3
The Democrats' Presidential Weakness in the South, 1968 to 1988

The South ceased to be solidly Democratic at the presidential level during the 1950s, and since 1964 it has been the Democrats' weakest region in presidential elections. Between 1968 and 1988 their consistently poor electoral performance in the southern states also doomed the Democrats' efforts to win nationally. The sole Democratic presidential triumph during that period (in the South and nationwide), in 1976, was the exception that proved the rule. It was impossible for the Democratic party to win presidential elections without winning at least some of the electoral votes of the southern states, yet during the 1980s this appeared to be an increasingly remote possibility.

Despite losing presidential elections in the South, the Democrats nevertheless remained the region's dominant party below the presidential level. Although the Republicans were competitive in senatorial and gubernatorial elections in the South by the late 1980s, they still held only about a third of the region's House seats, and the Democrats enjoyed overwhelming and secure majorities in almost all southern state legislatures.

This chapter explains one side of this paradox, the persistent weakness of the Democratic party in presidential politics in the South since 1964. The main emphasis falls on the party's revised nominating process, which for most of this period was structurally biased in favor of candidates from the party's neoliberal and New Left factions, with little appeal to most southern white voters and in which the South seemed unable to

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