Buckle up; I’m about to prove why Nicholas Stix calls me the country’s greatest living political scientist.
While I think Trump has way more support among blacks than the typical Republican Presidential candidate, resist the temptation to interpret this to mean that just because Trump’s percentage is highest in “minority center counties” means that Trump is actually getting that support from the minorities in minority center counties, read: blacks in the Dixie black belt. In reality, because of Patterson’s First Axiom, it is white voters in minority center counties that’s driving the Trump support. Even this article tries to warn us of this:
The idea of Mr. Trump doing well in counties with large minority populations may seem counter-intuitive, but, remember, we’re focusing on a specific set of voters that live in those places: Republican primary voters. With that group, we are focusing almost solely on white voters who live in those counties. Even in states with large minority populations, the Republican primary electorate is more than 90% white.
However, there is some hidden good news in this fact:
Moreover, the analysis suggests that Mr. Trump has pockets of strength that could prove valuable in states, some of them beyond the South, that award delegates to the top vote-winner in each congressional district. Districts with a large minority population may not include large numbers of Republicans, but they award delegates, nonetheless. Winning those districts could yield Mr. Trump a sizeable cache of delegates in states such as South Carolina and California.
There’s another reason why Trump’s popularity among Southern whites who are surrounded by blacks is a good omen for Trump elsewhere in the country. The white Republican primary voter in the Deep South is a very very good leading indicator of how working middle class whites outside the South will be able to warm up to a Republican nominee on general election day. You may not remember this because of the conventional wisdom, but Mitt Romney didn’t win a single Deep South state during the primary season when the race was competitive; in fact, in some of them, he finished in third behind both Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. I’m reminding you of this because the CW ever since November 2012 is that Romney had to take “extreme” positions to win Deep South primaries and this in turn hurt him in November, when in reality Romney didn’t win competitive Deep South primaries. You saw sort of the same thing present in 2008, when the only two viable candidates left were John McCain and Mike Huckabee; the latter beat the former in some Southern primaries and caucuses after everyone else dropped out. I interpret this to mean that a Republican candidate who can win over whites in Alabama in the spring has a chance to win over working-middle class whites in Michigan in the fall, and, vice-versa. McCain and Romney could not, so they did not, respectively, and therefore lost the election. This point will become relevant in a moment.
You can see a map of all the 2016 county types as designed by the communities project here. Note the green Minority Center counties running through North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. Many of those states vote on March 1; South Carolina votes even earlier. March 5 brings Kentucky and Louisiana. On March 8 is Mississippi.
This paragraph has caused me to figure out two mysteries.
First, why the RNC set up 2016 so that events before March 15 award delegates proportionately while events after March 15 award delegates winner take all. That’s because just about all of the Southern primaries and caucuses go before March 15; what this means is that, on the margins, the RNC wants Dixie to have less influence in choosing the nominee or influencing the ultimate nominee than it would have if their contests were winner take all. Post March 15 contests tend to be big delegate prizes outside the South, and, at least when the RNC enacted this provision, they thought those would be Jeb! friendly. That way, the establishment-conservative split pre-3/15 would not mean that the conservative(s) who might win those states would get all the delegates from those states; Jeb! or whoever the party brass wants would get delegates proportional to their vote percentages. But after 3/15, Jeb! wins Jeb! style states and win all of their delegates. Also, if Jeb! didn’t have to worry about actually finishing in first place in Alabama to get any delegates from Alabama, he wouldn’t have to try to appeal to enough of the kind of white voters that make Alabama Alabamay just to finish in first; he could RINO it up, finish in third, (even Alabama has its share of Republican establishment flunkies), and get some delegates anyway. He could walk away with delegates but also be able to brag to the media that he didn’t have to bother pandering to knuckledragging troglodytes, either. The reason why I think the RNC wanted to cock block the South was because it buys into, and in fact, has helped to peddle, the post-Romney conventional wisdom I wrote about and refuted above.
Second, and in turn, this solves the mystery to why Jeb! said this inexplicable thing late last year; he knew (or he thought, at the time) that the RNC rigged the schedule and the game to make that possible.