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Barack Obama & the South: Forget about it, says an expert

July 1, 2008 | 12:07 pm

As of now, Barack Obama seems committed to competing vigorously in Georgia and North Carolina -- the two states are among 18 that have been targeted for two waves of general election ads by his campaign.

But Obama's ultimate chances of carrying those two states -- as well as Mississippi, where some of his Protestors wave Confederate flags last year in South Carolina in support of the flag's presence above the state's Capitol dome supporters believe he has a shot -- are nil, argues Thomas Schaller, a political science professor at the University of Maryland's Baltimore County campus.

Schaller brings an impressive pedigree to the table in making his case; he's the author of the 2006 book “Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South.” As summed up in this blurb, Schaller contended that for Democrats -- certainly those seeking the presidency -- "spending valuable resources in Southern states is a dangerously self-destructive strategy..."

In an Op-Ed piece in today's New York Times, he focuses his general thesis on the particulars of Obama's candidacy. For instance, he walks through the prospect of the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee maximizing black turnout in Mississippi and winning 95% of that vote (John Kerry corralled 90% four years ago), and concludes that Obama still would come up short in the state.

A major hurdle for Obama throughout the Deep South, Schaller writes is this: "the more blacks there are in a Southern state, the more likely the white voters are to vote Republican."

The one state in the region that Schaller thinks Obama has a "reasonable chance" of winning is Virginia -- in part because the percentage of its black population is low, compared to most other Southern states, and in part because, he writes, it has been transformed by a "huge influx of upscale non-Southerners."

Virginia also is one of the states where the recent spate of Obama ads has been airing (a list that contains several traditionally GOP states, as we noted previously).

Despite Schaller's overview, many Democrats in the South are feeling feisty these days, as illustrated by this news from Mississippi.

President Bush traveled there today ...

... to headline a lunchtime fundraiser for Sen. Roger Wicker, who is seeking a full term for himself after taking over the seat Trent Lott gave up awhile back.

As the MSNBC political shop noted this morning, the state Democratic Party scheduled a news conference preceding the event to “outline why a high-dollar political fundraiser headlined by … Bush proves that electing Roger Wicker as U.S. senator and John McCain as president means nothing more than a third Bush term and a continuation of failed Bush policies.”

MSNBC's First Read political note then added a bit of incredulous perspective. "Imagine: The Mississippi Dem Party believes it can run an anti-Bush campaign against McCain (and Wicker). This ain’t Ohio or Michigan or even New Jersey -- it’s frickin’ Mississippi."

-- Don Frederick

Photo credit: Associated Press

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