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Carolinas Down, 48 to Go

Although the Clinton campaign has been dismissing the importance of primaries in any states that have fewer than 1,000, or more than 100,000 black people
contain more Starbucks than Dunkin’ Donuts
had the audacity to vote for Obama, this may be the first time they’ve written off a state in the general election. Actually, four states, according to Harold Ickes in today’s New York Times:

They’re great states, but Idaho, Nebraska and the Carolinas are not going to be in the Democratic column in November.”

There’s a fair amount of polling in North Carolina, and all of it points to a potentially competitive race in November. Clinton is presently credited with a 16.6% chance to win the state, which is not fantastic but marginally better than her chances in Colorado (15.1%) and Virginia (12.5%). Her percentage is about the same in South Carolina (15.8%), although with less polling data to support it. Obama’s numbers are comparable — actually a smidgen better — in both states.

The South Coast is one of two frontiers — the other being the Interior West — in which the Democrats have a chance to expand their base. Virginia has already turned at least purple, and there are other, more subtle factors at play in the other states in the region: North Carolina’s high-tech sector, the booming and sophisticated black metropolis in Atlanta, Georgia. These states are beginning to differentiate themselves from what might be called the Deep South or Interior South, away from the Atlantic Coast.

There’s a long time between now and Pennsylvania, and one thing I’d like to do between now and then is explore the demographics of the South Coast region; my hunch is that you had a medium-term sort of revival of Southern exceptionalism, which took a decidedly culturally conservative bent, which is beginning to be outweighed by a longer-term trend toward greater liberalization up and down the entire Atlantic Coast, as Boomers seek to relocate to warmer climes and companies seek new pools of resources.

Certainly, both Clinton and Obama have the capacity to appeal to certain groups in the South Coast in ways that John Kerry could not or would not. But Clinton seems to insist on starting with a map that already has at least four states colored in red.

(hat tip to the Public Policy Polling blog)

Nate Silver is the founder and editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.