50. Collier County, Fla.
Largest city: Naples
Southwest Florida is an important, if overlooked, Republican stronghold. No county personifies this better than Collier County. Its warm weather and lack of state income tax has drawn hordes of retirees, particularly conservative Midwesterners. Naples particularly is an incredibly affluent—and conservative, city.
49. Butler County, Penn.
Largest municipality: Cranberry Township
Butler County is Pittsburgh’s version of the Sun Belt. Long a rural farming county, rapid development on the southern tier has increased its political importance. The new center of population is Cranberry Township, which more resembles the suburbs of Phoenix and Dallas than the declining metropolitan area of Pittsburgh. The tax burden is less here than closer in to the City of Pittsburgh. These suburbs are culturally conservative; guns are plentiful and Pennsylvania was labeled as the state with the most pro-life laws in the nation by anti-abortion groups.
48. Ascension Parish, La.
Largest city: Gonzales
Leaving Baton Rouge on the way to New Orleans, the first parish you would pass through is Ascension Parish. This was traditionally a poor backwater. In recent years, it has become part of suburban Baton Rouge. The few incorporated areas are still underprivileged, but new residential plans in the unincorporated areas have changed the character of the county, making it more affluent and Republican.
47. St. Charles Parish, La.
Largest city: Destrehan
The second entity on this list after St. Charles Borromeo, St. Charles Parish is on the periphery of New Orleans. Much of the county is uninhabitable swampland, but the developed areas have shared in Louisiana’s sharp break to the right that began before Hurricane Katrina, but was greatly accelerated because of the storm. Like many Louisiana parishes, John McCain ran ahead of George W. Bush. Unlike much of Louisiana, it has remarkably stable communities, as St. Charles is composed of more than 80 percent homeowners.
46. Wilson County, Tenn.
Largest city: Mount Juliet
The Nashville area is fast becoming one of America’s major metropolitan areas and reflective of that growth is Wilson County. On the east end of Nashville, Wilson County is a typical Southern suburban county that is heavily conservative. It showed an increasing Republican percentage of the vote at the presidential level in 2008. It has named a park after Charlie Daniels, who now lives here.
45. Randall County, Texas
Largest city: Amarillo
Amarillo could be viewed as an experiment: What if a major modern city were built upon the model of the Wild West? The frontier seems more alive in the Texas Panhandle than any other area with significant settlement. The Panhandle turns in the best Republican results at the county level than anywhere else in the nation. The largest city in here is Amarillo, which shows no signs of cosmopolitan liberalism. It’s just a very big Texas town. This could be the most Republican metropolitan area in the country, certainly among those with populations of more than 200,000 people.
44. Livingston Parish, La.
Largest city: Denham Springs
Hurricane Katrina permanently altered settlement patterns in Louisiana. Many were compelled to move to higher ground north of Lake Pontchartrain. Livingston Parish has been one of the beneficiaries of this movement. Contrary to the general pattern, Livingston Parish has many more residents after the hurricane than before. This population influx accounted for a huge pro-McCain surge in 2008, giving him eight percent more of the already high vote given to Bush four years earlier.
43. Comal County, Texas
Largest city: New Braunfels
Germans didn’t only come to the big beer-producing cities of the Midwest; some came to the Texas Hill County outside San Antonio. The town at the center of the region was New Braunfels. Unlike almost the rest of the South, this area has been Republican since the beginning, and that heritage has only been reinforced in the past few decades. Comal County is now in the periphery of San Antonio and a nibble of the southern portion of the county is being developed. But here, a mostly rural and small town county is doing well enough to make the list.
42. Ozaukee County, Wis.
Largest city: Mequon
The suburbs of Milwaukee are conservative strongholds, and this neighbor to the north is no exception. Prosperity is widespread here, with virtually no poor areas. Its largest community, Mequon, is also it’s most affluent. It is also on Lake Michigan, giving it a scenic boost to make up for its cold weather.
41. Washington County, Utah
Largest city: St. George
The southwestern corner of Utah is referred to as “Utah’s Dixie” due to the desert climate of the area. In the past cotton was grown here. Physically, it is unlike the rest of Utah. Politically, it is very much like the rest of the state. Lots of places claim to be the fastest-growing place in America, but at least in the middle of the past decade, county seat St. George truly was the fastest growing metropolitan area, even outpacing Las Vegas. Its politics can be summed up by saying that instead of Bush winning the county 4 to 1, McCain merely won the county 3 to 1. It is less affluent than the rest of Utah.
Look tomorrow for numbers 40-21.