Obama faces uphill battle in Deep South

Kenneth J. Cooper | 3/7/2012, 7:47 a.m.

The parties battle hard in Florida because its 29 electoral votes, as many as New York has, rank third in the nation behind California’s 55 and Texas’ 38.

“Florida is obviously going to be extremely well-contested by both sides,” Davis said. “I view Florida as probably slightly more Republican than Virginia at this point.”

He predicted a “very close race” in both states. Republicans could shift the odds their way in Florida if whoever is the presidential nominee selects the state’s Hispanic senator, Marco Rubio, as his vice presidential. That scenario has been discussed as a potential way to appeal to Hispanic voters and offset the political impact of Republican resistance to creating a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Only in two other states, Davis said, does Obama have even an outside shot — and then only if he wins big nationally. Those states are Georgia and South Carolina.

“There is in Georgia a significant urban, cosmopolitan voting base around Atlanta that alters the demographics of Georgia politics,” Davis said. “The rest of Georgia looks a lot like Alabama and Mississippi, but the Atlanta metro area has such a powerful tilt that it does give Democrats a shot at winning in Georgia if all things are optimal.”

Because South Carolina holds its presidential primary early, the state’s Democratic Party has not distanced itself from the national party the way others in the South have because of conservative political domination, he noted.

Davis described South Carolina as “a state that is likely to be won by the Republican candidate but one where if Obama put a certain number on the board nationally, the state could be competitive.”

At this early stage, when former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum are battling for the Republican nomination, and Obama leads potential opponents in national polls, what does Davis foresee as the outcome of the Nov. 6 election?

“As of today, I still anticipate a close race nationally,” he said. The dynamics could shift in either direction, he added, depending on how the Republican race is settled.