Category Archives: Alabama
The 2012 Republican primary season did not wrap up on Super Tuesday, held on March 6, and it will probably not wrap up for quite some time. What I like to compare to a good TV show left the Super Tuesday states to move on to Dixie Tuesday on March 13, when Alabama, Mississippi, Hawaii and American Samoa voted. Between those two airings, however, some of the characters featured in some side-shows featuring contests in Kansas and three insular territories (Guam, the US Virgin Islands and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands) on March 10.
Super Tuesday had ended up being fairly favourable to the frontrunner/presumptive nominee of sorts, Mitt Romney, who took six of the ten states which held nominating events on that day, including the crucial state of Ohio. But at the same time, his weak performance in states like Tennessee and Oklahoma and the nature of his win in Ohio only reinforced the narrative about Romney’s flagrant weaknesses with the conservative (largely Southern) base of the party. He is a frontrunner, but a pathetically weak one at that, and one who can’t score knockout blows even with the most formidable warchest of cash of all the candidates. Rick Santorum came out of Super Tuesday like he came in: not particularly strong, not particularly weak but with a still strong profile as the main conservative opponent to Mitt Romney. Newt Gingrich, meanwhile, won the right to continue a serious campaign after he was able to win his homestate of Georgia in a landslide – but it was his only success of the night.
The next steps on the calendar didn’t play to Romney’s strengths: a Saturday caucus in Kansas and two primaries in Alabama and Mississippi – the buckle of the Bible Belt, the heart(s) of Dixie. Only the insular contests in Hawaii plus the tiny but disproportionately important US dependencies of Guam, the USVI, the Northern Marianas and American Samoa seemed to favour Romney.
Alabama and Missisippi were, of course, the most important contests out of the flurry of contests held in the past week. Their demographics, as relatively low-income, very conservative, Southern states were very unfavourable to Mitt Romney who has a big ‘Southern problem’ or at even ‘conservative problem’. These are states where, according to PPP, nearly half or over half of the GOP electorate thinks Obama is Muslim and where a sizable minority are opposed to interracial marriage.
However, Alabama and Mississippi’s anti-Romney vote was bound to be seriously divided between Southern native son but increasingly irrelevant Newt Gingrich and conservative but Yankee Rick Santorum. Gingrich doubled-down on Alabama and Missisippi, which, although he won’t admit it, were basically make or break for him, his last chance to prove himself and his Southern strategy. Rick Santorum has proven that he can win big with Midwestern conservatives, but his appeal to the South has thus far been limited to the more populist Republicans of the Upland South (Tennessee as a good example) and up until this point he had not really proven himself to be a serious contender in the Deep South – but perhaps that was because the two Deep South states which have voted – South Carolina and Georgia – did so in ‘special circumstances’ – SC before his surge 2.0 and Georgia was Newt’s home state.
The fact is that the Gingrich-Santorum fight for conservative prominence in Alabama and Mississippi was so evenly divided that Romney stood a real chance at creeping up the middle to win in Alabama and/or Mississippi, which would have been based on artificial grounds but which, in the media narrative, would have been a serious boost to Romney (along the lines of ‘Romney finally breaks through in South’). A Rasmussen poll showed him up 7 in Mississippi, while PPP had him up 1 in Alabama and down 2 to Gingrich in Mississippi. The Santorum camp seemed to have resigned on both states somewhat, given that no poll showed Santorum ahead in either though he did stand a fighting chance in both states.
Kansas and the Islands (March 10) caucuses
Rick Santorum 51.21%
Mitt Romney 20.93%
Newt Gingrich 14.40%
Ron Paul 12.62%
Mitt Romney is reported to have won all 9 delegates with 83% in a straw poll
Mitt Romney 87.26%
Rick Santorum 6.25%
Ron Paul 3.30%
Newt Gingrich 3.18%
US Virgin Islands
Ron Paul 29.17%
Mitt Romney 26.30%
Rick Santorum 5.99%
Newt Gingrich 4.69%
Rick Santorum easily won Kansas. It carried all the factors which favoured him: a Midwestern state, a caucus state and a very socially conservative state. Kansas’ caucus-goers have usually tended, especially in recent years, to favour social conservative insurgents rather than more moderate establishment candidates. In 2008, Mike Huckabee trounced opposition with nearly 60% of the vote in the Kansas caucuses despite John McCain having the nomination basically wrapped up by that point. Mitt Romney, who finds himself in a position and profile similar to McCain in 2008 (albeit far weaker), understood that and totally ignored the contest in Kansas. In fact, he put more effort in Guam’s territorial caucus than in Kansas, which did not go down well with KS GOP voters. Newt Gingrich, on the other hand, despite ignoring the state, did perform relatively well taking in 14.4% of the vote.
Rick Santorum won all but one county in Kansas (the gray counties did not hold caucuses: voters could caucus at any location within their congressional district). He won all of the state’s major areas, including regions which are of favourable nature to Mitt Romney. He won 59% in Wyandotte County (Kansas City), but the GOP base in that heavily Democratic inner-city county is minimal. He otherwise won 50.2% to Romney’s 23.7% in Shawnee County (Topeka), 38.5% to 28.2% in Riley County (Manhattan) and 51.5% to 21.2% in Saline County (Salina). He romped in Sedgwick County, home to the blue-collar city of Witchita (which has a large aviation, oil and gas sector), taking in 56.2% of the vote against 18% for Ron Paul and a pathetic distant third for Romney (13.4%). He even performed very strongly in Johnson County, where most Kansas Republicans live and a generally fairly moderate, affluent and suburban county to the south of Kansas City including growing suburbs such as Overland Park and Olathe. This is, of course, supposed to be favourable terrain for Romney, who has thus far usually performed best in these kinds of moderate, suburban and affluent areas. He did perform strongly, taking 30.1%, but Santorum won 47.1% of the vote. The only county which Romney won is tiny, rural Lane County in sparsely populated west Kansas. For all we know, there might be a Mormon family there.
Mitt Romney won the Pacific territorial caucuses with no contest. In Guam, where he sent his son Matt to campaign for him, he won all 9 delegates with only some 200 voters showing up (out of 159k inhabitants). In the Northern Marianas, he won 87.3% in a straw poll and took 9 delegates with only 848 voters showing up (out of 53.8k inhabitants). Surprisingly, Romney’s organization in the Caribbean territory of the US Virgin Islands was unusually terrible (the islands are heavily black and the local GOP is unorganized). Uncommitted won the most votes, with Ron Paul in second. However, by some quirk in the delegate allocation, Romney still walks out with 7/9 delegates from the USVI – 7 delegates won with only 101 votes!
Dixie Tuesday, Hawaii and American Samoa (March 13)
Rick Santorum 34.51%
Newt Gingrich 29.30%
Mitt Romney 28.99%
Ron Paul 4.97%
Rick Santorum 32.77%
Newt Gingrich 31.18%
Mitt Romney 30.59%
Ron Paul 4.40%
Mitt Romney 45.38%
Rick Santorum 25.30%
Ron Paul 18.28%
Newt Gingrich 11.04%
Mitt Romney is reported to have won all 9 delegates with no details of a straw poll
The polls which had shown Romney up in Alabama and Missisippi always sounded a bit strange to me, and, simply put, I refused to buy into a Romney victory in either state until I saw it. In both cases, I was correct, given that Romney placed third – though a fairly solid third – in both states. Mitt Romney did still win his two strongest showings to date in a Southern contest (Mississippi is the first Southern state where he has broken 30% – and, no, Florida isn’t Southern), and Newt Gingrich did win rather strong results.
Romney had kind of conceded that winning these two states would be hard, but his machine – especially his infamous SuperPAC, dumped tons of cash into both states and ended up outspending Santorum by the same 5-to-1 margin he outspent him in Ohio (which Romney narrowly won on March 6). Santorum was also outspent by Gingrich, who had put a lot of campaign efforts into Alabama and Mississippi, the core states for the success of his Southern Strategy. Romney’s inability to win in AL/MS despite another moneybomb in those two states reveal how important his conservative or Southern problem is. The base of the party, or at the very least the ‘very conservative’ voters who make up a good third of the party, are still either opposed to Romney or reluctant to support him.
Mitt Romney probably wouldn’t have cared too much about a Gingrich win in both states, which seemed like a fairly reasonable proposition going into election day. Gingrich, as a purely sectional candidate at this point, could not have used victories in either AL or MS to propell him back to the top. Since he collapse prior to Florida, Gingrich has had no major bump in the polls – in fact, his numbers have usually trended downwards. His credibility as a GOP candidate is, at this point, pretty low. If Newt had won both contests, Romney would remain in a comfortable position given that it would give Gingrich a compelling reason to stay in the race and continue splitting the vote with Santorum.
Rick Santorum’s double win does not net him a significant amount of delegates given that the delegate results out of AL and MS will end up pretty evenly split between the three candidates. In fact, Romney still wins a plurality of delegates from all March 13 contests. However, the double win in the Deep South shows that he is not a Huckabee-like sectional candidate and that his conservative appeal carries from Lake Michigan to the Gulf Coast. It solidifies him in a position as the sole anti-Romney candidate who still has a distant but solid chance at the denying Romney a majority of delegates (or, less likely, the nomination). While Romney didn’t have a major post-Super Tuesday surge, it is probably likely that Santorum could enjoy a small post-AL/MS surge.
More importantly, this is really the first time that there is significant (non-pundit) pressure on Gingrich to drop out and the first time that speculation on what a Gingrich-free race would look like. Newt Gingrich, again, seems extremely resilient, largely because he has nothing to lose at this point (it’s not like he’s going to run for office again after 2012) and because – I think – Adelson pumped some cash recently. But Jon Huntsman was adamant about staying in post-NH and Rick Perry was pretty confident (publicly) about fighting it out in SC. Neither did that. Gingrich is neither an Huntsman or a Perry and his campaign probably still has more chances to go somewhere than either of them did, but I don’t think that anybody can seriously make the case for Gingrich to win another state, save some weird Santorum collapse. A case could be made for Louisiana (March 24), but if Gingrich lost AL/MS, he won’t win Louisiana. If Gingrich doesn’t drop out, then Romney will win the nomination without sweating too much. If he does drop out soon enough – perhaps even before Illinois on March 20 (but I have a hard time seeing that) – then Romney could face a real challenge from Santorum and his very status as presumptive nominee could be put into serious jeopardy.
Ron Paul won his worst results of the race thus far (ignoring the CNMI). Alabama and Mississippi, are, of course, hardly receptive to a candidate like Ron Paul and the Paul brand of libertarianism has very little appeal in the Deep South in general. After an encouraging start, with strong showings in Iowa, NH and even South Carolina, Ron Paul’s showing in recent contests have not been spectacular. He hasn’t won any state and probably won’t win any state, and in most cases they are barely above his 2008 results (while in the early states they were far above his 2008 results). As the race carries on into what increasingly looks like a two-way contest between Mitt and Rick, Paul is reduced to his core of supporters, which, while still pretty sizable in a lot of states, cannot give him spectacular showings any longer.
In Alabama, there was a gender gap between Gingrich and Santorum. Gingrich won males 34-31 over Santorum, Romney taking 28%; but lost women handily to Santorum 38-25, with Romney taking 30%. In terms of age, Romney again won his core 65+ constituency with 37% to Gingrich’s 31%, while Santorum won all other age groups – including 41% with those 18-29 and 39% with those 30-44. Gingrich’s electorate, compared to Santorum’s, is older though not by that huge of a margin. Finally, in terms of income, Romney took 36% to Santorum’s 31% with the top 23% who made over $100k. Santorum won all other income levels, doing best (40-29 over Gingrich) with the poorest 17% (under $30k) while Gingrich did best (31% to Santorum’s 32%) among those making $30-50k.
In ideological terms, a surprisingly large 33% identified as moderates, but this is self-identifying ‘moderates’ by Alabama standards, voters which would probably be considered ‘very conservative’ in Vermont. Romney did win moderates 39-29 over Santorum, Gingrich taking only 18%. Santorum beat Gingrich 41-36 with the 36% who were ‘very conservative’, with Romney taking in only 18%. Gingrich beat Santorum and Romney (33-31-31) with ‘somewhat conservative’ voters. Republicans were 70% of the electorate, independents were 24%. Gingrich did much better (32% vs. 25%) with Republicans.
75% of voters were Evangelical Christians, and they picked Rick 35-32 over Gingrich, with Romney still taking 27% of their votes. Romney won the non-Evangelicals 34-31 over Santorum. The 46% who said that the religious beliefs of candidates mattered ‘a great deal’ chose Santorum 47-31 over Gingrich, with Romney winning only 16%. This is likely reflective of an anti-Mormon or at least coolness towards Mormons with Evangelical voters.
Romney still dominates on the electability question (46% said he would be the best to beat Obama), and won those who chose based on a candidate’s ability to defeat Obama (51-32 over Gingrich, Santorum at a horrible 15%). 50% of voters felt Romney was not conservative enough.
Early Mississippi exit polls had Romney winning, but exit polls are corrected nowadays. Once again, we find a clear gender gap: Santorum took females 35-29 over Gingrich (Romney: 32%) but lost males 31-34 to Gingrich. Gingrich won the oldest voters, taking 39% to Romney’s 35%. Santorum won all other voters, doing best (45%) with those aged 17-29. The income data is a bit weird: Romney’s best income group (30%) was the $50-100k, because he only 28% to Santorum’s 35% and Gingrich’s 30% in the $100-200k group. The $200k+ group was too small to get good data, but Romney did win the combined $100k+ group 34-31 over Santorum. Gingrich won the poorest voters (the 15% making under $30k) 35-32 over Santorum.
Again, 29% of people would like us to think that they’re moderates or liberals in the Mississippi Republican Party, but at any rate Romney won them 38-28 over Santorum. Santorum did win 39-35 over Gingrich in the 42% who were ‘very conservative’, Romney taking just 22%.
80% of voters were Evangelical Christians, and they picked Santorum 35-32 over Gingrich, with Romney still taking 29% of their votes. Romney did far better (26%) with the 47% of voters who said that the religious beliefs of candidates mattered ‘a great deal’, but Santorum won those voters easily.
Romney still dominates on the electability question (49% said he would be the best to beat Obama), and won those who chose based on a candidate’s ability to defeat Obama (46-30 over Gingrich, Santorum at 22%). 52% of voters felt Romney was not conservative enough.
The Alabama results present to us a nice three-way of the split of the state, which follows the state’s main regions rather neatly. As in the rest of the South, there is a pretty important split in Alabama between the Upland and Midlands/Lowlands of the state. The Uplands tend to be whiter, more populist (a more plebeian tradition inherited from the lack of large plantations in the hilly regions of the Uplands), more working-class (textiles, manufacturing, the TVA) and ever slightly more conservative. This is a region where insurgent conservatives like Mike Huckabee have done well and it was where Rick Santorum had performed best in South Carolina.
In Alabama, Santorum swept the Upland regions (north of Birmingham) which are heavily Evangelical and rather working-class areas. He took 40% in a good number of these Upland counties. There are a lot of Dixiecrats in these old Democratic strongholds (save for Winston County), and a lot of them still self-ID as Democrats despite voting increasingly Republican at almost all levels – and this might explain why Santorum underpolled so much. Social conservatism is certainly big in this region, and it was where opposition to interracial marriage was highest in 2000 and where opposition to school desegregation was highest in 2004.
But Rick Santorum also performed well in the urban centres of northern Alabama, including in places where Romney had done well in 2008 and where he needed to do well this year. Santorum won Madison County, home to Huntsville’s increasingly white-collar workforce of affluent air-and-space engineers and rocket scientists, which was where Romney had done best in 2008 (with 29%). Santorum took 33.3% to Romney’s 30.5%, a major underperformance for Romney compared to 2008. In neighboring Limestone County, where Romney took 27% in 2008, he won only 23.7% this year, placing third behind Santorum (40.4%) and Gingrich (28.2%). Romney also placed third, with 25.1%, in working-class Decatur (Morgan County) where Santorum took 39.8% to Gingrich’s 27.8%. Santorum also won working-class Gadsen (Etowah County), with 40.1% to Gingrich’s 29.8%.
Newt Gingrich did best in the Midlands, especially the Black Belt, which concentrates the bulk of Alabama’s black population (which of course does not vote in GOP primaries), largely because the flatter Midlands were the core of the Southern plantation economy. The Midlands have retained a bias towards somewhat conservative establishment candidates – John McCain did best in the Midlands in South Carolina but also Alabama, and otherwise tend to be slightly less populist (perhaps because of the traditions associated with the once-powerful patrician plantocracy) and ever slightly so less socially conservative and Evangelical (interracial marriage and school desegregation found higher support, although support or opposition for both still broke largely on racial lines). Gingrich had performed best in the Midlands region of South Carolina, which is similar to this part of Alabama. However, Gingrich is not much of an establishment candidate any longer – in fact, his decrepit campaign presents itself as something of a long-shot, insurgent, screw-the-establishment conservative campaign. Gingrich’s appeal in this part of Alabama may simply be due to proximity to Georgia, though his support in the Midlands does extend all the way to the Mississippi state line.
Mitt Romney’s support was, of course, heavily urban. He won Jefferson County, home to Birmingham and some of its affluent suburbs (Mountain Brook, Vestavia Hills), though his margin of victory there was certainly far from what he would have needed to win statewide. He took 34.8% to Santorum’s 30.4%. Worst, Romney lost Shelby County – the wealthiest county in Alabama, including some of Birmingham’s newer affluent exurbs – to Santorum, 30.7% to 33.9%. Shelby County, like most similar newer suburban or exurban counties in the Deep South, is one of the state’s most Republican counties. Similar to what we observed in South Carolina, north Florida, Georgia and Tennessee, Southern suburbia – even if affluent – is probably too conservative to vote heavily for Romney.
Romney lost more blue-collar Tuscaloosa County (Tuscaloosa) to Santorum, 35.6% to 29.7%.
Romney carried Montgomery County, home to the state capital and some of its affluent suburbs, with 36.7% to Gingrich’s 30.5%. Romney also carried Mobile and Baldwin counties, the two Alabama Gulf Coast counties home to defense-driven industries and affluent suburbs of Mobile and condominiums along the Gulf Coast. Romney won Mobile County with 35.6% to Santorum’s 33.5%, and won Baldwin County (Gulf Shores, Spanish Fort) convicingly with 36.2% to Santorum’s 29.3%.
The map of the results in Mississippi is a bit more random. Firstly, Mitt Romney won far more counties in Mississippi than in Alabama or the rest of the Deep South states for that matter. His performance in the state, as noted above, was the best result for Romney in the South (30.6%). Based solely on demographics – Mississippi is poorer and less urban than Alabama – Romney shouldn’t have done that well. However, Mississippi politics is still fairly hierarchical and the weight of old paternalistic, top-down relations still have a big impact in Mississippi. The Mississippi GOP bench is fairly ‘establishment’ rather than ‘insurgent’ conservative (like Alabama is sometimes) with the likes of former Governor Haley Barbour and incumbent Governor Phil Bryant, both of whom endorsed Romney. Barbour’s political machine is apparently rather powerful in Mississippi, which might explain why Romney did so well.
If we look at Romney’s support, it mixes his traditional urban centres of affluence with most of the heavily black Mississippi Delta (a very poor area) – where turnout, shockingly, was extremely low (below 1,000 votes in the most heavily black areas, including those two dark blue Gingrich counties on the river). Again, the Mississippi Delta areas really have the plantocratic tradition of the Midland South – Mississippi is by and large a ‘Midland’ state. Romney’s establishment image and support might explain his support there, where hierarchical and patriarchal traditions in social relations are perhaps more dominant and leads, in GOP contests, to a bias for the establishment favourite. Newt Gingrich often placed second in the Delta counties, with Santorum doing quite poorly.
Mitt Romney’s second area of dominance were the rather affluent, in some cases very affluent, suburbs of Jackson, the state capital. Romney carried Hinds County (Jackson) with 40.6% to Gingrich’s 27.5%, in a county where the GOP electorate is probably much wealthier than the county’s average resident. He also won convincingly in Madison County (Jackson’s very wealthy northern suburbs, including Ridgeland) with 42.9% to Gingrich’s 26.6%. He also won Rankin County (Jackson’s eastern suburbs) with 33.9% to Gingrich’s 32%.
Along the Gulf Coast, Romney carried Harrison County (Gulfport-Biloxi) with 32% to Santorum’s 30.8% and also won Jackson County (Pascagoula) with 33.8% to Santorum’s 32.5%. The Gulfport-Biloxi includes wealthier retirement communities, wealthy seaside residents and a significant military presence. It is also more moderate than the rest of the state, in part because of casinos along the coast (or is it the other way around?). Still, Romney would have needed stronger margins in Harrison and Jackson counties to win statewide, to match his big margins in Madison and Hinds counties.
The other two Romney counties which are less than 40% black are Lafayette County (Oxford) and Oktibbeha County (Starkville), home to Ole Miss in Oxford and Mississippi State in Starkville, both of which are not as liberal as other American college towns. College towns would seem like a place where Romney should do well, but he lost the liberal college towns of Gainesville (Alachua County, Florida) and Athens (Athens County, Ohio) by fairly big margins and he lost Lee County (Auburn, Alabama) 29.6 to 32.9% for Santorum.
If Mitt Romney did best in counties with the largest black populations, Newt Gingrich did well in the counties with a significant but not particularly large black population – that is to say, most of the coastal Lowlands (Pine Belt region) and other counties bordering Alabama or the Mississippi Delta region. Gingrich won Hattiesburg (Forrest County) with 35.8% to Santorum’s 29%. As to why Gingrich (and not, say, Santorum) performed best in these types of counties and whether the size of the black population has something to do with it is anyone’s guess.
Rick Santorum did best in the counties which have the lowest proportions of blacks in the state, regions which usually tend to be fairly working-class because of the lack of old plantation agriculture. Santorum clearly dominated in northeastern Mississippi, which is the only Uplandish region of the state (it is clearly distinct from the rest of the state if you look at recent and older election maps) and the region with the smallest black population. He won big in Lee County, the major urban area of the region (Tupelo), taking 41.6% to Gingrich’s 29.8%.
Santorum, in no small part, owes his victory and Romney his defeat to the results in DeSoto County, a booming heavily white county located just south of Memphis, TN. Based solely on income – it is the wealthiest county in the state – then it should be natural Romney country and certainly a place Romney needed to win if he was to win statewide. But DeSoto, like other heavily white, upper middle-class high-growth counties in the South, is less moderate, affluent older suburbs and more rather affluent but white flight exurbia/suburbia. As I pointed out in Georgia and Tennessee on March 6, Romney did poorly in those types of counties. No different in Mississippi. He lost DeSoto by a wide margin to Santorum: 28.8% against 37% for Santorum.
A world away in Hawaii, Mitt Romney won a comfortable victory in the state’s first GOP nominating contest either in a long time or ever. In 2008, the Hawaii caucuses held no presidential straw poll. Mitt Romney’s victory, which ended up narrower than many had thought, was won in large part on the back of a big win in Honolulu County, which is also the state’s most populous county. He took 51.9% in the county, against 25.9% for Santorum. Honolulu County mixes a bunch of demographics favourable to Mitt Romney: Mormons (in Laie), seniors, defense-driven communities and affluent suburbs/urban areas.
I sadly don’t know much at all about voting patterns in Hawaii, and even less about the few Republicans on the island. Asians actually tend to be slightly more Republicans than whites in Hawaii. Mitt Romney won two of the other insular counties by smaller margins (36.2-28.4 in Kauai and 30.7-29.8 in Maui). Ron Paul won the Big Island (Hawaii County) with 32.1% to Romney’s 30.7%. Your guess about the GOP electorate on the Big Island is as good as mine.
Following these races, the next major race is the Illinois primary on March 20. Before that, Missouri begins its binding caucuses on March 17 but no presidential straw poll is being held at those caucuses. Santorum, who won the state’s non-binding primary in early February, should win the plurality of delegates out of the state unless the rules are weird. Following that, Puerto Rico holds a GOP primary on March 18. This is the first Republican nominating contest in Puerto Rico which is seriously contested, and the first GOP primary. It is largely an unknown quantity, given that the island’s demographics are a world away from anything we’ve seen. The electorate will be made up in overwhelming majority of Catholic “Hispanics”, and the only thing we know about GOP Hispanics in this contest is that Mitt Romney won huge with Cubans in Florida. Romney should win Puerto Rico easily, with the backing of the state’s pro-statehood Republican-PNP Governor Luis Fortuño, and with Santorum’s comment about Puerto Ricans needing to learn English if they wanted to become a state.
The Illinois primary favours Mitt Romney. A lot of votes are stored in Chicago’s ring of white-collar, affluent and moderate suburbs which is Romney country if I’ve ever seen it. Rick Santorum should perform strongly in southern Illinois, which is rather Southern in its politics and culture, and perhaps also the more rural parts of “Midwesternish” Illinois. A Gingrich withdrawal between now and then would surely help Santorum and give him a fighting chance even in Illinois, but it’s tough seeing Gingrich drop out just yet.
The good news about the increasing likelihood of a rather protracted contest like this is that it will make for some beautiful maps and a great opportunity to learn about the different “types” of Republican voters and their presidential preferences.
George Wallace, who served seventeen years as Governor of Alabama, is known to the world for a variety of things but most notably as the icon of racist resistance to Civil Rights in the 1960s. However, popular views of Wallace are characterized by broad stereotypes and symbols which ignore many interesting aspects of his career and of Alabama politics in general. This post aims not to ‘revise’ popular judgement on Wallace, but rather to offer an analysis of his career and of Alabama state politics between the 50s and 80s through use of one of my favourite mediums, maps.
The map below shows the results of all Alabama elections, including (obviously) primaries in which Wallace (or his surrogate wife Lurleen) was involved in between 1958 and 1982. Results are obtained from OurCampaigns.org, which despite being a headache to navigate offers an unexploited wealth of information about American politics. Its sections on Alabama are particularly top-notch.
Similar to all other Confederate states, Alabama was dominated by the Democratic Party between the end of Reconstruction in 1876 and, at the presidential level, 1964. At the state level, however, Democrats held the governor’s mansion between 1874 and 1987 and the state legislature only fell to the Republicans in 2010. Fairly obviously, the Democratic dominance of the state worked alongside disenfranchisement of blacks and poor whites through poll taxes, literacy tests and documents such as the 1901 Alabama Constitution. A copy of a voter registration form in Alabama is here, and a copy of a sample civic literacy test is here. Both are fascinating documents, and even those with good knowledge of American constitutional law and politics will find some parts of the literacy test hard. Section 182 of the Alabama Constitution, which has not been repealed, provides a good example of legal disenfranchisement of a whole slew of people, notably those who are “idiots” and those convicted of “crimes against nature” (homosexuality), “miscegenation” or “moral turpitude”.
However, unlike Mississippi and South Carolina during the era of the Solid South, Alabama was not entirely a one-party authoritarian state. Those who could vote could do so rather freely, which explains why Democrats never reached the peaks achieved by Democrats in Mississippi and South Carolina where the vote was rigged to result in elections giving over 95% to Democrats. Yet, turnout in Alabama was, like in the rest of the Solid South, ridiculously low.
Prior to the rise of George Wallace, the Alabama Democratic Party lacked a dominant faction or figure similar to Georgia’s Eugene Talmadge, Memphis’ E.H. Crump’s machine or Virginia’s Byrd Organization. There were even some remarkably progressive moderates within the party, most notably Big Jim Folsom, who served as governor between 1947 and 1951 and again between 1955 and 1959 (governors could not succeed themselves until 1968). Folsom, a populist who achieved some social measures, was also a moderate on the race issue, trying to build a coalition of blacks and poor whites to break the dominance of the Democratic Party’s elite leadership. He was also, however, very corrupt.
The 1958 Democratic primary included a whole barrage of candidates, the most notable of which were Attorney General John Patterson and Barbour County circuit judge George C. Wallace. Patterson was a hardcore segregationist and received the endorsement of the KKK. On the other hand, Wallace, who had been a rather liberal judge, ran as a racial moderate and even received the endorsement of the NAACP. Patterson received 31.8% in the first round and Wallace got 26.3%. The map reflects a very friends-and-neighbors type of primary, which is commonplace in a lot of primaries then and now. In the runoff, Patterson handily defeated the moderate Wallace with 55.7% against 44.3% for Wallace. Wallace’s strength was confined to his native southeastern Alabama, notably taking 91.5% in Barbour County.
A bitter ambitious Wallace commented that evening that he had been “outniggered” by John Patterson and vowed to never be “outniggered” again. Most former racists who seek forgiveness years later often claim that they were not racists by conviction, but rather race-baiters by necessity. Patterson, who is still alive and voted for Obama in 2008, commented that you had no chance at winning if you weren’t a race-baiter. Wallace realized that in 1958 and by the 1962 Democratic gubernatorial primary, he was the traditional radical segregationist candidate. Beyond the racial rhetoric, however, Wallace was more of a ‘populist’ than a ‘conservative’ or ‘reactionary’. As a state legislators, he had decried the “Big Mules” – bankers, railroad owners and cotton mill owners. As governor, he had a populist economic policy which included rural development and free textbooks for schoolchildren. When he ran for President, he campaigned as the Southern populist against the wealthy classes and supported a generous welfare state – for those who ‘deserved it’. Yet, economic populism never took the forefront in Wallace’s early campaigns. As he noted, white voters were ambivalent when he talked to them about roads and such stuff, but they “stomped the floor” when he talked about “the niggers”.
Wallace was opposed in 1962 by his former mentor, former Governor Jim Folsom, who was disappointed that Wallace had abandoned his moderate integrationist ideals. Folsom was one of the rare few Southern politicians who remained true to his beliefs, and who despite being a crook, merits some recognition as an early racial moderate. Folsom, although he was from Wallace’s region of southeastern Alabama, built up his electoral base in northern Alabama. Northern Alabama was outside King Cotton’s great empire in 1860, and as such has always had a smaller black population (which led to less racial tensions) and had, after the New Deal, a working-class tradition fueled by the load of TVA dams in the region around Huntsville. Northern Alabama was also slightly less Democratic than the Black Belt, because poorer white farmers and workers felt little attachment to the slave-owning plantocracy of the Black Belt. ‘Less Democratic’ means that Democrats won 65-75% instead of 75-95% of the vote, with the notable exception of Winston County, a hardcore Unionist enclave dating back to 1860 (as such, it was the Republican Party’s only base in the state until the growth of suburbia).
The other main candidate was Tuscaloosa attorney Ryan de Graffenried, who was also a racial moderate. Folsom’s chances were hurt both by the fact that his corruption hurt him with the middle-class voters and because he had already taken to the bottle by 1962 and appeared visibly drunk in a television appearance. Graffenried, strong in urban areas such as Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, beat out Folsom for second taking 25.2% against 25.05% for Folsom. Wallace took 32.49%. Eugene ‘Bull’ Connor, the man who later sent the dogs after black protesters in Birmingham, took 3.6% and ended up in fifth.
Wallace easily beat the moderate Graffenried in the runoff, taking 55.9% against 44.1% for Graffenried who carried Birmingham, Tuscaloosa and parts of Folsom’s primary base in northern Alabama. He also won heavily black Macon County with 60.3%, which means that blacks had gained the right to vote there prior to the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Wallace, however, easily trounced him with over 70% of the vote in the rest of the Black Belt and southeastern Alabama. Wallace won the general election, and upon his inauguration in January 1963 pronounced the words for which he will stick to him: segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.
Deeply ambitious and with eyes on the Presidency, Wallace did not like term limits much when his term came to a close in 1966. He attempted to change the constitution, but when that failed, he got his wife Lurleen (who already had cancer) to run as his surrogate. Lurleen Wallace won the primary by the first round, taking 54% against 19.4% for Alabama’s liberal Attorney General Richmond Flowers. John Patterson won a pitiful 3.5% and Folsom won 2.7%. By 1966, blacks had started to be registered en masse following the VRA, and they largely voted for the liberal Flowers over the Wallaces. Wallace won with only 63.4% in the general election, with conservative Republican representative (elected in the 1964 Goldwater landslide of the South) James D. Martin winning 31%.
Lurleen Wallace died of cancer on July 5, 1968; while her husband was running for President for the American Independent Party. Discussion of Wallace’s presidential campaigns would require a whole new post, so this will focus only on the results of the 1968 election in Alabama. Needless to say, Alabama was Wallace’s best state with 65.9% of the vote against 18.7% for Humphrey and 14% for Nixon. Blacks had started to be registered by 1968, but they hadn’t started voting en masse. As such, Wallace won most of the Black Belt, albeit by narrow margins while Humphrey won only three heavily black counties such as Macon. Wallace had tremendous appeal throughout Alabama, even in the least Dixiecratic area of northern Alabama (he even won Unionist Winston County).
As much as Wallace had fought tooth-and-nail against desegregation in 1963, by 1968 he had slightly modified his rhetoric to fit the day. Instead of going with outright racism and direct abuse on African-Americans, he preferred to talk in terms of ‘states’ rights’, ‘law and order’ , ‘welfare cheats’ and an African-American ‘bloc vote’. As such, Wallace’s 1968 campaign was different from the one-issue ephemeral Dixiecrat campaigns such as Strom Thurmond’s 1948 campaign. He had a broader message, and appealed to a much wider electorate than the traditional racist Dixiecrats of the Deep South.
Lurleen’s Lieutenant Governor, Albert Brewer, succeeded her in office in 1968. Originally a Wallace conservative, Brewer completely overhauled his rhetoric and became a moderate, perhaps because that would be the only way for him to stay in power in his own right. To stay in power, Brewer was the first governor to directly appeal to black voters in an attempt to build himself a liberal coalition of blacks, working-class poor whites and urban intellectuals. Wallace, who lived for electoral campaigns, was eying a comeback in 1970 which would consolidate his local power ahead of another run for President in 1972, this time as a Democrat.
The 1970 primary was Wallace’s toughest and his local and national political career hinged on its outcome. Nixon, carefully calculating that a Wallace defeat would likely weaken Wallace’s chances in 1972, endorsed Brewer. Wallace retorted with one of Alabama’s nastiest campaigns, calling Brewer a sissy. Brewer made much of Wallace’s ambitions, notably by hammering that he’d be a “full-time governor”, while Wallace campaigned on more national issues such as busing. In the May 5 primary, Brewer edged out Wallace with 42% against 40.8%. Businessman Charles Woods took 14.7%, with arch-racist KKK leader Asa Carter taking 1.5% and Folsom taking 0.4%. Wallace lost the Black Belt and the urban centres of Birmingham, Montgomery, Huntsville and Tuscaloosa while performing poorly in northern Alabama.
In the June 2 runoff, Wallace saved his political career, edging out Brewer with 51.56% against 48.44% for the sitting Governor. Brewer trounced him in the Black Belt, Birmingham and the Huntsville area, but Wallace prevailed almost everywhere else. Wallace won 74.5% of the vote in the general election, with his closest contender being black activist John Cashin of the pro-civil rights Alabama National Democratic Party. Cashin won four majority black counties.
An assassination attempt on May 15, 1972 left Wallace paralyzed and aborted his successful presidential campaign, but Wallace ran for reelection in 1974. It was his easiest primary ever, trouncing Gene McLain 64.8% to 30%. Folsom took 3%. McLain did well in the Black Belt but only won Macon County. Wallace served as governor until 1978, at which point the Democrats nominated former Republican Fob James, a conservative, who was not connected to any old faction and won the primaries. Fob James was a poor governor, though he returned to power in 1994, this time as a Republican.
By this time, Wallace had converted to George Wallace version 4.0. He had become a born-again Christian and apologized to the black community for his past wrongs. A shadow of his past self, Wallace sought a final term in 1982. He faced Lt. Governor George McMillan and Speaker Joe McCorquodale in the primary. Wallace dominated the first round, taking 42.5% against 29.6% for McMillan and 25.1% for McCorquodale. For the first time in his career, Wallace won a substantial amount of black votes, enough black votes to save him in the runoff. Wallace defeated McMillan 51.2% to 48.8%. Unlike Brewer in 1970, McMillan didn’t trounce Wallace in the Black Belt (though he probably narrowly won it). For the first time since 1966, the Republican candidate, Montgomery mayor Emory M. Folmar, was not a sacrificial lamb and stood a decent chance. Wallace won 57.6% of the vote against 39.1% for Folmar. Folmar won the urban areas of Montgomery, Birmingham and Huntsville. However, Wallace won the Black Belt for the first time in the last election of his career.
George Wallace was perhaps not the arch-racist he was made out to be. Arguably, he was never a hardcore fanatic racist. Instead, he was an opportunistic race-baiter who used race to get elected, as Patterson admitted. When Wallace lost in 1958, perhaps running as his true populist self, he jumped on the race-baiting discriminatory rhetoric which Patterson had won on and went on to win on it in his own right in 1962. However, when the days of segregation were past, Wallace adapted his views. While he hadn’t done a full 180 by 1968 and 1970, he had moderated the race-baiting and turned it into a mix of traditional Dixie populism and right-wing law n’ order rhetoric. The question is whether Wallace and others’ opportunistic race-baiting is better or worse than the ideological fanatical racism.
His 1968 campaign for President laid the groundwork for the Southern Strategy which Nixon won on in 1972 and, arguably, previewed the gradual evolution of working-class white voters, dismayed by the violence of 1968 and the liberal society of the national Democrats, away from the New Deal Democrats towards the Republicans. This shift perhaps culminated in 2008, when Obama did almost historically poorly for a Democrat with certain old white working-class voters. In this, Wallace’s campaign was significant in that it previewed the future Republican rhetoric which has moved away from old ‘intellectual’ conservatism towards the ‘populist’ conservatism of people such as Sarah Palin. As such, maybe it isn’t shocking that George Wallace’s politically unfortunate son is a Tea Partier.
Alabama, Mississippi and New Mexico held primaries ahead of the US midterm elections this November. In Alabama, the offices of Governor and Senator were up, while in New Mexico the office of Governor was up. No Senate or gubernatorial seat is up this year in Mississippi.
Alabama and Mississippi
Incumbent Republican Governor Bob Riley (R-AL), elected narrowly in 2002 defeating Democratic incumbent Don Siegelman and re-elected easily in 2006, is term-limited. Despite continued support for Democrats of the Blue Dog-Dixiecrat type at the legislative level, the Republicans seem to have built a hold on the Governor’s mansion and they could even conquer the state legislature in November.
The race to succeed Riley on the Republican side is wide open with the top contenders being former State Senator Bradley Byrne (the most moderate candidate), socially conservative State Rep Robert J. Bentley, “Speak American” businessman Tim James and well-known “Ten Commandments Judge” Roy Moore. The Democratic field was an heavy race between Agriculture Commish Ron Sparks, who supports HCR-public option (though supported Hillary in 2008) and African-American Congressman Artur Davis (AL-7) who voted against HCR and won much ire from his black voters base in his effort to posture himself as a conservative ahead of November.
In one of the biggest upsets in Alabama history, Davis, who led polling and fundraising and was rumoured to have the support of the black machine (likely a majority of Democrats in Alabama), managed to lose epically 62-38. On the Republican side, Byrne came out on top ahead of Bentley and James, who are practically tied, while Moore got a paltry 19%. Byrne will face either Bentley or James in a runoff on July 13, the nature of his opponent being fully known once there’s a recount for second.
Ron Sparks (D) 62.4%
Artur Davis (D) 37.6%
Bradley Byrne (R) 27.9%
Richard J. Bentley (R) 25.2%
Tim James (R) 25.1%
Roy Moore (R) 19.3%
Bill Johnson (R) 1.7%
Charles Taylor (R) 0.5%
James Potts (R) 0.3%
A cursory glance at the Democratic map reveals the utter failure of Davis. He lost AL-7, his own district, lost the black belt quite badly (it really does prove that his conservative posturing and voting against the Obama agenda wasn’t the road to victory with black folks) and trailed very badly in white northern and southern Alabama. To be fair, Davis had bad relations with high-ranking black or white Democratic Party officials in the state, and the establishment did not support him. He only won generally urban or suburban areas, while Sparks raked up huge margins in northern and southern Alabama, parts of the black belt and even won Birmingham. A snippet from a Politico article is quite amusing in this regard:
In Lowndes County, where 70 percent of the population is black, Sparks, who is white, won by 29 points. In Perry County, with a 67 percent black population, his victory margin was 44 percent.
On the Republican side, it does appear that Byrne, the most moderate candidate, won the support of urban areas (winning the counties containing Birmingham, Mobile, Montgomery and Huntsville) while the more conservative other candidates split the votes in rural areas, except for Bentley who got a huge base of support around his home turf but little spread elsewhere, unlike James or Moore.
Incumbent Senator Richard Shelby, in office since 1987 and a former Democrat (until 1994) is on the road to a landslide re-election, but he did face primary opposition from tea-bagger Clint Moser (Shelby is big on pork and patronage). Shelby won 84-16. In the race to lose the November matchup in a landslide, William Barnes, some attorney guy, won 61-39 against teacher Simone De Moore.
In a big House race in the northern 5th CD, won by Parker Griffith as a Democrat in 2008, but which was ‘gained’ by the Republicans after Griffith crossed the floor, Griffith (R) was defeated badly by Madison County Commissioner Mo Brooks 51 to 33. He’ll face former Howell Heflin staffer Steve Raby in November. In AL-2, narrowly picked up by conservative Democrat Bobby Bright in 2008, Republican Montgomery City Council member Martha Roby (48.6%) will face prolific fundraiser-businessman Rick Barber (28.5%) in a runoff. In a race which Davis may regret he was not in (AL-7), there will be a runoff between lawyer Terri Sewell and the liberal left blogger’s pick Sheila Smoot. Sewell has 36.8% against 28.5% against Smoot. The Republicans also managed to find four potential candidates here, but nobody cares, though the Democrats are letting Republicans win by acclamation in districts 1, 4 and 6.
In a very much watched race for the Republican nomination for Agriculture Commish, Dale Peterson, of YouTube fame for his campaign video, is out of the runoff after getting 28% against 37% for John McMillan who’ll face yard-sign stealer and “dummy” Dorman Grace (35%). Apparently the thugs an’ criminal who don’t give a rip about Al’bama won…
In Mississippi, only House seats are up in November, making it quite off the radar. In MS-01, Republican State Sen. Alan Nunnelee will face Travis Childers after having won 51.8% against 32.8% for Henry Ross and a pitiful 15.4% for Sarah Palin’s Angela McGlowan. In MS-04, Congressman Gene Taylor (D) will face State Rep. Steven Palazzo in November, a strong challenge. Palazzo won 57-43 against a businessman.
The big race in New Mexico this year is the one to succeed term-limited Democratic incumbent Bill Richardson, a 2008 presidential contender. Lt. Governor Diane Denish was acclaimed on the Democratic side, while the Republican field was relatively wide open. Susana Martinez, an attorney, was the heavy favourite against former state party chair Allen Weh. Doug Turner, a political consultant and Pete Domenici Jr. (the son of former U.S. Senator Pete Domenici) were the also-rans. Amusingly he did lead a poll in February, but maybe assuming you’d roll to victory on your last name isn’t the best of ideas. Domenici’s candidacy never got off the ground, despite the name. Martinez won 50.7% against 27.6% for Weh, 11.6% for Turner and a ridiculous 7% for Domenici. Denish is the light favourite, but polls have shown the right to be quite tight.
In NM-03, gained by the Democrat Harry Teague after the retirement of Republican incumbent Steve Pearce (who ran for Senate against Tom Udall and failed hard), is shaping up to be tight after Pearce won the right to contest for his old seat after squashing Cliff Pirtle 85-15. In NM-03, a lost cause for the Republicans, Paulite Adam Kokesh lost 71-29.
Much more fun next week, June 8, with voting in California (in a Republican Senate primary between former HP executive Carly Fiorina and moderate former Congressman Tom Campbell), South Carolina (where Republican gubernatorial Niki Haley had an affair), Nevada or Maine (where nobody knows what’s going on) among others.