than enough to counterbalance his 80,000 vote loss in the rest of the state. Cook provides a table that documents this transformation:
Cook’s data on Virginia are particularly interesting to contemplate in light of the recent self-inflicted wounds incurred by the state’s GOP. Instead of adapting to an ongoing wave of change, they are hurtling in the opposite direction. The Virginia GOP’s caucus nominated a far right winger, E.W. Jackson, for lieutenant governor. Jackson is so poisonously extreme that his nomination may effectively eliminate the chances of his running mate, the extreme-in-his-own-right Ken Cuccinelli, to win the Virginia governorship. In addition, the state party cannot yet come up with anyone to run against Democrat Mark Warner in next year’s Senate race and may wind up effectively ceding the seat to Warner.
This disarray, as Josh Kraushaar pointed out in a recent National Journal article, is mirrored in Colorado, another fast-changing state contributing to the new Democratic Presidential majority:
The [Colorado] party’s brightest recruit, Rep. Cory Gardner, just opted to pass up a Senate campaign against Mark Udall, leaving the GOP empty-handed. Even more startling is the reemergence of immigration hardliner Tom Tancredo as a legitimate gubernatorial candidate, jumping in the race this month against Gov. John Hickenlooper. (Tancredo won 36 percent of the vote as a third-party candidate in 2010.) If Republicans can’t contest the Senate and governorship in 2014, it would mark eight straight setbacks in presidential, Senate, and gubernatorial contests dating back nearly a decade.
Remarkable. It’s almost like the party’s in shock — and the faster the change, the greater the shock and disorientation. Unless the GOP shakes off its current state, the new Democratic Presidential majority could be with us for quite awhile.