Mississippi governor Haley Barbour predicts that if nominated, Herman Cain will “sweep the South.”
Is that really something a potential GOP nominee should be bragging about? Isn’t the South the most heavily Republican region of the country? With one or two exceptions, isn’t sweeping the South almost expected of any Republican nominee?
In 2008, Obama defied the trend a bit by winning one indisputably Southern state (North Carolina) and winning two states that are quasi-Southern (Virginia, Florida). Southern Florida is different in its culture and political traditions than most of the rest of the states considered classically “Southern,” and Northern Virginia is better seen as part of the mid-Atlantic, culturally and politically. (Although the 2009 and even 2010 results suggest it’s becoming redder . . .)
The most recent polls in North Carolina put Obama’s job approval at 44 percent or 36 percent. Sure, PPP has Obama narrowly ahead of Republican options in the Tar Heel State, but that probably reflects a certain unfamiliarity or hesitation about the GOP options. (Notice Obama, a completely known quantity, is topping out at 49 percent even against Michele Bachmann and Newt Gingrich.) If the current conditions continue — an extremely high number of voters thinking the country is on the wrong track, disapproving of Obama’s handling of the economy, little sense that dramatic improvement is around the corner — then North Carolinians will not check the box for “four more years of the same.” Oh, by the way, the current unemployment rate in North Carolina is 10.4 percent.
In Florida, Obama’s job approval is 46 percent (PPP) or 39 percent (Quinnipiac). In PPP’s poll, Obama is currently trailing Ron Paul.
And then there’s Virginia, where Quinnipiac puts Obama’s job approval at 40 percent (56 percent disapproval!).
Sure, Obama could win any of these states, but considering the current state of affairs, it wouldn’t be the least bit surprising to see all three shift back to red, perhaps by a wide margin. (Spare me the argument that evangelical concerns about Mormonism would be enough to get southern Republicans to stay home on Election Day when Barack Obama’s on the ticket.) Sweeping the South should not be seen as a remarkable potential achievement for any of the potential nominees.