In 2004, all the pundits said that the Democrats were toast. They said that the Democrats might not be able to have a presidential candidate who could win if that candidate could not bridge the urban and rural divide. Well actually, Bush won because voters viewed family values as more important than the economy. Well now, someone could say the only reason Obama won is that voters viewed the economy as more important than values. Unfortunately, that is WRONG! Obama did not only win in the rust belt, he won in states in the West and in the Upper South. Also, Democrats did well at a Congressional level, kicking the last Republican Congressman out of New England and reducing the amount of Congressman in New York State down to three. Is all this sucess happening because of an unpopular Republican president? Mostly but there is another reason.
The Republicans have been tied to the religious Conservatives. McCain did worse than Bush everywhere except places in the South where the population was almost completely poor whites. In places up north, Obama improved a bit among that group except in Pennsylvania, he lost ground but only a few points. In Arkansas, McCain improved on Bush's percentage in almost every county. This is good for Republicans in the South but the problem is that it is only in the South. Most of the Republican Senators and leadership is in the South. As the Republicans continue to attach themselves to the South, they lose the West which used to be heavily Republican. Obama came within three points of winning Montana which in 2004, voted for Bush by 20 points. To see how this started, we should go back and look at the 80's.
In the 1980's, it was the decade of Reagan's not so silent anymore majority. Not only was he a popular president, he won everywhere against Mondale except for big northern central cities, a few rural counties in the south, some heavily Hispanic counties in the west, San Francisco and that was mainly it. In 1988, George H. W. Bush was able to win big states such as Illinois and Pennsylvania not because he carried about every rural county. He won with the economic conservatives in the suburbs. In Pennsylvania, Dukakis actually won the western part of the state but lost the eastern part because he could not win the suburbs. In the 1990's, Clinton won in the South partly because he was from there and the Democrats were not quite viewed as the party of the North. In 2000, Gore lost because of the Supreme Court's decision and he did well in some rural parts of the South, he could not win any states there. The Republicans were not yet tied to the Christian Conservatives so they were able to win Ohio and other states with large suburbs because the Gore did not do well enough in the urban areas. The reason of this trend in urban areas toward the Democrats is that voters there are usually not strong belief Christians and disagree with them on social issues. In 2004, Kerry did well in the urban areas but not ones in the South. Being unable to carry almost anything outside of a northern city or suburb cost him the election along with the values as I explained earlier.
Republicans truly are the party of the South. The only places they picked up house seats except for Kansas was in the South. When the Democrats were the party of the South in the 1920's, the only states they won were in the South. It was because the South is so different from the rest of the country. The Republicans became the party of the South because they became the party of religion. It seemed that they believed the only way to get rid of the Democrats was to win in their stronghold. The Republicans lost because they were the party of religion. As they get more conservative, they will win less votes and eventually start losing Montana and maybe even the Dakotas. The West has some religion but it is more of a libertarian place based on small government, not on religion. Even in Utah, Obama did much better than Kerry did. The only way for Republicans to win is if the Democrats do a horrible job or they start becoming more moderate. They could field moderate candidates but they have to shake off the Christian Conservatives. John McCain could not because he was forced to pick Palin. That resulted in him losing Florida because undecided voters in Palm Beach and Broward Counties did not want to vote for a Christian Conservative with no experience.
There is a hole Republicans could attack. We understand why Obama picked Rick Warren to speak at his inaugaration. He wanted to please everyone but there is this old saying that if you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one. Not only did it get gays angry, the Rick Warren pick may alienate some northern economic Conservatives who voted for Barack Obama because of social issues.
Even though the Republicans tried to reach out to Hispanic evangelicals, it did not work because Republicans are too Conservative on immigration. Although Obama is a Liberal, he does not alienate voters but the Conservative Republicans do. Yes, the Republicans have a long road ahead of them. They are no longer the party of just low taxes and small government. They are the party of the South and the evangelicals.
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