From Adam Nossiter of The New York Times:
Fear of the politician with the unusual name and look did not end with last Tuesday's vote in this rural red swatch where buck heads and rifles hang on the wall. This corner of the Deep South still resonates with negative feelings about the race of President-elect Barack Obama.
What may have ended on Election Day, though, is the centrality of the South to national politics.
By voting so emphatically for Sen. John McCain over Obama, voters from Texas to South Carolina and Kentucky may have marginalized their region for some time to come, political experts say.
The region's absence from Obama's winning formula means it “is becoming distinctly less important,” said Wayne Parent, a political scientist at Louisiana State University. “The South has moved from being the center of the political universe to being an outside player in presidential politics.”
One reason for that is that the South is no longer a solid voting bloc. Along the Atlantic Coast, parts of the “suburban South,” notably Virginia and North Carolina, made history last week in breaking from their past and supporting Obama.
Those states have experienced an influx of better educated and more prosperous voters in recent years.
Obama won in only 44 counties in the Appalachian belt, a stretch of 410 counties that runs from New York to Mississippi.
Less than a third of Southern whites voted for Obama, compared with 43 percent of whites nationally. By leaving the mainstream so decisively, the Deep South and Appalachia will no longer be able to dictate that winning Democrats have Southern accents or adhere to conservative policies, experts say.
That could spell the end of the Southern strategy, the doctrine that took shape under President Nixon in which national elections were won by co-opting Southern whites on racial issues. And the Southernization of American politics – which reached its apogee in the 1990s when many congressional leaders and President Clinton were from the South – appears to have ended.
The GOP has “become a Southernized party,” said Thomas Schaller, of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. “They have completely marginalized themselves to a mostly regional party.”
Republicans have “maxed out on the South,” said Emory University political science professor Merle Black, which has “limited their appeal in the rest of the country.”