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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Barack Obama and John Kerry

So I'm staying at the Marriott in D.C. (like a lot of Prawfsblawg readers and writers), looking forward to interviewing some great candidates.  Anyway, we get the USA Today, and there's a fascinating county-by-county map relating to the 2008 presidential election in today's paper.   I can't get a link to it, unfortunately.  (It's on page 7A.)  But it's not about the counties Obama won and the counties McCain won (that's available here, if you want it).

It's about how Obama did in 2008 versus how Kerry did in 2004.  And it's fascinating.  Obama did generally better, of course.  In some states, Obama did dramatically better.  (In virtually every county in Indiana, for example, Obama did more-than-7% better than Kerry.) 

But in a few states, Obama did worse.  Substantially worse.  Obama gets significantly less votes than Kerry in Arizona (not hard to understand), but also in this weird swath of territory running from southeast Oklahoma, through Arkansas, through Tennessee, through southeastern Kentucky and southwest West Virginia.  Arkansas is the most pronounced.  In Arkansas, in the majority of counties, Obama got more-than-7% less in each county than Kerry did in 2004.  And in no county in Arkansas did Obama do better than Kerry.

There's probably an explanation I'm missing.  If there is, I have no doubt that the Prawfsblawg readership will alert me to it.  Could it be better v. worse-organized campaigns in particular states, or a decision by Obama not to spend money in these regions?  Other thoughts?

Posted by Chris Lund on November 6, 2008 at 02:02 PM | Permalink


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Good seeing you too, Rick. And if it's any consolation -- virtually county within a 250-mile radius of Chicago seemed to be more-than-7% for Obama.

Posted by: Chris Lund | Nov 9, 2008 2:55:09 PM

Chris, good seeing you at the FRC. Now that I'm a Hoosier (!), the Indiana switch is also curious to me (and disappointing. I mean, if my guy had to lose, at least *I* could have lived in a red state. Oh well.) That Obama did well in the NW counties (essentially South Chicago) is not surprising. And, the trends have been good for Democrats (at least, for conservative Democrats) along the Ohio river. But, what explains the shift for Obama, state-wide (in a year where Gov. Daniels was re-elected easily?). I've decided to go with my "farmers in Indiana, as in Iowa, don't like McCain because he is willing to say that the Ethanol Emperor has no clothes" theory. Indiana is, of course, the nation's 4th leading corn producer. So, forget all this "mandate for change" stuff. The real story of the election? King Corn!

Posted by: Rick Garnett | Nov 8, 2008 8:22:29 AM

Since there is no evidence pointing to reasons why Obama performed worse than Kerry, it must be race. Great logic there, bud. A non sequitur if I've ever seen one. Please, keep your assault on reason to yourself.

Posted by: Publius | Nov 7, 2008 7:19:59 PM

Those studying polls and election returns have been noting Obama's Appalachia problem since the primaries. A few such examples:

This diary on Daily Kos
This from Talking Points Memo
And this less conclusive analysis from FiveThirtyEight

Posted by: David S. Cohen | Nov 7, 2008 9:59:59 AM

Adam, the residents expelled by Katrina have not come back.

Posted by: cel | Nov 6, 2008 11:48:52 PM

Apparently, I don't know how to use html tags, so here's the link to that NYTimes map: http://elections.nytimes.com/2008/results/president/map.html. Also, Chris, I would've thought that Katrina would have the opposite effect, if we think about this election as a referendum about President Bush's two terms. Maybe that's a faulty assumption, though.

Posted by: Adam Richardson | Nov 6, 2008 8:00:59 PM

Just FYI, I noticed a third area where Obama did worse than Kerry on the map -- southern and southeastern Louisiana. I wondered about that for a minute or two, and then it hit me: it was Katrina.

Posted by: Chris Lund | Nov 6, 2008 5:22:36 PM

As someone from a partly Scots-Irish background (who voted for Obama) it struck me that the map of increased Republican strength in this election looks quite similar to the nineteenth-century migration path of my ancestors from Virginia through Tennessee down into Texas. (You'll note that Dallas County, which is much more diverse than rural Texas, went blue this year for the first time since 1964.)

Posted by: Josh Tate | Nov 6, 2008 5:12:34 PM

Actually, Tennessee came very close to electing Harold Ford to the Senate last time around, so I think race isn't much of a factor if at all. But B. Ro is right that (1) Clinton did extremely well in the primaries here, and (2) Obama did not campaign at all in Tennessee, having basically given it up. That, plus the basic conservatism of the state, probably explains most of it.

Posted by: Suzanna Sherry | Nov 6, 2008 4:45:15 PM

Did Obama spend much time campaigning in Utah? Otherwise, one would expect to have seen the same phenomenon there as well, no?

Posted by: T.J. | Nov 6, 2008 4:23:43 PM

You can find that county-by-county comparison map here, courtesy the NYTimes. Just click on the "Voting shifts" button on the left side.

Posted by: Adam Richardson | Nov 6, 2008 2:59:38 PM

The New Yorker a few weeks ago had a great article on Obama and the challenge of Appalacia.

Posted by: BML | Nov 6, 2008 2:34:48 PM

While race was invariably a factor, another factor that is possibly correlated with race, was that Obama never campaigned in those states you mentioned during the primaries and Hillary beat Obama pretty bad in each of those states so unlike in Indiana where the idea of voting for a black man in general, or Obama in particular, did not seem so foreign to a person predisposed to view black folks negatively, the same could not be said of voters in Oklahoma, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Kentucky. Also, the folks in those states prefer candidates that look rather French...

Posted by: B. Ro. | Nov 6, 2008 2:33:26 PM


Posted by: T.J. | Nov 6, 2008 2:13:44 PM

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