Predictability Puts State Offsides in Politics; A Book Says Georgians' Voting Habits Have Them Taken for Granted

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Byline: WALTER C. JONES

ATLANTA - To read Georgia's future, at least as far as next year's elections, learn to size up the political divide that's gripping the country today.

That's the advice of a pair of noted political scientists, Earl and Merle Black. The twins, who have spent their academic careers explaining the South and Southern voters, now turn their attention to the rest of the country in their latest book.

Divided America: The Ferocious Power Struggle in American Politics details how regional differences have been magnified by recent elections. The result is the seesawing of control that has made Washington nearly ungovernable.

So much for the idea of a melting pot.

According to the Black brothers, each major party has two regions, and they take turns winning the remaining region. Republicans have a lock on the South and Mountain/Plains states while Democrats claim the Northeast and Pacific Coast, leaving the Midwest to make the ultimate determination.

Their book bulges with charts and graphs of survey data and election returns to back up their contention.

If they're right - and more importantly, if the candidates' advisers think they're right - it means Georgia's moment in the spotlight has already passed, at least for the foreseeable future.

The state may have kept alive the candidacy of the little-known governor of Arkansas in 1992 because of the timing of the Georgia primary, but it's not destined to figure as prominently in anyone's strategy now.

Even if the 2008 primary were moved to Feb. 5, candidates won't have to tailor their positions to curry favor specifically for Georgians the way Iowans can demand farm subsidies and ethanol quotas. That's because bigger states will be the prize that day.

Size alone isn't the determining factor, according to the Blacks. After all, the Census Bureau reports that no other metro area in the country grew faster than Atlanta from 2000-2006.

Sure, Georgia is now the ninth-largest state and climbing, and Atlanta is bigger now than Detroit or Boston, but that doesn't automatically make the area's political prominence grow. …