Nate Cohn recently argued that “the long term decline in Democratic fortunes in the South and Appalachia” largely explains why Obama did worse in the more racist parts of the country. Seth Stephens-Davidowitz pushes back:
First, if this were true, any Democrat, not just Obama, should have underperformed in such areas. In early 2008, SurveyUSA polled hypothetical match-ups between each of Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards and various potential Republican nominees. Obama consistently underperformed among whites in areas with higher racist search rates. Clinton did not. Edwards did not.
Second, if areas with higher racist search rates were punishing all Democrats in 2008, relative to 2004, a similar relationship should be seen in House voting patterns. House Democrats should have also underperformed in these areas in 2008, relative to 2004. They did not.