I Remember Hanging Chads

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What's the usually perceptive Howard Kurtz talking about here?

As for the Senate, well, I warned last week that we all might wake up this morning and not know the outcome. I wonder whether that will also be true when we wake up tomorrow morning. Gives new meaning to the phrase "too close to call."

No, it doesn't. Republicans are trailing by around 1,500 votes in Montana and 8,000 in Virginia. George Bush would have killed for margins like those in Florida six years ago, in a state with roughly twice the population of Virginia and 27 times that of Montana.

Since Democrats have already cautiously declared victory (actually, Jim Webb's deadpan victory statement set a record for how smartassed those can be) in those states, it's time to consider an anomoly. Why did all but one Senate seat break towards the Democrats, but the close House seats split roughly down the middle? Plenty of targeted House Republicans—Heather Wilson in New Mexico, Deborah Pryce in Ohio, Jim Gerlach in Pennsylvania—ran flawless campaigns and were rewarded with new terms. Jim Talent ran a flawless campaign and was rewarded with the Dick Trickle Award for Most Ironic Name. So why do Senate races break towards the winning party and the House races split? A boring combination of gerrymandering (although that had less to do with it in a year the Democrats gained a seat in Kansas) and voter familiarity. Outside of very small states, most voters never interact with their senators. But congressmen can, and often do, talk to around 1/3 of their constituents every year. The congressmen who lost, by no small coincidence, included blowhards who haven't paid attention to their districts in years. If J.D. Hayworth had spent a month attending town meetings and answering constituent mail instead of writing an excreble anti-immigration book and guest-hosting for Rush Limbaugh, he'd still be a congressman.

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  1. There will be a recount in Virginia, no doubt, but 8,000 votes is certainly a steep hill for Allen. One can imagine counting errors and such accounting for a few hundred or so votes out of 2 million, but 8,000 is a different story, even though that’s still a ridiculously thin margin of victory. Notable is the fact that not all of the absentee ballots in Va. have yet been counted, according the state board of elections web site.

  2. The reason I’m writing Allen off is that we had an attorney general’s race in Virginia last year that went down to less than 500 votes. They did a recount and… the Democrat (who lost) gained 12 votes.

    Virginia’s election laws set up a recount process that takes weeks. At some point, Allen’s going to ask whether he wants to preserve himself for a comeback someday or if he wants to go down as the loser who spent two months fighting his loss.

  3. Virginia’s election laws set up a recount process that takes weeks. At some point, Allen’s going to ask whether he wants to preserve himself for a comeback someday or if he wants to go down as the loser who spent two months fighting his loss.

    Aye, there’s the rub. Of course, Allen seems just dumb enough to contest this to the bitter end. If he were smart, he would set himself up for another gubernatorial run in a couple of years. That would be perfect timing and might even resurrect the presidential talk, as much as that prospect makes me alternately shudder and giggle.

  4. any link to the Webb victory statement? I like smartass.

  5. I hope he contests it… then it’s no-holds-barred for looking at his FBI-investigation-attracting campaign staff for voter suppression activities, as was widely reported this morning.

    Let’s see, he’s a loser and he gets the added bonus of having his people go to jail for federal crimes.

    Sweet.

  6. Heather Wilson won? Damn.

    “You were lining your pockets!”

  7. Gerlach scraped by with 3,000 vote margin, half of what he got in ’04. Seems like a miracle, given the tsunami that washed away perhaps four other Pa. GOP congressmen. Gerlach is personable, moderate in a high-income district. His opponent was emotionless, an out-and-out liberal (unlike some of the other candidates the Dems ran) and was caught padding her Harvard Law/justice Dept. resume. Having survived, Gerlach (now a third termer) will see his star rise in Washington.

  8. “So why do Senate races break towards the winning party and the House races split?”

    Gerrymandering, I’d guess. The GOP seems to have concentrated on that for the past decade. Remember that the mid-decade redistricting in Texas, after the ’02 election was (AFAIK) unprecedented. The GOP figured that modern GIS systems, databases, a f*cked-up media and no conscience would make for an unimpregnable House fortress.

  9. My mom lives in AZ, but I’m only there every year or so. Is J.D. Hayworth as big of a total douche tool as he appears on TV?

  10. Remember that the mid-decade redistricting in Texas, after the ’02 election was (AFAIK) unprecedented.

    Not really. Given that the Texas legislature only meets during the first five months of odd-numbered years 2003 was the first opportunity after the 2000 census figures were complete to redistrict.

    The big shift in representatives was as much the result of Democratic gerrymandering in 1993 as it was the Republicans in 2003.

  11. I wonder what the most gerrymandered district is… maybe this one?

  12. Congressmen talk to 1/3 of their constituents each year? Isn’t that over 200,000 people?

  13. Note that Heather Wilson is not a shoo-in yet.

  14. The word is “execrable”. A excellent descriptive word.

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