I have heard it suggested, in our own backyard and countless times on Twitter, that Obama had a homefield advantage because the debate was in New York. Thus, he got softball questions. Please set conspiracy theories to rest. The debate was not just in New York. It was in Nassau County, New York. The accent so many were giggling at? That is a Nassau County accent. Not the accent of someone from, say, 100 miles from the debate site in Rhinebeck, NY.
I consider myself lucky to have been born and raised among pedicured and the privileged (and yes, the less privileged too!) of Nassau County, Long Island and to retain traces of the accent. But let me tell you what Nassau County is not. Solid blue. Or even blue at all.
Nassau’s local governance has long been dominated by Republicans, with intermittent Democratic takeovers due to corruption and financial mismanagement scandals. This Politico article suggests that it is perhaps in Nassau County’s economic self-interest to vote for Romney because it is wealthy. Then it goes on to say:
Nassau County has a long Republican heritage. It was once known as the most Republican county in the nation and in 1980 propelled a local town supervisor named Alfonse D’Amato to the Senate. President Richard Nixon spoke to the county GOP’s dinner in 1972.
But today the county’s registered Democrats outnumber Republicans and control two of the county’s three congressional districts. In 2008 Obama won 53.8 percent of the Nassau vote. John McCain won 45.4 percent.
There is no doubt that Nassau County is not the Republican golf-n-plaid pants bastion it was when I was growing up in the 1970s and 1980s. But these statistics are misleading. First of all, in 2008 nationally Obama won 52.9% and McCain won 45.7%, so Nassau was barely bluer than the nation as a whole. (By contrast, my current county, Montgomery County, MD — a truly blue county — went for Obama over McCain 75.1 % to 27.1%). Secondly, in Nassau County there are 351,554 Democrats to 326,624 Republicans. A 7% difference. Noteworthy, but not enormous, especially considering 230,481 voters are listed as blank or independent, and there are 9730 Conservatives to 3132 Workers and Greens. (Again, in my current truly blue county, there are 328,513 Democrats to 122,604 Republicans.) Thirdly, Republicans still totally dominate local government.
Nassau County may not be representative of the country as a whole, ethnically or economically. It may happen to be in a state that is solid blue. But it, itself, is not blue country. No advantage Obama.