The Emerging New Electoral Landscape

As the dust settles from 2020 (minus Trump’s last ditch attempts to stay in office) and more data becomes available the political and electoral future of America is becoming clearer. Much has been written about the class divide in America and how it drove voting habits but in this article I want to focus on how the electoral map is reshaped for 2024 and why.

At first glance the 2020 results can be seen as a repudiation of Trump from all walks of life and all parts of the country. Except when you look at Southern Texas, or South Florida, or Mahoning County Ohio, or perhaps most notably, the political transformation of Robeson County, North Carolina.

In truth, the massive victory of Joe Biden in the popular vote overshadows the continuing weakness of the Democratic party in critical areas of the country. From Texas to North Carolina Florida, Democrats barely budged in their margins from 16 or 18. That will have profound implications in 24 and beyond.

Electorally what this means in the Rust Belt will remain purple. Once again, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania performed to the right of the country. Democrats will now rely on the growing suburbs and holding solid margins in Philly (which is no sure thing after Trump somehow did better there than 16). Wisconsin performed the strongest for Trump and one can make a good argument the state should be considered right leaning in 2024. Of the three, Michigan is probably the one most likely to remain consistently Democratic.

But, the same cannot be said of Iowa and Ohio. These two states have arguably seen the biggest political transformation under Trump. Using the NYT electoral map we can see the massive shift rightward of rural Eastern Ohio and Western Iowa. These populist, formerly Democratic areas have now firmly moved into the GOP camp due to Democrats neo-corporate policies and cultural liberalism.

I leave out Minnesota because the state’s suburban acceleration leftward has swamped rural areas move to the right. Statewide this move helps Democrats but downballot in key legislative and congressional contests it limits their appeal.

Moving further. southward, Missouri has been gone for Democrats since 2004. While polls showed Biden had an outside shot at the state, like almost every other poll, they were wrong. Then we come to the Sunbelt and Southwest. Let’s take the Sunbelt shall we.

In the case of the region, the political realignment of key demographics of the country benefited the party in Georgia. But it could be argued it cost the party in North Carolina and most notably Florida. Despite the growth of urban areas in both states, the rural vote swamped Democrats core constituencies. Worse, key constituencies once thought to be locks for the left – see Robeson County and Cuban – Americans became even more Republican. For the first time in modern history, we can see Florida being a redder state than North Carolina. Either way, both states retain a solid pink lean. As for Georgia, if political trends continue the GOP will likely lose unless they peel off growing suburbanite voters in Atlanta. However, these voters are unlikely to be receptive to populist and rural centered appeals.

Moving westward I would not have thought 1) Arizona would have moved further leftward than New Mexico and 2) New Mexico would have moved rightward of Colorado. But, that is exactly what happened. None of these two things can be disconnected from the fact Hispanics in shifted rightward in both states which follows the pattern of Texas.

Speaking of Texas, what happened there should be considered nothing less than astounding. Not only did Republicans not lose ground in the Dallas suburbs, they made up ground in the Southern Texas. One county stands out: Zapata County. The county swung by an astounding 40 plus percent to back Trump and it was not an isolated incident. Trump won several other majority-minority Hispanic counties in the state. Overall, he lost ground relative to 2016, but not by much and the great white whale of Texas remained out of reach for the party.

This is not even talking about the down-ballot races in each state. In every state mentioned. the GOP either gained seats in Congress and state legislatures or held serve. This makes it even less likely Democrats would be able to hold the Senate long-term even if they gain it in January.

From an Electoral College perspective, if we were to consider Iowa and Ohio safe or lean Republican states, combined with Florida and Texas and keeping the rest of the map steady from 2016, Republicans would be starting out with a base of 200 electoral votes -even before factoring in population changes. Meanwhile, yes, Democrats would benefit from Virginia and Colorado being solid blue but a single crack in their armor from Georgia, to Arizona, to the Rustbelt would likely doom their candidacies.

Further, the party’s increase reliance on urban/suburban areas and upper income whites would further exacerbate their already fledgling multi-racial coalition, creating more chances for the GOP to garner inroads with their former base. Plus, Republicans could claw back some of their losses in conservative leaning suburbs like those around Milwaukee and Dallas and put those states out of play early meaning Democrats would have to run the table elsewhere. All in all, Republicans might have lost the White House, but they set themselves up for a great 2024!

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