Tuesday’s elections didn’t work out the way the Democratic party wanted them to. Here in Georgia, Republicans took the Governor and Senate seats by a much wider margin than polls suggested they would. John Barrow lost the 12th District congressional seat to Rick Allen. The GOP held on to its State House Seats. And of course, it was a good night for Republicans across the country. Two likely reasons: Voters expressed their displeasure with the policies of President Barack Obama and, especially in the South, there was a dwindling number of white voters filling a Democratic ballot.
The New York Times today takes a look at what the Democrats might do to rebuild their presence in the South. Here in Georgia, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed maintains that the party should be able to take advantage of an increasingly diverse and younger population:
Kasim Reed, the mayor of Atlanta, said he still believed that this was the way forward for Democrats in Georgia.
“We needed to change the electorate,” Mr. Reed said. He faulted the campaigns of Michelle Nunn, who was following in her father’s footsteps in running for the Senate, and Jason Carter, a grandson of Jimmy Carter who was running for governor, for not spending more time and resources to register and turn out what he said were roughly 600,000 unregistered black voters in Georgia, and 200,000 unregistered Latinos.
Yet, increasing the number of African American, Hispanic, and Asian voters may not be enough, especially when exit polls in the Peach State show 42% of Hispanics voted for David Perdue, black voters made up 29% of the electorate, and only 23% of white voters cast a ballot for Michelle Nunn.
“In order to have even a chance to compete, something’s got to change for the Democrats in the South,” said Geoff Garin, a Democratic consultant and pollster. “Even with increased African-American and Hispanic participation, it’s simply not a viable situation to struggle to get above the mid-20s with white voters.” Bill Fletcher, a Democratic consultant who was raised in rural Tennessee, agreed that this year’s race was mainly a rejection of Mr. Obama, adding that his presidency had given rise to “a nasty strain of racism that many of us thought and hoped had gone away.”
For their part, Republicans can’t rest on their laurels. President Obama will be out of office in two years, and the GOP will no longer be able to use his image to drive turnout. Similarly, the older, white voters (64% of those over age 65 voted for Perdue) that makes up the GOP base isn’t going to be around forever.
Is it the case that changing demographics are eventually going to guarantee the Peach State turning blue, or will the Republicans figure out a way to broaden its base beyond an aging white men? The answer to that question may well determine the political future of Georgia.