The Limits of Obama's Coattails

Will Barack Obama's candidacy increase African American turnout and thereby help Democrats down the ballot? Lou Jacobson makes some great points: Of these six Southern ...
by | June 16, 2008
 

Will Barack Obama's candidacy increase African American turnout and thereby help Democrats down the ballot? Lou Jacobson makes some great points:

Of these six Southern states, only North Carolina has a gubernatorial race this year, and statewide contests of any kind are few and far between this fall in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina.

Even at the state legislative level, only Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina have elections at all this year, and none of their chambers is considered likely to switch partisan control. The Democrats already control the North Carolina Legislature, and the GOP has strong margins in both chambers in Georgia and South Carolina. Moreover, on a seat-by-seat basis, legislative seats in these states are often so gerrymandered that a Democratic surge may not be able to dislodge many GOP incumbents -- and won't be needed to retain Democratic-held seats.

On a statewide level, the biggest down-ballot impact for Democrats will likely come in the close race for North Carolina open-seat governorship, which pits Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue (D) and Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory (R). Even before the presidential primaries began, incumbent Democrats seemed to be well-positioned to retain several other statewide posts in the Tarheel State, including attorney general and secretary of state.

Just to nationalize Jacobson's argument, I've included a chart of the percentage of the population that is African-American in the 11 states that have gubernatorial elections this year. While the Democratic nominees in North Carolina, Delaware and Missouri should benefit, the effect will be relatively muted in the other states. Of course, North Carolina, Delaware and Missouri are three of the six relatively competitive governor's races this year.

State                         % Black        Rank

North Carolina 21.4 8 Delaware 20.7 9 Missouri 11.3 20 Indiana 8.7 23 Washington 3.4 35 West Virginia 3.2 37 New Hampshire 1.1 43 Utah 0.9 45 North Dakota 0.9 45 Vermont 0.8 47 Montana 0.5 50

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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