[First posted 03nov20, last update 03nov20]
In the 1960 Brookings Institution study The Politics of National Party Conventions (by David, Goldman and Bain), there was an attempt made to determine which states were Democratic, Republican or Competitive (neither) in presidential elections over periods made up of 8 presidential elections each. The criteria that was used to determine this was as follows: if a party's presidential candidate won a given state in at least 6 of the 8 elections each period covered, that state was considered to be the bastion of the respective of one or the other party; if a party's presidential candidate won a given state 5 times out of the 8 or less, the state was deemed to have been "Competitive".
We will apply the Brookings Institution criteria for the period of 1972-2000 and add refinements based on each state's preferences during the last 2-3 Presidential Elections.
For Democratic and Republican States (one party carried the state in 6 out of the last 8 elections) - from most to least attached to a given political party:
For Competitive States (neither party carried the state in 6 out of the last 8 elections) - from most to least attached to a given political party:
Going from Left (Democrat) to Right (Republican) on the political spectrum:
strongly Democratic (5 jurisdictions, 33 electors)
moderately Democratic (0 jurisdictions, 0 electors)
somewhat Democratic (0 jurisdictions, 0 electors)
leaning Democratic (16 jurisdictions, 227 electors)
truely Competitive (8 jurisdictions, 85 electors)
leaning Republican (0 jurisdictions, 0 electors)
somewhat Republican (0 jurisdictions, 0 electors)
moderately Republican (6 jurisdictions, 58 electors)
strongly Republican (16 jurisdictions, 135 electors)
For 2004, 193 Electoral Votes (77 shy of the goal of 270 necessary for election) are "strongly" or "moderately" Republican (compared to 179 [91 shy of election] back in 2000): meanwhile, only 33 Electoral Votes are the equivalent (that is "strongly" or "moderately") re: the Democrats (compared to 38 four years earlier). In other words, if we view those States that are "strongly" or "moderately" for one Major Party or the other as the given Major Party's "base", the Democrats- in 2000- started out, in effect, 141 Electoral Votes "in the hole" (179-38): in 2004, they will be 160 (193-33) Electoral Votes "in the hole". now, 19 electoral votes doesn't seem like much until one realizes that it is a loss- to the Democrats, in terms of "political base"- of 7% of the 270 needed to elect (so the Democratic presidential candidate now has to pick up 7% more Electors from "somewhere else" in order to then win).
Now, it is true that there are, for 2004, 158 more Electoral Votes (compared to 2000) "leaning Democratic"- though almost all of these are States the Democrats can't at all afford to lose: this, however, is at least somewhat offset by the fact that there are now also 60 fewer Electoral Votes that are "truly Competitive"; this means that the Democrats' overall gain re: competitiveness from 2000 to 2004 is merely 98 Electoral Votes (158-60). But notice that most of these truly Competitive States (54 out of the 85 [nearly two thirds of] "truly Competitive" Electoral Votes) are found in the South (a section of the country that clearly has to be seen as "GOP Country" [as, back in 2000, Bush won this section by an Electoral Vote of 168-0; for 2004, this area will have 173 Electoral Votes]).
While one has to be most cautious when looking over the results re: each Major Party in Major Statewide elections (those for Governor and U.S. Senator) and then attempting to compare them to Presidential Elections (which, despite the fact that a Presidential Election- given the Electoral College- is really 51 different Statewide elections in the 50 States and D.C., is the only Nationwide election in which we Americans participate)- after all, many Democrats saw their having picked up two Republican Governors' chairs in the 2001 Off-Year Elections as a good portent of things to come but that portent didn't really pan out all that well for the Democrats come the 2002 Midterm Elections (the late "Tip" O'Neill's dictum remains generally correct: Politics is local!), the following must be noted:
Georgia elected both a Republican Governor and U.S. Senator in 2002 (in addition, Democrat Zell Miller is retiring come the end of his term after the 2004 Elections: what are the odds, then, that the OTHER Georgia U.S. Senate seat will remain in the Democrats' hands?); in 2003, Kentucky elected their first GOP Governor in over 3 decades and a Republican unseated the incumbent Democratic Governor in Mississippi. Yes, the Democratic candidate for Governor pulled out a victory in the runoff election in Louisiana a little over ten days after these Republican Gubernatorial victories I've cited and this (combined with the Pelican State's Senator Mary Landrieu's having won the runoff election for her seat the year before) affords some glimmer of hope for Democrats that there might be at least one State in the Lower "Deep" South they can pick off come 2004 (it also probably helps that the election for the seat of Democrat Senator John Breaux, a veritable symbol of the possibility of moderation within the Democratic Party, will head the Statewide ticket during this coming Presidential Election). However, one cannot completely ignore the fact that Missouri (a Midwestern State with a not all that long ago "Border" South past: mid-20th Century President Harry Truman, for example, considered himself to be just as Southern as Midwestern) just elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate seat lost by now-Attorney General John Ashcroft in 2000 in a Special Election.
The only really good news for Democrats on the above chart re: Political Strength by State is that most of the States (along with their Electoral Votes, however modified by Reapportionment) which, in 2000, were in the "somewhat Republican" group (a category now completely empty re: 2004) are now actually "leaning Democrat" (for, despite his loss in the Electoral College, Al Gore gained some rather interesting pickups for the Democrats four years ago, such as- to take one obvious example- a New Mexico which also now has a former Clinton Administration official as its Democratic Governor). Nevertheless, the Democrats- by any stretch of political argument- will, or so it appears, find a rather uphill battle come the 2004 campaign (tack the 34 Electoral Votes from Georgia, Kentucky, and Missouri- for the reasons outlined in the previous paragraph- onto the193 from the "strongly" and "moderately" Republican States as seen in the chart above this verbiage and you have the GOP only 43 Electoral Votes away from the "big Prize"; yes, the "strongly" and "leaning" Democratic States together have the Democrats only 10 Electoral Votes away from the Presidency, but- again, as already noted- the Democrats cannot afford to lose too many of the States now listed above as "leaning Democratic", while they probably will have to well "eat into" "GOP Country" in the South [especially if they do have to do so in order to offset any losses to the Republicans within the "leaning Democrat" group] come Tuesday 2 November 2004 in order to have any real hope of preventing a George W. Bush second term).
This is a geographical listing of sections and regions that the United States has been divided into for various analytical and statistical purposes. These do NOT necessarily coincide with the current divisions used by the U.S. Census; however, they do have SOME basis in earlier Census divisions as well as various political analyses from the recent past as well as earlier. These are the sections and subsections which seem to have best fit the realities of American sectional and regional politics over time and are still somewhat borne out by today's political climate.
NORTHEAST Section (12 jurisdictions [11 Democrat, 1 Republican], 117 electoral votes [113 Democrat, 4 Republican])
SOUTH Section (14 jurisdictions [8 Republican, 6 Competitive], 173 electoral votes [119 Republican, 54 Competitive])
MIDWEST Section (12 jurisdictions [5 Democrat, 5 Republican, 2 Competitive], 124 electoral votes [65 Democrat, 28 Republican, 31 Competitive])
WEST Section (13 jurisdictions [5 Democrat, 8 Republican], 124 electoral votes [82 Democrat, 42 Republican])
The main difference in Sectional and Regional Political Strength between the two Major Parties, insofar as the most recent 2000 Presidential Election and the upcoming 2004 Presidential Election are concerned, is in the fact that post-2000 Census Reapportionment has changed the political landscape on which a Nationwide Election is played, however slightly. Basically, and solely due to Congressional Reapportionment, 10 Electoral Votes have moved from the NORTHEAST and MIDWEST, the two sections of the country which have- in recent decades- tended to be more "Democrat-friendly" than the other two sections- the SOUTH and WEST, to which these 10 Electoral Votes have moved. More to the point, however, is that 4 of the 5 new Electoral Votes in the WEST came to the heavily Republican Intermountain region, while all 5 of the new Electoral Votes in the SOUTH went "Deep" South and this observation, in and of itself, makes things at least a bit more difficult for Democrats in 2004, as opposed to the two elections that bought Bill Clinton to the Presidency [1992 and 1996] as well as the 2000 Presidential Election.
However, there is some good news for Democrats (despite Al Gore's failure to win the Presidency four years ago), if recent trends gleaned from Presidential Elections are any guide: for the Democrats appear to have shored up their base in both Sections of the United States that are, indeed, more friendly to them in Nationwide political contests. In 2000, the NORTHEAST consisted of 4 Democratic jurisdictions (defining these as any Presidential Election jurisdiction [State or equivalent- i.e., the District of Columbia] which are leaning, somewhat, moderately or strongly Democratic)- compared to 3 (leaning, somewhat, moderately or strongly) Republican jurisdictions and 5 "battleground" (truly) Competitive jurisdictions; for 2004, there are 11 Democratic jurisdictions (as defined herein): only New Hampshire remains a Republican jurisdiction. Note that all 5 truly Competitive jurisdictions in the NORTHEAST from 2000 (Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland and Pennsylvania) are no longer so and that all 5 are- for 2004- now at least leaning Democratic. Problem is, however, that the now-11 Democratic States in the NORTHEAST only net the Democrats 113 Electoral Votes (and only if, of course, the eventual Democratic presidential nominee can hold onto all of them come next 2 November).
In the MIDWEST, the Democrats have not done quite as well, although they have gone from 3 jurisdictions (Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin) with then-28 Electoral Votes to 5 jurisdictions (adding Illinois and Michigan) with now-65 Electoral Votes. In addition, they have- in terms of our Sectional/Regional Political Strength in Nationwide Elections- done a fair amount of "eating into" the Republican portions of this Section: the GOP, for 2000, had 6 jurisdictions with a total of 51 Electoral Votes here; for 2004, however, they have 5 jurisdictions with only 28 Electoral Votes. In a sense, then, the Democrats and Republicans have just about reversed fortunes in this Section; however, most of this is solely due to Illinois having moved from the somewhat Republican group to the leaning Democratic camp (indeed, Illinois- 22 Electoral Votes then, 21 Electoral Votes now- just about accounts for the 23 Electoral Vote decline re: Republican jurisdictions between then and now).
All in all, however, and putting the NORTHEAST and MIDWEST together, the Democratic (whether leaning, somewhat, moderately or strongly so) jurisdictions garner them a total of 178 Electoral Votes... assuming that the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee- whoever this may be- can hold onto all of these and also win California's 55 Electoral Votes, this still would have the Democrats 37 Electoral Votes shy of the White House and these 37 would then have to come from "somewhere else". Winning both truly Competitive Ohio and Missouri would, of course, get them to within 6 Electoral Votes of the Presidency (with Hawaii's 4 Electoral Votes- like California's, outside of these two Sections- in the "strongly Democratic" category, this would then put the Democrats tantilizingly close to the "Big Prize") but it has to be admitted that winning both of these Competitive States in the MIDWEST would be rather unlikely.
So the Democrats will- even if their presidential nominee wins all the States considered "Democratic" we have discussed so far- have to get something, outside of Hawaii and California (again, assuming the Democratic nominee wins California to begin with!) from the two Sections in which Republicans seem to hold so many more of the cards. Washington and Oregon- with a total of 18 Electoral Votes- lean Democratic in our Sectional/Regional table for 2004, just as they did in the one for 2000 and one or both of these could well put the Democrats over the top... but it can clearly be seen that, as already noted in the Political Strength analysis above on this page, the Democrats pretty much cannot afford to lose any State defined as "Democratic" on the tables on this page (and, besides having to hold "their" States in their NORTHEAST-MIDWEST "base" against any Republican "pick offs", they also must win California or these other States outside the Democrats' "base region" I have mentioned- Hawaii, Washington, Oregon [to which we might also add, say, truly Competitive West Virginia's 5 Electoral Votes]- can't possibly help them gain the White House).
For assessing the Republicans' chances to retain the Presidency, we will now have to take a look at the two Sections in which they are strongest- the SOUTH and the WEST. The GOP's strength in the SOUTH has already been discussed within the Political Strength analysis above-- to recap: if the Republicans can win all the States in the SOUTH they won in 2000 in the next Presidential Election (which, for reasons discussed earlier on this page, is not all that far-fetched an idea), they would then start off with a "base" of 173 Electoral Votes- which is only 5 Electoral Votes behind the "base" of 178 the Democrats garner from both their strongest Sections (thus, we have not even looked at the WEST yet and the GOP may well not be inordinately behind their rivals for the White House).
The 8 States defined as "Republican" (whether leaning, somewhat, moderately or strongly) in the SOUTH garner the GOP 119 Electoral Votes for 2004. 6 jurisdictions (Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee and West Virginia) remain truly Competitive, as they were in 2000, but- again, for reasons seen above in the Political Strength analysis- one has to admit that the Republicans have an upper hand in most of these Competitive Southern States.
As for the WEST, one of the potential "Achilles heel"s in this region for the Republicans might well be New Mexico's 5 Electoral Votes (in a State which moved from "somewhat Republican" for 2000 to "leaning Democratic" as we head into 2004- largely as a result of Al Gore's having won it in 2000). But, in the end, it all comes down to California in the WEST (obviously, the winner of California's 55 is in the "catbird seat": it, added merely to the "Republican"- as defined on this page- States in the SOUTH and WEST, 161 Electoral Votes-worth, would bring the GOP up to 216 Electoral Votes, just 54 shy of the "Big Prize" [also keep in mind that this is 17 Electoral Votes below where the entire Democratic NORTHEAST-MIDWEST "base" added to California's 55 would bring them!]
|Section and Region||Jurisdications||2000|
|Upper ["Border"] South||7||65||65||0|
|Lower ["Deep"] South||7||103||108||+5|
Geographical and Census References:
2004 General Election Home