by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
One suspects that author Ed Morrissey will be happy to see Politico catch up with his assessment of Wake County’s importance to the outcome of the 2016 presidential race.
Kokai: I imagine some people hearing that intro will say, “Really? This comes down to the people in just seven counties across the United States?” How so?
Morrissey: Well, these are the bellwether counties, if you will, or, in a couple of the places, just the most important counties in seven swing states that, combined together, would move the map from the 2012 election from Democrat to Republican, if Republicans and conservatives could find ways to win these bellwether counties.
… What I was looking for were seven states that Republicans have won fairly consistently prior to Barack Obama running for president in 2008, which [Republicans] ended up losing in one or both of the Obama elections. And I looked for the key counties in seven of these states. And, of course, Wake County, N.C., is a very important county, not just in the 2016 election, but that’s sort of the primary premise of this book. But it’s going to be important down the road, as well.
Kokai: Now you, in finding these seven counties, took a look at ones that, as you mentioned, Republicans had been winning up until 2008. What’s changed?
Morrissey: Several things have changed. One is that demographics have changed, probably nowhere more true than in Wake County. This is a county of change. … It was, at least in the first decade of the 21st century, the fastest-growing county in the United States. You had a lot of people that were moving to Wake County, and they were bringing their politics with them.
But it’s more than just that. The way that Republicans have campaigned has changed, and not for the better. They didn’t learn the lesson in 2008. They’re struggling still to incorporate the lesson of 2012, although the Republican Party famously came up with what they called the Growth Opportunity Project, but what the rest of us called the “autopsy” from 2012. And that is one of the launching points of Going Red.