Red sea drying up

When Gallup tallied up its 2002 polling, it revealed a map bathed in Republican red, one in which a majority of voters self-identified as Republican in 29 states — 20 of them sporting Republican majorities of over five points.

The GOP monolith included the entire Mountain West, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, the Dakotas, Missouri, Iowa, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Virginia, New Hampshire, the Carolinas and Georgia … even Vermont. And while voter self-identification isn’t a guarantee of a party’s electoral victory (just look at the Reagan Democrats), it’s a foundation upon which a party can build electoral gains.

The picture gathered from 2008 by Gallup, just six years later, is dramatically different. Just eight states retain Republican advantages — Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, Utah and Wyoming. And the Arizona and Alabama advantages are less than a single percentage point. Tally them up, and you’re looking at a pathetic 45 electoral votes. The tenth most Democratic state, Delaware, has a 23.2-point Democratic advantage, bigger than the 22.7-point advantage of the most Republican state, Utah. Thirty states have a double-digit Democratic advantage, while just four have double-digit Republican advantages.

Compare the 2002 and 2008 numbers, and just one state has become more Republican in the last six years — Arkansas.

The rest have been sliding in the Democrats’ direction. Eighteen states experienced a shift of more than 14 points, including key electoral battlegrounds such as Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin. Those are 119 precious electoral votes, and Obama won 109 of them. Seven of the 13 Senate Democratic pickups in the last two cycles came from these states, in addition to 25 of 52 House pickups.

2009 may be just a month old, but weekly polling conducted for Daily Kos by the nonpartisan media polling outfit Research 2000 shows no signs yet of a GOP resurgence. The latest results, gathered Jan. 26-29, give the Democratic Party 56-36 favorable/unfavorable ratings, compared to 33-58 for Republicans. And while the GOP manages to pull off narrowly favorable numbers in their besieged Southeastern stronghold, 48-46, they face deficits of 19-67 in the Northeast, 30-60 in the Midwest and 29-63 in the West.

So did last week’s big stand against Obama’s stimulus package win them any new support? No. Congressional Republicans saw their ratings drop five points from the prior week, from 26-63 to an even more woeful (if that’s possible) 24-66. If Republicans hoped that George Bush’s exit from the national spotlight would spare them those kinds of numbers, they were sadly mistaken. By contrast, congressional Democrats have a comparatively rosy 40-52 approval/disapproval rating.

So what now? Research 2000’s polling shows that approval/disapproval of the Republican Party among independent voters is at 29-61, as an increasingly radicalized GOP scares off all but the most committed ideologues. A Rasmussen poll last week revealed that 51 percent of conservatives thought their party had lost in 2008 because it had been “too moderate” over the past eight years, compared to 16 percent who thought it had been “too conservative.” Fifty-five percent wanted their party to be “more like Sarah Palin.” By contrast, 56 percent of moderates thought the Republican Party was “too conservative,” compared to 13 percent who though it had been “too moderate,” and just 22 percent would like to see more Palin.

The die has been cast — the GOP has already alienated big majorities around the country. But rather than reassess their problems and seek ways to mainstream themselves, they’re instead committing to staying the course.

Moulitsas is founder and publisher of Daily Kos