The South was once dominated by Democrats, but they are now an endangered species there
Congressional districts have been drawn to emphasize minority votes in some areas and conservative votes elsewhere
Rep. John Barrow was the last white Democratic congressman representing the Deep South
The red wave that swept Republicans into control of the Senate led to the defeat of the last white House Democrat in the deep South on Tuesday.
Georgia Rep John Barrow, a pro-gun, fiscally conservative Democrat, who was running for his sixth term, lost to Republican businessman Rick Allen.
The same night that the last white Southern Democrat serving in the House lost, South Carolina elected Tim Scott, an African American Republican, to the Senate in South Carolina. Scott becomes the first African American to be elected in the South and the first to start a full term since Reconstruction.
University of Georgia Political Science Professor Charles Bullock told CNN on Tuesday that thirty years ago virtually all districts in Congress from the deep south were represented by white Democrats, but with Barrow’s loss “they’ve become extinct.”
Louisiana Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu is in a run off with Republican Rep Bill Cassidy that will be decided on December 6th.
“Democrats have fallen about as far as they can,” Bullock said He noted that Republicans, who took over Governorship and state legislatures, redrew House districts to elect African American Democrats to represent minority areas, they made the other districts more reliably Republican. Also as the moderate and conservative white House Democrats from the area retired, or in some cases switched parties, they were replaced by conservative Republicans.
Unless Democrats take back state houses and can readjust the shape of congressional districts in the deep south, Bullock said white Democrats “may be looking at being closed out of Congressional delegations until the 2030’s.”
Republicans have been hoping to knock off Barrow - who survived the 2010 tea party wave that flipped control of the House of Representatives to the GOP - for several cycles. One senior House GOP campaign strategist admitted that he was one of the toughest incumbents, and a day before the election believed the race was neck and neck. But on election night it wasn’t even close – Barrow lost to Allen 55% -45%.
The Georgia Democrat regularly touted his endorsement from the National Rifle Association, and was well known for his colorful campaign commercials.
One television spot that Barrow aired this fall pushed back at charges he wasn’t going his job. It featured a woman who Barrow helped secure her husband’s veterans benefits, declaring bluntly “anybody who says John Barrow isn’t getting things done is lying like a no legged dog.”
But Barrow was not conservative enough to keep his seat. With his loss the House delegations of all of the deep southern states - Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina and Louisiana - are all composed of Republicans.
Barrow frequently criticized the president and voted with House Republicans repeatedly on measures to repeal parts of Obamacare. But the National Republican Congressional Committee targeted Barrow with an ad saying he voted with the President 85% of the time.
House Democratic aides said Barrow’s loss demonstrates just how heavy the weight of President Barack Obama was around Democratic candidates.
“If anybody could win in the deep south, it’s Barrow,” one of these senior House Democratic leadership aides told CNN.
The loss is also a warning sign for House Democrats whose caucus is dominated by liberal members representing mostly urban areas in blue states.
When they captured the House in 2006, Democrats recruited moderate candidates not only in red districts in the
Deep South, but also in rural districts in North Carolina, Tennessee, and in Midwestern states like Indiana and Illinois. Democrats realize that if they want to regain the majority they will need to reach out to more centrist Democrats again.
“We can’ just cede the South forever. We’ve got to come up with some type of strategy and look at our policies and figure out how speak to those voters in those districts,” this Democratic aide said.