So Long, NASCAR Dads
Chris Shays's close win in Connecticut makes him the only Republican congressman from New England, ending a realignment accelerated by Bush's sharp moves to the right. Even more interesting, for the first time in 50 years, the party in power does not have the majority of seats in the South, as Thomas Schaller, author of Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South, points out. For years, Democrats followed the Clinton-Gore gospel that without the South (and especially southern business), an electoral majority was impossible. That may be true in presidential contests (if you count Florida as in the South), but now, with the Republicans' lock on the Sun Belt over and an increasingly fluid landscape throughout the West in general, honing your political message to resonate with "NASCAR dads" may be an abandoned strategy.
The South and Northeast are now poles of entrenchment on a congressional map that may become more unpredictable and less and less like the calcified presidential geography we're used to. Finally, the image of the Democratic political hopeful wandering around some racetrack in Georgia waving a Confederate flag and wearing a gun rack on his back may be a thing of the past. Watching cowboy-boot-wearing Dems wrangling cattle out in Wyoming won't be any less gruesome, but at least it's a new look.