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Obama "slights" the South in picking his team

Regional rivalries may no longer count, especially in tough times like these.

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It hasn't gone without notice in the South that Obama is the first president in a generation to overlook Dixie to build his White House team.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

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With about a third of the US population, the American South has established itself as an economic and political juggernaut.

But it’s not gone without notice here that President-elect Obama is the first president in a generation to look beyond Dixie to build his White House brain trust.

Is the dearth of dyed-in-the-cotton Southerners from the Obama cabinet really an out-and-out snub? Or is it simply a reflection of Mr. Obama’s own social circle – his team includes seven Ivy Leaguers and four New Yorkers – and the political reality that regional rivalries no longer matter as much?

Either way, the implications could be significant for the future of the Democrats’ 50-state strategy and the stature of the South on the national stage.

“It is an interesting shift,” says Gary Jacobson, a political scientist at the University of California, San Diego, in an e-mail. “Republican rule has had a strong Southern accent going back to the Republican takeover [of Congress] in 1994, and the defeat of that whole regime has resulted in a major regional power shift.”

To be sure, the speed at which Obama named the cabinet – drawn primarily from New England, the Midwest, and the West – indicates to many observers a deliberate political strategy.

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