Hopefully the answer will be yes. If The Republicans keeps us crazy stuff like say, not even reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act, I’ll be very optimistic. But all too often it comes down to numbers. 1952 was the first election where the suburbs played a big part, so I recently look at Kerry’s percent of the vote totals in all regions of the country compared to all post-1948 Democrat nominees. I excluded Lyndon Johnson because I knew that in almost every state (outside a few Deep South states) no Democrat nominee topped LBJ for percent of vote totals in any region, state, or the nation at large. Still, a comparison of election 1952-2004 (excluding 1964) was most instructive.
The Regional breakdown:
In the Northeast, Kerry won 55.8% of the vote, slightly higher than Clinton’s 55.5% in 1996. Only Gore’s 56.4% was better than Kerry post-1948. In the West, Kerry beat Bush 49.9% to 48.7%-no Democrat post-1948 has done as well as Kerry did in the West.
Bush narrowly defeated Kerry 50.9% to 48.2% in the Midwest. Only two candidates barely did better in the Midwest popular vote than Kerry: Carter 1976 (48.6%), Clinton 1996 (48.5%).
While Kerry did poorly in the South, (57.3% to 42.0%) Kerry follows in a long tradition here. Since the Civil Rights activism of the Kennedy and Johnson years, only one Democrat has won the southern popular vote: Carter in 1976. Post-1960, only LBJ and Carter in 1976 have won so much as 46% of the southern popular vote.
But what of the battleground states? How does Kerry compare to others there? My advice to those running for Congress in these states: outdo Kerry’s total’s and in most cases you’ll be just fine.
In each of the following state no Democrat has gotten as high a percentage as Kerry did (though some were close:
California (54.3%), Washington (52.8%), New Hampshire (50.2%), Colorado (47.0%), Illinois (54.8%), Oregon (tied with Dukakis 51.3%). In several states Kerry ran a close second: Nevada (JFK 51.2% to JK 47.9%), Maine (Humphrey 55.3% to JK 53.6%), Pennsylvania (JFK 51.1%, Kerry 50.9%), and Wisconsin (Dukakis 51.4% JK, 49.7%). In Ohio Kerry’s official total of 48.7% virtually tied Carter’s official 1976 total of 48.9%-no other Democrat since 1948 has gotten higher.
Several other states saw Kerry in close third place:
Michigan: Clinton 96,51.7% Gore 51.3% Kerry 51.2%.
New Mexico: JFK 50.1%, Clinton 96 (49.2%) Kerry (officially 49.1%).
Iowa: Dukakis 54.7%, Clinton ’96 (50.3%), Kerry 49.2%.
Minnesota: 55% Carter, 54% Humphrey, 53% Dukakis, 51.1% (Kerry and Clinton 1996)
Two other states saw Kerry join a big clump of Democrats who got between 46% and 49% of the vote: Missouri (46.1%) and Florida (47.1%). Other than Carter in 1976, no other post-1964 Democrat got higher than 48.8% in these states.
Only in West Virginia did Kerry get outperformed by most post-1948 Democrats.
So in 2004 Democrats met or exceeded previous postwar Democrat percentages in many large and/or battleground states. Can Democrats do it again in 2006? Just remember: If we did that in a year where Republicans were in a good position to win, just think about a year wher the GOP is, well, not in a good position.