Congress Won’t Easily Flip to the Dems
In an exception analysis, Thomas Schaller explains that there are plenty of competitive seats for the Democrats in blue-states – enough that a Dixie rebellion or a Western seachange a’la Colorado won’t be necessary to win back the House.
And there is some truth to that argument – many Republicans in the Northeast and Mid-West live in districts carried by John Kerry or only narrowly by George Bush. You can see this in the results that gave House Republicans majorities in Michigan (9-6), Ohio (12-6), and Pennsylvania (12-7), for a total advantage of 33-19, or 14 of the 15 seats needed to overturn their national control, even though Kerry won all three states by a total margin of 191,084 votes!
But his analysis is a bit misleading. Not every single district that Bush loses will automatic elect a Democrat (obviously), nor does it mean Democrats will immediately win that seat when approval ratings turn sour. Case in point – even as Bush lost Rhode Island by some 29 points, that state elected a Republican Senator in the 2000 election, and that Senator still leads most independent polling for his re-election.
I don’t believe all 3 Connecticut Republicans will lose, although Chris Shays might; nor do I think 8 of 9 Michigan Republicans could lose (none are on the DSCC’s radar yet), and while Ohio rates 5 seats as vulnerable, I think at most 3-4 are (Schmidt, Ney, Pryce, and possibly Oxley’s open seat), even as we could lose one (Strickland’s).
Lastly, the other problem isn’t that Democrats are gerrymandered, although there are some pretty specific and outrageous reasons for it. Part of the problem is some Dems represent high-minority districts with low citizenship or voter registration, yielding fewer actual voters. And in looking at voting returns, it is quite clear many Democrats do live in urban/suburban clusters. Our state-wide totals might point to a Democratic state (like New York), but as long as NYC keeps voting 80% Democrat, there’s no way we can keep our statewide totals the same and win districts in Upstate New York without gerrymandering NYC to include other parts of the state.
I’m not saying the House and Senate won’t flip to the Dems this year; there’s plenty of reasons and plenty of opportunities to make it happen. I just don’t think using presidential voting and blaming gerrymandering are useful things to consider. Instead, we should look for genuine opportunities based on incumbent vulnerability, demographics of open seats, and not being afraid to challenge someone with a monetary advantage (just ask Katherine Harris why she’s running in Florida).