Southern Democrats are pairing a demographically diverse slate of candidates for state and congressional offices with presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden, a 77-year-old white man they believe can appeal to what remains perhaps the nation’s most culturally conservative region.
“There’s so much opportunity for everyone in this region,” said Jaime Harrison, Democratic challenger to South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and a 44-year-old Black man.
The November elections will determine the extent of the change, with competitive races in the South affecting the presidency, U.S. Senate control and the balance of power in statehouses from Raleigh, North Carolina, to Austin, Texas.
“North Carolina, Georgia, Texas – these are becoming real two-party states,” said Republican pollster Brent Buchanan, whose firm, Cygnal, aides GOP campaigns across the country.
Biden’s campaign manager, Jen O’Malley Dillon, talks eagerly of “an expanded map” that puts North Carolina and Florida in the same toss-up category as the Great Lakes states that sent Trump to the White House.
Buchanan said GOP-run state House chambers in Georgia and Texas are up for grabs, as are Republican U.S. Senate seats in North Carolina, Georgia and perhaps Texas.
Senate contests in South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi could be much closer than typical statewide races in those Deep South states.
“Georgia and the South are changing faster than most people think,” said DuBose Porter, a former Georgia lawmaker and state party chair.
For generations after post-Civil War Reconstruction, the “Solid South” was uniformly Democratic, white voters’ visceral rejection of President Abraham Lincoln’s Republican Party.
“Biden is a safe vessel for these (white) voters who might have been OK with Trump when everything’s going well, but now are just looking for a stable leader who’ll do the right thing,” said Zac McCrary, a Democratic pollster based in Alabama and whose firm is aligned with Biden’s campaign.
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