Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 7 2010 10:27 AM


Don Surber snaps a photo of a sign the West Virginia Republican Party is printing up:


In every wave election, and this probably is one, there is some enclave of partisan support that no one expects to fall. Local party leaders are so convinced that they've got the machine locked in that they will hold off the other party's surge. In 2006, that was New Hampshire, where Democrats had been able to win statewide office, and had been more and more competitive in voter identification and presidential politics, but kept falling short to moderate Republicans in federal elections. They knocked off both Republican members of Congress and won the state legislature in a landslide. The GOP just didn't have an answer for the anti-war anger in the state.

I see at least two states falling, finally, to the partisan wave this year. Arkansas and West Virginia voted for Republican presidential candidates in 2000 and 2004 but showed little evidence that Republicans could erase the Democrats' advantage in other races. West Virginia Republicans appeared to have a brief spring in 2004, when they won the Secretary of State's office, but they promptly lost it. Arkansas Republicans left Blanche Lincoln alone in 2004 and Mark Pryor* alone in 2008, as the Democrats' three House seats stayed safe. There was just something missing, in the age of Bush. It was tough to get conservative voters who were used to backing Democrats in the frame of mind to elect more Republicans.

Not anymore. Just as Bill Clinton eventually nationalized voters' choices in places like Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Kentucky, and George W. Bush nationalized them in the Northeast, Barack Obama is nationalizing them in West Virginia and Arkansas, and -- to an extent we know less about -- in Tennessee and North Carolina. So some assumptions about the rock-solid Democratic parties that can survive waves will end this year. Even if Obama is successfully re-elected in 2012, I think you see more redness, up and down the ballot, in the states he loses that year.

*I originally said "David."

David Weigel is a reporter for the Washington Post. 

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