Just what does the South matter to national politics? Of course, as a Southerner I am not entirely equipped to answer that question without bias, but according to the Census, the South is the largest region in the country, with a population almost equivalent to that of the Northeast and Midwest combined. Depending on definitions, the Deep South has over 100 electoral college votes––a number that swells if other former Confederate states like Florida and Virginia are admitted––and its national electing power is reflected by rich delegate counts in primary races.
Evidently, Senator Bernie Sanders wishes that the region had a little less electoral power. During Thursday’s debate with Hillary Clinton, he repeated a point that has recently gained prominence in his own remarks and the echoes of his surrogates: That an early front-loading of primaries in the South “distorts reality” and that the South is not a vital part of the Democrats’ national coalition. With that sentiment comes a bit of a deeper implication. The minority voters of the South might not be a part of his plans moving forward.
“Look, let me acknowledge what is absolutely true: Secretary Clinton cleaned our clock in the Deep South, no question about it,” Sanders said. “That is the most conservative part of this great country. That's the fact. But you know what, we're out of the Deep South now. And we're moving up.” The suggestions here––some that have been made by the campaign for weeks––are that Democratic primary voters in the South are more conservative and thus more pro-Clinton, and that the region’s red states are of less importance to the general election than traditional liberal bastions or swing states. Some of Clinton’s biggest wins came early in southern states like South Carolina, and Super Tuesday featured seven out of 11 races below the Mason-Dixon line, a placement that Sanders believes unfairly granted Clinton momentum. He has cited a string of recent victories in western states as a proof-of-concept moving forward.