Romney = Obama

I was looking at the county-by-county returns in Ohio last night (hey, I did used to live there) and marvelled at how much it looked like a typical red-blue electoral map.  Romney lost the vast majority of counties, but won because he won the large urban counties where the people actually are.

Of course, I’m not the only person to notice this.  TNR’s Alex McGillis comments:

I want to focus in on a geographic irony that emerged more clearly Tuesday night than it has in the earlier primaries. Namely, that Romney does well in the places where Barack Obama does well, and he does poorly in the places where Obama does poorly. This was true in Ohio, where Romney won easily in the big metro areas of Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus while losing to Santorum in the rural counties, much as Obama and Hillary Clinton split the state in 2008. But it’s even more striking when one considers Oklahoma and Tennessee. Romney did terribly in those states—in Tennessee, he won only in Nashville’s Davidson County. And those two states are in the heart of what I’ve come to consider Obama-loathing territory: the nearly contiguous swath of this country where John McCain performed better than George W. Bush had four years earlier, even as McCain performed far worse than Bush overall. This band runs from southwestern Pennsylvania, down through the rest of Appalachia and west across the upland South, encompassing most of Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas and Oklahoma before petering out in north-central Texas (Rick Perry country!)…

On the upside for Romney, one could argue that he will be as competitive as a Republican can hope to be in the metro suburbs of Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Colorado, etc. The post-Reagan comeback of the Democrats is due pretty much entirely to the party having won back well-educated, suburban voters in big metro areas. (Remember: Suburban Chicago, New York and Philly used to be Republican, and not so long ago.) Republicans need a nominee who can hold his own in suburban St. Louis, Cleveland, and Denver.

But the downside for Romney in this ironic alignment between his geographic strengths and Obama’s is that it underscores how poorly suited he is for this moment in his party’s trajectory—and for the campaign he himself is trying to run.

Will indeed be interesting to see whether this pattern is actually net positive or negative for Romney.  I’m inclined to go with the positive.  He certainly is way more competitive in these blue leaning areas than most any other potential Republican nominee would be.  And as for his weakness among the “Obama-loathing” base.  Come on, are those people really just going to sit this out?

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

One Response to Romney = Obama

  1. As an Obama loather, what in the world can claim that he has done good for this country except play the race card and the class envy card.
    John Wilder

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