Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Free State GOP Fades to Black, Part Two

The Maryland Republican Party is in deep trouble. Barack Obama’s 25-point win is just one sign. Far more worrisome are changes in voter registrations.

Between October 2000 and October 2008, the GOP’s voter registrations grew by 14.8%. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Democratic registrations grew by 25.1% and other registrations grew by 52.0% over the same period.

The Democratic share of registered voters has held steady near 57%. Registrations not affiliated with either of the two major parties have climbed from 13% to 16%. The GOP’s share has fallen from 30% to 27%. For whatever reason, voters who do not want to join the Democrats are increasingly choosing alternatives other than the Republicans.

The regional composition of the two parties has been changing in very different ways. Below is the regional distribution of the state’s Democrats in October 2000 and October 2008.

The Democrats are slowly, steadily orienting themselves away from Baltimore and towards the Washington suburbs. In 2000, the share of Democrats in Baltimore City and Baltimore County (32.8%) roughly equaled the share of Democrats in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties (32.3%). Eight years later, the share of Democrats in the two Baltimore jurisdictions (30.4%) trailed the two Washington suburban counties (36.0%). Using an expanded definition of the Baltimore area (Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard Counties), Baltimore’s percentage of state Democrats has fallen from 50.7% to 47.5%. Perhaps for the first time in Maryland’s history, a Democratic statewide candidate can win a party primary while losing in Baltimore and its suburbs.

The Republicans are going in a different direction.

The GOP is actually becoming more Baltimore-oriented. The share of its registrations in Anne Arundel and Baltimore Counties has increased from 26.6% to 27.3%. Using the broader definition of the Baltimore area, the percentage of Maryland Republicans living there has grown from 47.7% to 49.4%. This has been driven not by fast growth of the GOP in Baltimore but by absolute reductions of Republicans in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. The share of Maryland Republicans living in those two counties has fallen from 22.3% to 18.5%.

The Democrats have kept up with the historic shift of Maryland’s population towards the Washington suburbs. The Republicans have not. And the Democrats have grown much more rapidly in the state’s fastest-growing region, Southern Maryland (by 41.8%), than have the Republicans (25.4%).

We will look at the consequences of the GOP’s failure to keep pace in Part Three.