I Don't Know What to Do Now That Pink Has Turned to Blue

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This National Journal map doesn't strike me as a particularly useful guide for the GOP's chances of taking back the House. It obsesses over which Democrats represent districts that voted for President Bush in 2004. But 2004 was, you know, four years ago. This year Barack Obama clobbered McCain in every Kerry state and all of the non-deep South, non-Great Plains, non-Arizona Bush states. As a result, outside the deep South, basically every Democrat is from a "safer" district now.

Look at Virginia. The first number is how much of the vote John McCain scored in this district. The second number is what George W. Bush scored four years ago, when he easily defeated John Kerry statewide. I've bolded the districts where the representative is now from the party whose presidential candidate lost the district. (VA-02, VA-05, and VA-11 all replaced Republicans with Democrats this year.)

VA-01: Rob Wittman (R)—51% (60%)
VA-02: Glenn Nye (D)—49% (58%)
VA-03: Bobby Scott (D)—24% (33%)
VA-04: Randy Forbes (R)—49% (57%)
VA-05: Tom Perriello (D)—51% (56%)
VA-06: Bob Goodlatte (R)—57% (63%)
VA-07: Eric Cantor (R)—53% (61%)
VA-08: Jim Moran (D)—30% (35%)
VA-09: Rick Boucher (D)—59% (59%)
VA-10: Frank Wolf (R)—46% (55%)
VA-11: Gerry Connelly (D)—42% (50%)

See what happened? Only two of the state's six Democrats are in McCain-voting districts, one of them in a squeaker (Perriello) and one whose southwest district is so safe for him that the GOP didn't even field a challenger (Boucher.) Two of the state's five Republicans are now in Obama-voting districts, even though their districts voted for Bush last time. And two of the three Democrats elected this year, Connelly and Nye, are in districts that swung from Bush to Obama.

Keep in mind, all of this happened in a state whose Republican governor and legislature started the decade by gerrymandering the districts for maximum GOP strength. Bush carried nine of Virginia's 11 districts twice. McCain carried only five of them. Once we learn the full results from states like Michigan, Minnesota, Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin, places where Obama dramatically outperformed in the suburbs, I think we'll learn that most congressional districts went blue at the presidential level. In 2004, 255 congressional districts had gone red.

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37 responses to “I Don't Know What to Do Now That Pink Has Turned to Blue

  1. I think judging districts off of this year’s presidential results is as questionable as judging them off of 1984 presidential results.

    Okay, maybe not that bad, but you get the idea.

    Comparing 2010 midterm elections to 2006 and 2002 is probably the way to go to see how districts are trending.

  2. BTW,

    As an aside, anyone know what the EC totals would look like this year if every state had NE and ME style split of results?

    I guess I could probably look that up or something.

  3. Comparing 2010 midterm elections to 2006 and 2002 is probably the way to go to see how districts are trending.

    Not really. The presidential vote is the best sorta-neutral guide for whether a district is trending Democratic. It was clear four years ago that northern Virginia was going Dem, for example, because Kerry almost won the 11th district (Fairfax County) when it should have been safe for Bush.

    Also, a lot of pundits – John Fund, Michael Barone – wave around the “Bush won 255 districts” figure as proof that Republicans are going to come back any day now.

  4. Husker Du.

    …I am listening to Husker Du at the moment…synchronicity, wow.

  5. The problem with any trend is that you are projecting into the future assuming it will be the same as the past. If Obama really does blow rainbows out of his ass, then these numbers are probably valid. But, if he doesn’t meet expectations and the Dem congress goes crazy, then they are not worth a shit.

    Fewer and fewer people identify strongly with a party. People are more willing to vote for the other party when they are unhappy with one party. I think the days of either party holding a majority for more than a few years are gone. Reallignment has been replaced with deallignment, which is probably a good thing for the country.

  6. Weigel,

    The presidential vote is the best sorta-neutral guide for whether a district is trending Democratic

    That might generally be true, but I dont think every district in the universe was turning more republican in 1984. Sometimes, the person running for president overshadows what is truly going on. I think that was the case this year, although to a lesser degree than 1984.

    Midterm races do have the same problem due to specific personalities in the race, so that probably doesnt work either.

    We need some generic R/D vote that doesnt depend on personalities involved.

  7. The problem with any trend is that you are projecting into the future assuming it will be the same as the past.

    But I’m not, I’m just pointing out that a glimmer of hope for Republicans after the 2006 debacle – the fact that most congressional districts had gone for Bush, and Republicans could take them back – has been snuffed out for this year and for 2010.

  8. 2010 will depend on the economy, whether we’ve run into any more foreign entanglements that please/displease the public, and on whether Leonov can successfully rendezvous with Discovery.

  9. I live in VA 2nd.

    Three things I believe contributed to the Nye win that won’t always be there

    Mass black voter turnout for Obama resulted in straight D ticket voting

    Nye was former military, in a heavily militarized district.

    Drake voted against the bailout, so she obviously hates the poor

  10. Its the dang young demographics going all Blue in the city and coastal areas. Now is the time for Republicans to emphasize their “traditional values” in time for 2010 – McCain was not conservative enough!

  11. Goode lost because after he did an LGF-esque rant on the floor of the House about the impending Muslim takeover of America, he became a national punch line.

  12. I’m sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I can’t agree with that. Despite Obamania? and the coming Mandate-A-Thon, I think this latest (Congressional) election was much more tentatively anti-GOP than in 2004. The Democrats will be blamed for the recession, especially if the GOP can present a case that all of the audaciously hopeful legislation we’re likely to see helped deepen the problem. Let’s not forget that the public perception of Congress has been more negative since the GOP lost control, not less.

    This isn’t to say that I trust the GOP any more now that I have in the past, but they are an excellent minority party, tempting even many of our fellow travelers, and the government is going to be blamed for a lot of things in the next two years. Besides, I think it’s true that the U.S. as a whole rides center-right, which means that an overly aggressive Congress could offend many voters in short order. I will be shocked if the Dems don’t lose a house in 2010.

  13. Pro Lib,

    I’m gonna take a page from your playbook and sum up my own argument with this catchy phrase.

    ALL YOUR DISTRICT BELONG TO US NOW!!!

  14. Now if the six turned out to be nine, I don’t mind, I don’t mind

  15. Naga, close you are, but a Jedi you are not yet. It’s “all your district are belong to us”.

  16. Ever heard of copyright infringement? I gotta mix it up Pro Lib or I’ll have to write you a check for using your material.

  17. Fewer and fewer people identify strongly with a party.

    Except for young people, who are both reaching the age where voting begins in earnest (mid-late 20s, sometimes early 30s) and voting for Democrats by what are terribly discouraging numbers for the GOP. There’s a reason why most of the “take back Congress” rhetoric over the past week or so has included a lot of arguments that the young need new focus.

    I wish them nothing but the best in winning over the most communitarian generation since the Depression with the same tired arguments they’ve been making about lowering taxes and getting rid of civil liberties. Mostly because it ought to be terribly amusing.

  18. Husker Du.

    …I am listening to Husker Du at the moment…synchronicity, wow.

    Sweet, ain’t it?

    Zen Arcade is required listening.

    Jimi Hendrix | November 13, 2008, 11:32am | #

    Now if the six turned out to be nine, I don’t mind, I don’t mind

    Dude, now that the Experience has reunited, don’t you have a gig to get to?

  19. Naga,

    Just scream “Fair use!” and “Parody!” as my lawyers drag you off to Obama’s new Copyright Infringement Prison at Guantanamo Bay. You can check in any time you want, but you can never leave.

  20. Shem,

    What are you some kind of carni? I read your post and suddenly there was a “Yes, we can!” sticker on my shirt.

  21. Pro Lib,

    Hotel California? Or Guantanamo Bay?

  22. Dave omitted the ass-kicking that NoVa socialist, Mark Warner, gave the real Virginian Gilmore in the Senate race.

    And by the way, what kind of country lets a known socialist pile up so much money in the venture capital business?

  23. “I believe the puppet on the left shares my beliefs.”

    “Well, I believe the puppet on the right is more to my liking!”

    “Hey, wait a minute! There’s one guy holding up both puppets!”

    “Shut up, you! Go back to bed, America. Your government is in control.”

  24. Dave omitted the ass-kicking that NoVa socialist, Mark Warner, gave the real Virginian Gilmore in the Senate race.

    That was less illustrative than the prez and House races simply because Gilmore ran the worst campaign I’ve ever seen. He raised $2.6 million and Warner raised $12.9 million. I never even saw a Gilmore ad on TV. The House and prez races were more closely matched – Perriello and Goode both spent $1.5 million, for example.

  25. I wouldn’t use this year’s results as a guide to anything. The stock market went down almost 20%, Bush was in office, Bush got blamed. Period. Two years from now the economy is likely to be even worse. Obama will be in office. He and the Dems will get blamed. That’s how most people vote. People were pissed in 1976 so Ford and his pals got thrown out, and they were stil pissed in 1980 so Carter got the boot. The 80’s were good times so Regan coasted so well that even GHWB got himself elected, but once the economy soured in 92, the people turned on him too. This isn’t exactly rocket science. Obama is a one termer. It has nothing to do with him. It has to do with the almost certain direction of the US economy.

  26. anyone know what the EC totals would look like this year if every state had NE and ME style split of results?

    It’s at electoral-vote.com; go back a few days. I think the result was slightly better for McCain by a few votes.

    I wish them nothing but the best in winning over the most communitarian generation since the Depression with the same tired arguments they’ve been making about lowering taxes and getting rid of civil liberties.

    The social conservatives aren’t exactly helping, either.

  27. “I never even saw a Gilmore ad on TV.”

    I saw one. It looked like a YouTube video, I shit you not. I thought it was a really crappy 527 ad until I heard amazingly “I’m Jim Gilmore, and I approve this message!”

  28. Mark Warner not only won all 11 Congressional districts, he also won every locality except four of them, and one of those localities he lost was Colonial Heights which doesn’t really count.

  29. Naga,

    Let us call it Hotel Infringifornia and be done with it.

  30. Dude, now that the Experience has reunited, don’t you have a gig to get to?

    Not likely since Mitch Mitchell died yesterday.

  31. Oh, wait. I get it now. Sorry, I’m a little slow…

  32. Does the 2010 gerrymandering take place before or after the election? If it’s before, the Republicans are likely screwed because of the number of statehouses controlled by Dems.

  33. What are you some kind of carni? I read your post and suddenly there was a “Yes, we can!” sticker on my shirt.

    I’m not terribly thrilled about it, Naga. I just look at the Republicans, and I can’t help but think “these guys couldn’t find their ass with both hands and a map.”

  34. Mo–

    After the election. The Census isn’t complete until the end of 2010.

  35. I think the days of either party holding a majority for more than a few years are gone.

    I disagree. Because of gerrymandering and the incumbency advantage it took George Bush, an unpopular war, a terrible economy and a scandal-ridden GOP for the Democrats to go from a 202 seat minority in 2006 to a ~250 seat majority in 2008. The political environment for Democrats could not have been much better, but it took them two election cycles to gain 50 seats. I struggle to imagine the kind of perfect storm that would have to develop for the GOP to quickly regain the majority. A nuclear war and a gay orgy on the House floor?

    I think the Democrats will control Congress for a decade easily and probably much longer than that.

  36. I struggle to imagine the kind of perfect storm that would have to develop for the GOP to quickly regain the majority.

    I can see:

    A deep, persistent recession, plus

    A Democratic base that becomes disaffected with the Big O because he doesn’t close Gitmo, pull out of Iraq, heal the planet, etc.

    really depressing Democratic support, but even so the Repubs would have to get re-energized and re-branded to fill the void.

  37. The Democrats will be blamed for the recession, especially if the GOP can present a case that all of the audaciously hopeful legislation we’re likely to see helped deepen the problem.

    Two years from now the economy is likely to be even worse. Obama will be in office. He and the Dems will get blamed. That’s how most people vote.

    You mean like in 1934 and 1936?

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