Michael Bitzer

Political Columnist

Dr. Michael Bitzer is an associate professor of politics and history at Catawba College, where he also serves as the 2011-2012 Swink Professor for Excellence in Classroom Teaching and the chair of the department of history & politics.  A native South Carolinian, he holds graduate degrees in both history and political science from Clemson University and The University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs. Dr. Bitzer’s studies have focused on Southern politics, campaigns and elections, and a variety of topics in American politics.

When introducing students to the idea of “politics,” I often use the idea of a “game”: think of politics with players, rules, teams, fields to play on, equipment, goals, strategies and objectives.

Most politicians describe their involvement in “game-like” ways as well. And sometimes their actions fit into game descriptors, and in that vein, a recent move by the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell could be called a serious “air ball.”

The Fiscal Cliff. Fiscal Armageddon. The Thelma and Louise Fiscal Calamity.

It may go by many names, but since the election is over and the status quo has been returned to Washington, the nation’s great debate turns to the fiscal and budgetary matters that are ticking down faster than the Mayan predictions of the end of the world.

In short, we hear of this great economic catastrophe the country faces, more probably accurately named the Fiscal Perfect Storm.

While the national electorate returned a divided govern­ment to Washington, D.C., state capitals reflect a new norm in unified political party control, with North Carolina being a prime example. 

Blue = Democratic Unified Party Control; Red = Republican Unified Party Control; Purple = Divided Party Control (Nebraska’s unicameral legislature is non-partisan)

In 15 states, Democrats control both the legislature and the chief executive, while in 23 states, the GOP controls both branches of state government.

­­­An interesting discussion has ensued over the role of the South in presidential elections.  Karen Cox, a professor of history at UNC-Charlotte, wrote in the New York Times that “it’s tough being a Southern liberal,” especially to the chagrin of non-Southern liberals in a region that appeared (with the exception of Virginia and Florida) solidly red in this year’s election.

In a previous post, I noted that the United States is seeing a pattern of “regionalism” when it comes to presidential elections.  Since 2000, both parties have dominated in two sets of regions, while one region consistently plays the “battleground” status to determining who wins the White House.

Our political history has seen rare instances where the nation, as a whole, has been consistent in terms of “red” versus “blue” states in our presidential elections.  Yet, since 2000, the fact that regionalism serves as a guiding force in our electoral maps has made the past four presidential elections notable.

The 2012 Election: It’s a New North Carolina

Now that the dust has settled in the and we have all (hopefully) survived the general election, some thoughts on the aftermath of the 2012 election.

First, North Carolina is more like Virginia than South Carolina.

Along with the various congressional races that could help the GOP keep control of the U.S. House, there are many state legislative races in which districts were redrawn to benefit the party in power.

One way to classify these new districts is to use the partisan voting index system developed by Charlie Cook, of the Cook Political Report in Washington, to classify U.S. House seats. 

With a week to go in North Carolina’s early voting, can we see any trends that might lead one to hypothesize that one presidential camp could be leading over the other, or is it a coin-toss still in terms of the numbers?

With the word last week that the Romney campaign was feeling “confident enough about North Carolina … to shift staff out of the state” on the same day as in-person early voting started, it might be wise for them to consider some past history and the first couple of days worth of early voting.