Kerry's unsouthern strategy

Ron Brownstein:

When John Kerry arrives in Reno today for his sixth visit to Nevada this year, he will underscore a dramatic shift in the geography of the race for the White House.

Kerry, in a virtually unprecedented move for a Democrat, is relying more on the West than the South in his plan to reach the 270 electoral votes needed for victory.

Once the party of the "Solid South," Democrats this year are not actively contesting any state in the region except Florida in the presidential campaign. Instead, Kerry has shifted his attention west, mounting major efforts in Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and, at one point, Arizona.

"In the 1980s and the 1990s, the Holy Grail was to make the Democratic Party competitive in the South again," said Simon Rosenberg, president of the New Democratic Network, a political action committee that supports centrist party officials. "Now the Southwest is a vital, new part of the Democratic strategy."

This shift may reflect equal parts opportunity and weakness.

Democrats see opportunity across the Southwest in its growing Latino population and signs that the region's moderate suburbanites may be warming to the party's stances on social issues.

But Republicans see Kerry's emphasis on the Southwest — particularly the GOP-leaning states of Colorado and Arizona — as a measure of his limited options for reaching 270 electoral votes while writing off virtually every Southern state.

"They are focusing on it out of necessity," said Matthew Dowd, chief strategist for President Bush's reelection campaign. "Their map is shrinking."


...Kerry may be the first Democratic presidential nominee who hopes to win in November without seriously contesting any Southern state except Florida — which politically has more in common with New Jersey than Georgia or Alabama.

"This has never happened before — never," said Ralph Reed, the Georgia-based Southeastern chairman for Bush's campaign.


Tad Devine, a senior Kerry advisor, said the campaign was still considering a final push in either Arkansas or North Carolina. But for all practical purposes, analysts say, Kerry appears to have conceded 141 electoral college votes across the region to Bush, still contesting only the 27 in Florida.


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