By Markos Moulitsas - 02/18/14 05:54 PM EST
Demographic changes are inevitably driving Texas and Arizona into purple — and eventually blue — territory. The growth of the Latino population is poised to overwhelm predominantly conservative white voters in both states, absent a genuine and successful rebranding by the Republican Party. But another red state will reach that status sooner: Georgia.
After Mitt Romney’s 2-point victory in North Carolina during the 2012 race, Georgia was the second closest red state at the presidential level. President Obama lost it by 7.8 points in 2012, after losing it by just over 5 points in 2008. In raw vote totals, that was 304,861 and 204,636 votes, respectively. A big number, certainly, but one that is artificially inflated by nonparticipation of core Democratic constituencies in the state. Given changing trends, Georgia’s march toward the Democratic column is inevitable.
Unlike Texas and Arizona, whose population increases are being driven predominantly by Latinos, the source of Georgia’s growth are African-Americans, who currently make up 31.2 percent of the population, up from 28.7 percent in 2000. Much of that growth is migration from other parts of the country. Cities like Detroit and Cleveland have lost black professionals to Atlanta at a clip of more than 500,000 African-Americans in the past decade alone.
Still, Latinos are part of Georgia’s demographic story, having doubled over the past decade to about 9.2 percent of the state’s population. Meanwhile, 3.5 percent of Georgia residents are Asian, compared to 2.1 percent in 2000, and make up 5.7 percent of the population of metro Atlanta. Asians are the fastest growing racial or ethnic demographic in the country, with Georgia as the fifth fastest-growing state.
Demographically, Georgia is already a blue state. Unfortunately for Democrats, those core Democratic constituencies feature anemic voting rates. Metro Atlanta alone has about 600,000 unregistered African-Americans, putting Democrats in a serious electoral hole. Register and turn out half of those, and Obama would have carried the state in both 2008 and 2012. Throw in unregistered and poor-performing Latinos, young voters, single women, Asians and other core Democratic groups into the mix and there’s genuine room for Democratic growth.
Democrats sure have every motivation to do so. Not only does Georgia feature a key gubernatorial and Senate race this November, but its 16 electoral votes were the second-largest haul for Republicans after Texas (a function of the party’s limited rural small-state appeal). Had Georgia gone blue in 2012, Republicans could’ve won Florida, Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio and Virginia and still lost the election.
But even absent any voter registration breakthrough, Georgia’s demographic trajectory bodes ill for Republicans. Center for American Progress projections say the number of eligible nonwhite voters should rise 3.5 points from 2012 to 2016, cutting Obama’s 8-point deficit to 3 points, all other things remaining equal. And by 2020? Republicans will be hosed.
Of course, Republicans could decide to evolve along with the rest of America and position themselves competitively. But who is kidding whom? The bigger the challenges, the more recalcitrant the GOP becomes. And even losing Georgia wouldn’t change that.
Moulitsas is the publisher and founder of Daily Kos (dailykos.com).