Seriously, I have been thinking about this. McCain has been dropping everywhere in the polls, but especially in some Southern states which the Republicans no doubt previously thought were secure. West Virginia is in doubt, and the gap in Georgia has been closing.
The reasons for that are manifold. Large African-American population, large Hispanic population, new voter registration. Also Republicans are starting to lose favor here....because in addition to having run the country as a whole into the ground, they have run Georgia in particular into the ground. Georgia is in trouble financially, has cut all state budgets by 6% and may be closing down some state parks The University of Georgia, a Research 1 institution, is having to cancel some of its library subscriptions to academic journals in order to meet mandated budget cuts. And so on.
I also think, personally and based on no particular evidence but my own gut feelings on the matter, that Sarah Palin, who was supposed to energize "the base" and get all the social-conservative Southern Baptist types (many of whom used to vote Democrat) solidly behind her, may have had the opposite effect on some of them. I was raised Southern Baptist, in the Applachian northern end of the state, and whereas I've since joined the ranks of Godless academia and now live in the funky indie-rock town of Athens, rural Georgia is only a ten-minute drive in any direction. I mantain ties to the redneck underground (ie, my family) and I think I have somewhat of a feel for how folks around here think, including some of the reasons why they may not be as crazy about Sarah Palin as they are supposed to be.
1) "Drill, baby, drill!" Many of the very fervent Christians around here, the ones she supposedly appeals to, are strong environmentalists. They eat organic foods and recycle and believe in "stewardship" as part of their conception of faith and their place in the world. They carpool or walk or ride bicycles and favor the Kyoto Protocol (yes, they do know what it is). They think destroying the environment is tampering with Creation and don't think that drilling up God's coral reefs or Arctic so people can drive big shiny cars is the answer.
2) References to beer-drinking. Baptists are not supposed to drink or sell alcohol. And while many of your garden variety Baptists do in fact drink, they still don't think it's cute to be referred to as "Joe Six-Pack."
3) They are not very clear on what hockey actually is, and definitely don't know from "hockey mom."
4) They do have prejudice, but it cannot be assumed that it will all work one way. The fact is racial prejudice has been ebbing away over the last few decades, while regionalism remains intact. To a Southerner, a black man in a suit might look like a familiar and reassuring sight, calling up images of local businessmen and the downtown church on Sunday. Whereas a woman with a squeaky Fargo voice that can cut glass who talks about the "East coast" with tones of disdain might just put their hackles up. Almost certainly does put some hackles up, in a "hey....we're on the East coast!...who are you lumping in with New York, there?" kind of way.
It's also quite possible that Southerners as a whole have a nearer and more visceral folk memory of "hard times," and are more motivated by the economy than most people. But I think that the Republicans through arrogance and/or complacency thought that the South was so solidly behind them that they didn't need to bother to appeal to Southerners, or else they thought that Barack Obama being black meant they didn't have to. I think they are wrong about that. Obviously, they are wrong about that. Barring some calamity I believe Obama will carry either Virginia or North Carolina, if not both...and he only has to carry one of them to win. (As things currently stand, he only has to carry one of any of the big "toss-up" states to win; McCain will have to carry all of them.) Whether it will make the difference this go-round in this state, the one I am sitting in, I don't know. But whatever happens, the South is no longer reliably in the Republicans' pocket. The times, they are a-changin'.