Analyst: On U.S. Electoral Map, Civil War-Era Divisions Remain Visible

A Union Army infantry unit (L) is about to be overrun by Confederate soldiers during a July 1, 2011, Civil War re-enactment at the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania. One analyst believes the United States remains divided by the same issues that spawned the bloody conflict. (KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

How much has changed in America since the Civil War? Not as much as one might think when it comes to presidential politics.

That’s the conclusion of the Lexington Institute’s Loren Thompson, a longtime political and defense observer.

“With all the talk of ethnic, economic and ideological voting blocs in election coverage, it is easy to lose sight of how crucial the old north-south divide still is to presidential election outcomes,” Thompson writes in a new blog post.

“But when you look closely, what you often find is that a 200-year-old cultural rift between North and South is still driving our national politics,” Thompson writes, “and that divide is readily apparent in some of the swing states that are so vital to winning the presidency.”

As this map shows, President Obama is likely to win just about the entire Northeast corridor, including all of that states that make up New England. GOP nominee Mitt Romney — ironically, a former governor of New England’s Massachusetts — is a safe bet to sweep the Deep South.

Even as Democrats and Republicans over the decades have swapped control of the two regions, Thompson notes, “the one pattern that persists is the divide between North and South.

“It’s a divide that traces back to the origins of the Republic, and almost tore the nation asunder in the Civil War,” he notes.

The former Georgetown University professor sees explanations for this division in the three swing states to which the Obama and Romney campaigns are focusing so much time and money: Ohio, Florida and Virginia.

All three also are important to the military and defense industrial base. So much so that Romney has been running television ads warning of defense spending cuts in three states, including the Buckeye and Old Dominion states.

“What makes them swing states is that each one replicates at the local level the same cultural and political divisions that explain why Massachusetts is such a different place from Mississippi,” Thompson writes. “Understanding the North-South split within each big swing state goes a long way toward illuminating how presidential races turn out.”

You can read Thompson’s entire analysis here.

John T. Bennett

John T. Bennett

Bennett is the Editor of Defense News' CongressWatch channel. He has a Masters degree in Global Security Studies from Johns Hopkins University.
John T. Bennett