Mitt Romney’s Southern Strategy Gambit

Written by Earl Ofari Hutchinson

On August 3, 1980 GOP Presidential contender Ronald Reagan picked his campaign starting point at the Neshoba County Fair, near Meridian Mississippi. The virtually lily-white, wildly enthusiastic throng that lined Reagan’s motorcade route waved Confederate and American flags.

Reagan didn’t disappoint them. He punched all the familiar code attack themes, big government, liberals, welfare, and law and order. He punctuated his blast with the ringing declaration “I believe in states’ rights.”

Three decades later GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney with his freshly minted VP pick Paul Ryan in tow picked their joint campaign starting point and their audience just as deliberately. His spot was a retired battleship draped in red, white and blue docked in Norfolk, Virginia. The virtually lily-white audience cheered as Romney and Ryan punched the same familiar code themes: out of control spend thrift, bloated government. They punctuated it with the hard vow to take back America.

Romney and Ryan can’t openly espouse states rights as Regan did. But they update the code themes by lambasting Democrats, wasteful big government, run-away deficit spending on entitlement programs, and their full-blown assaults on the so-called Obamacare, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security programs, and labor unions. The majority of the recipients of these programs have always been white seniors, retirees, women, and children, and white workers. But these programs have been artfully sold to many Americans as handouts to lazy, undeserving blacks, Hispanics and minorities.

Romney and Ryan, like Reagan before them, rip a page directly from the time tested Southern Strategy playbook of Richard Nixon for GOP presidential candidates. The strategy has always had two prongs. One is to attack the liberal and bloated and tax-and-spend big government. The second is to firmly lock down the majority popular and electoral vote in the 11 old Confederate and Border states.

Without all or most of these states electoral votes, GOP presidential challengers Nixon, Reagan, and now Romney-Ryan would have had an even steeper climb to defeat the LBJ surrogate Hubert Humphrey in 1968, Carter in 1980, and now President Obama. These states hold more than one-third of the electoral votes needed to bag the White House.

Romney’s blunt revival of the Southern Strategy bluntly recognizes two realities. He will get a negligible percentage of the black vote, and only a slightly higher percentage of the Latino vote. Despite much talk that the white conservative vote has shrunk to the point of being marginalized, it isn’t. Whites make up three quarters of America’s electorate. That’s a drop of slightly more than 10 percent from what they represented in the 1980 presidential election. These numbers belie another stark political reality and that’s that in every election since Nixon’s win in 1968 whites have voted consistently by either sizeable or comfortable margins for GOP presidential candidates.

Whites favored Reagan in 1984 by a 64-35 margin. They favored George Bush Sr. in 1988 by a 59-40 margin. Even when Democratic incumbents have won reelection by landslide margins as in Clinton’s reelection win in 1996, GOP Presidential contender Bob Dole still edged Clinton out with white voters. He walloped Clinton by a double-digit margin of white conservative protestant voters.

The final presidential tally in 2008 gave ample warning of the potency of the GOP’s conservative white constituency. Obama made a major breakthrough by winning a significant percent of votes from white independents and young white voters. Among Southern and Heartland America white male voters, Obama made almost no impact.

In South Carolina and other Deep South states the vote was even more lopsided among white voters against Obama. The only thing that even made Obama’s showing respectable in those states was the record turnout and percentage of black votes that he got. They were all Democratic votes. GOP presidential rival John McCain would not have been as competitive as he was during campaign 2008 without the bail out from white voters. He bagged a comfortable margin of 55-43 over Obama. Polls show that the number of whites that back Obama is much less today. All show him winning less than 40 percent of that vote.

Romney’s Southern Strategy is anchored in another political reality. He can and has successfully grabbed the majority of conservative white voters. In each of his 2012 GOP primary wins he got two-thirds of those that self-labeled themselves “strongly conservative” or “somewhat conservative.” Ryan will not only fatten the percentage of conservative voters for Romney, it will fatten their numbers as well. This is not speculation. He’s already bumped up the Romney percentage in some polls by a notch. Romney had badly slipped in those polls before the Ryan pick. This is no surprise for another reason. Elections are usually won by candidates with a solid and impassioned core of bloc voters. White males, particularly older white males, vote consistently and faithfully. And they vote in a far greater percentage than Hispanics and blacks.

Romney, then, crunched the voter numbers and the stats and those numbers have shown that his only path to the White House is getting an overwhelming number of white voters in the South, the Heartland States, and the swing states. Romney’s neo Southern Strategy with Ryan as point man is simply a repeat of what GOP presidential candidates have routinely done for the past five decades.

This post was originally published by New America Media.


Related Stories:

Romney: If Black People Just Want “Free Stuff” They Should Vote For Obama

Romney Met With Boos At NAACP Convention

In Colorado, Paul Ryan Finds Some Feminists


AP Photo/Mary Altaffer


Mary B.
Mary B5 years ago

Anybody who claims 'throwing money at the problem doesn't work" doesn't understand the problem. Especially if the money ends up in the hands of those who don't buy the things that are needed to address the problem.
And people who keep repeating this mindless saying really should just sit down and shut up.

Terry V.
Terry V5 years ago

ELMO for President, Oscar the Grouch fo Vice President :>)

rights aren’t ‘rights’ if someone can take ‘em away; they’re privileges. That’s all we’ve ever had in this country: a bill of temporary privileges. And if you read the news, even badly, you know that every year the list gets shorter and shorter.

George Carlin

janice b.
jan b5 years ago

Let's review....In point of fact, every single Red state receives more in pork and federal funds than every other Blue state. Every Red state receives more in federal funding than it pays in taxes. Every Blue state receives less in federal funding than it pays in taxes.
Every Red state is in the bottom half of the list in education, healthcare, the environment, new infrastructure and jobs. FACT CHECK !!! Alaska is number one in federal dollars received, yet in complete idiocity Sarah Palin rails against Big Government when she took more federal money than any governor during her two years in office. FACT again.

Republicans also claim to believe in no government intrusion. Yet, they want to legislate morality, control a woman’s right to choose, whether or not someone is Gay, whether or not people can get a divorce, and how we should worship God, i.e., only the Christian God is real; all other religions are either phony or false and have no standing in a Republican/Conservative world. FACT ...

Michael G.
Michael T5 years ago

We don;t exactly need reinforcements like some of the over the top conservative posters trying to put out false facts and wave false flags. Random and I happened to be making posts on this forum. We have taken umbrage posters who exhibit at behavior like yours and feel free to make the comments we do about such. Both of us have proven over and over again our abilities to stand up to characters such as yourself without assistance of any kind. So you can stop putting yourself on that faux pedestal. Unless that's what makes your socks go up and down, which I suspect is the case.

Rose L.
Rose L5 years ago

Did Michael call for reinforcements Random? Have a nice day y'all.

Michael G.
Michael T5 years ago

You could also tighten that choker around your neck enough to cut off blood supply to the brain and thus you won't experience the nausea. Until then, just apply a cool most cloth to the back of your neck,& drink lots of water.

Michael G.
Michael T5 years ago

But you look so good Rose covered in vomit. It becomes you sticking to your fur like that.

Rose L.
Rose L5 years ago

@ Michael G: Final

Final? I sure hope it is your final post. Your drivel gets more nauseating the more you vomit.

Michael G.
Michael T5 years ago

When President Obama took office two years ago, the national debt stood at $10.626 trillion. . By the time Bush left office, it had nearly doubled, to $10.626 trillion. But his legacy rolled on and actually tripled the debt, but the GOP wants you to believe it was Obama’s fault.
Let us also not forget that between the beginning and the end of the Reagan presidency, the annual deficit almost tripled and increased under George Senior due to increased spending and a decrease in taxes.

Michael G.
Michael T5 years ago

So again, Republican claims that Obama has somehow increased the deficit are just lies intended to trick people. This massive increase that was reported after the fiscal year ended Sept. 20 occurred under Bush.
The Republican chart is based on the assumption that the current administration should be blamed for the 2009 fiscal year. While this makes sense to a casual observer, like you appear to be, it is LARGELY UNTRUE. The 2009 fiscal year began October 1, 2008, nearly four months before Obama took office. The budget for the entire fiscal year was largely set in place while Bush was in the White House.
The difference between the projected and actual debt in 2011 can be largely attributed to:
$3.5 trillion – Economic changes (including lower than expected tax revenues and higher safety net spending due to recession) There were far more people on Welfare under Bush than Obama
$1.6 trillion – Bush Tax Cuts (EGTRRA and JGTRRA), primarily tax cuts but also some smaller spending increases
$1.5 trillion - Increased non-defense discretionary spending
$1.4 trillion – Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq which were unnecessary wars begun by Bush
$1.4 trillion - Incremental interest due to higher debt balances which also prevented Clinton from wiping out the debt.
$0.9 trillion - Obama stimulus and tax cuts (ARRA and Tax Act of 2010