The state – a battleground in the Civil Rights movement – has never elected a black person to the job. Exit polls from last week's presidential election show that 88 percent of white voters in Alabama picked Sen. John McCain.
Some experts say the black congressman could face a stiff battle running in the same Democratic Party that produced late Gov. George Wallace,a segregationist icon. Davis,who political observers speculate will announce his plans in February,did not have an opponent in last week's election in which he won a fourth term,
But Davis said he is not concerned about race. He says that anyone who looks at his travels and speeches would know his plans,and he does not believe Alabamians cast their presidential ballots based on race.
“To suggest otherwise is to malign them,and I am not in the habit of maligning voters,” Davis said.
Besides,Davis said,Obama,with 40 percent of the state's vote,finished about the same as Sen. John Kerry in 2004,who received 37 percent,and former Vice President Al Gore,who received 42 percent in 2000.
According to the Census Bureau,71 percent of Alabama's population is white and 26 percent is black. About 30 percent of the voters last week were black,according to the exit polls.
National Democrats just do not do as well in Alabama because the state is more conservative,said Davis,who considers himself a conservative Democrat.
While race may have mattered for some voters in the presidential election,it was not a deciding factor,said David Lanoue,chairman of the political science department at the University of Alabama.
He said a home-grown moderate has a better chance in the gubernatorial election than a liberal Democrat campaigning in Alabama in the presidential election.
Gov. Bob Riley,R,has served two terms and cannot run again.
The congressman has another winter event on his calendar,his January marriage to Tara Johnson of Montgomery,who works for the Alabama Forestry Commission.
Davis should not rush into a decision about the election,Lanoue said. The wave of support that helped Democrats this election might not be there in two years,and he said Democrats have struggled in state races recently.
“There's no reason for him to be pre-emptive about it,” Lanoue said. “It's not as though it would be a shock.”
If a candidate had a more conservative record on social issues,Lanoue said a Democrat potentially could sway enough Republicans to win.
Davis has broken with his party to vote for such issues such as a ban on partial birth abortions,and he defended Rep. Mike Rogers,R-Ala.,when his Democratic challenger Josh Segall attacked him for voting for the financial bailout last month. Davis also voted for the bill.
If he leaves his House seat,Davis said he expects another Democrat would fill it. Three Democrats and four Republicans represent Alabama in the House. Both of Alabama's senators are Republican.
Even if another Democrat filled Davis' 7th District seat,it would be a blow for Democrats and the state to lose him as a representative,said Joe Turnham,Alabama Democratic Party chairman.
“For Congressman Davis,his great problem is that he has so many choices,” Turnham said.
Glenn Feldman,director of the Center for Labor Education and Research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham,said he thinks Davis has “a darn good shot at the Democratic primary.”
But in the general election,he said Davis would have a tougher time – partially because of race.
“There are some areas that are showing signs of progress on race,but I still believe race would be a formidable obstacle,” he said.
For his part,Davis said he focuses on the elections of Mayor Sam Jones,who was elected as Mobile's first black mayor in 2005,and James Fields,who became the first black elected to the Alabama House of Representatives from Cullman County,which is 97 percent white.
It is unfair to the voters to suggest race affects who they choose,he said.
“You trust the voters,and the worst thing you can do is suggest someone is a racist,” Davis said.