Saturday, September 18, 2010

When Blue Dogs Go Down

I've heard more than progressive say, "You know, I wouldn't mind only having 230 seats, as long as we had 220 good progressives. If the Blue Dogs lost this fall, I won't mind."

That should send chills down the spine of any Blue Dog. Even if progressives are a minority in his district, he can't win without them. Still, I wonder if the Democrats lose 26 net seats, whether it'll be Blue Dogs going down. There is a common assumption that when a moderate in one party is defeated he's replaced by a moderate in the other party. I want to see how likely this is by looking at the make-up of the moderate Republican Main Street Partnership to see if the winners are likely to join. There's no way to know for sure, of course, but I can make a good guess based on where the RMSP membership is now. From looking at the districts that at least one forecaster thinks could flip we see that Blue Dog seats are far more likely to go Republican.

For a 26 net seat loss I'm giving the Democrats four wins (DE-AL, IL-10, HI-1, LA-2). These are the only Republican seats that any forecaster even has a toss-up. They are all RMSP members, so the moderate Republicans will take a hit. The new congressmen are likely to be mainstream Democrats. Next I took the 30 seats most likely to switch by combining the ratings from The Crystal Ball, Rothenberg Report, Cook, CQ, and RCP. Then I added in the next 13 that'd put the Democrats in the minority.

It seems the most vulnerable Democrats aren't Blue Dogs at all. There are seats in New York, New Hampshire, Ohio, Washington, and Colorado that are currently held by a mainstream Democrat. If Republicans can peel off 30% of the remaining Blue Dogs they'll get bills passed. The next group consists of more Blue Dogs, but the mainstream Dems are at a pretty low number.

Among the first 30, 14 are likely to be replaced by GOP moderates. Even in this scenario, the GOP moderates would outnumber the Democratic ones 53 to 43. The next group would likely have more mainstream Republicans.

This blows out another assumption that people make. A moderate doesn't replace a moderate. In Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Oklahoma, Indiana, Iowa, and Texas there are 26 Blue Dogs and no RMSP members. In Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Florida, the RMSP outnumbers Blue Dogs 22 to 4. There is overlap in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and California. Those would be the only districts I'd assume would swap moderates.

These two scenarios show a bigger Republican win and one where Republicans take every seat that anyone remotely thinks could switch. Blue Dogs drop by the road, but Republican moderates boom. With a 67 seat net win, conservatives would need 43 moderate votes for a majority. Even in a scenario with 289 seats, conservatives would still be 15 shy of a majority.

It's certainly possible that all the mainstream Democratic seats forecasters think will switch won't, but it seems likely that Democratic losses won't just be limited to the Blue Dogs. If the Republicans do get a majority their ranks will swell with more moderates.

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