Monday, January 31, 2011

California Redistricting: Another Look

I’m still trying to figure out who California redistricting is going to benefit.

Reasons to help the Democrats
1. If you put 100,000 Democrats from Democratic districts into Republican districts and vice-versa you’d end up with more Democratic districts. Current Democratic districts are really Democratic. Current Republican districts are mostly somewhat Republican.
2. I’ve seen a number of maps using Dave’s Redistricting App and made a couple myself. Each time you end up with a number of currently Republican districts with less McCain votes than the current districts.
3. California is trending Democratic.

Reasons to help the Republicans
1. Democrats currently control 64% of the congressional districts. That’s a higher percentage than any results from any California statewide office in 2006, 2008, or 2010.
2. Democrats are more likely to live in heavily Democratic areas than Republicans do. No matter how you draw the districts there are going to be a number of them that are very very Democratic, leaving less Democrats for the remaining districts.
3. If you only use Obama-McCain numbers, as Dave’s does, you may be overestimating Democratic strength. As the chart below shows, Obama exceeded Kerry’s totals by at least 6 points in every Republican district, but only 21 of the 34 districts Democrats hold. So the districts appear to lean more Democratic than they currently do.

Confused? Yeah? Let me confuse you more. In 2006 congressional Democrats beat Republicans nationally by 8 points nationally and by 16 points in California. That makes sense. California is going to overindex because of how Democratic it is. In 2010 Republicans won the congressional vote by 8 points, but in California Democrats won by 12 points. They didn’t drop by nearly as much as they did nationally. On the other hand, Republicans gained the 7% in the California senate race, a margin that fits in with the national results.

If you look at the 7 2006 statewide races Democrats only beat Republicans by 3.5 points. In 2010, Democrats beat Republicans by 13.5 points in the same races. They increased their share in 6 of the 7 statewide races. So it was across the board, not just a better gubernatorial contest.

To sum up:
1. Republicans improved from 2006 to 2010 in congressional races, but not as much as they did nationally.
2. Republicans improved from 2006 to 2010 in the senate race as much as they did nationally.
3. The statewide races produced the opposite results of the congressional and senate races.

What does this mean for 2012? I have no clue.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

2012: Indiana

Senate: Dick Lugar (R)
Legislature: Republicans +11 (+23%)
State Senate: Republicans +4 (+12%)
House: Democrats 3 Republicans 6
Redistricting: Republican

It’s difficult for me to get my head around Barack Obama taking Indiana in 2008. He did so by the slimmest of margins and I can’t see that repeating in 2012. I’d sooner believe he’ll take Georgia than Indiana.

Lugar is under fire from the tea party as not being conservative enough lately and he seems alternately dismissive and dumbfounded at the tea party and his efforts to appeal to them. The tea party has a point. The National Journal ranks Lugar as the second most liberal Republican senator in 2009, putting him to the left of Susan Collins and as liberal as the most conservative Democrat, Evan Bayh, also from Indiana. The ACU is only slightly kinder. Even there he’s the 3rd most liberal GOP senator. I have a feeling the threat of Lugar losing a primary isn’t going away.

The GOP recaptured the advantage in the congressional delegation in 2010 and figure to keep it in 2012. The challenge for the Republican legislature is to draw a district that covers Gary, Hammond, and the surrounding areas, but also has South Bend. If they can do so, they’ll pit Joe Donnelly and Pete Visclosky against each other is a fairly Democratic district. It needs to look fairly normal, as Mitch Daniels had indicated he won’t sign a heavily gerrymandered map. Donnelly may run for governor if his district becomes unfavorable. A 7-2 delegation is certainly possible.

Friday, January 28, 2011

2012: Senate News

We're 21 months from election day but there's a surprising amount of news. The Club For Growth has indicated they'll likely try to beat Senator Orrin Hatch. Elections are about choices and Utah Republicans should have more than one candidate to make choices. If Hatch can't win a Republican primary in Utah he should leave the Senate

Jim Webb is rumored to be the next Secretary of Defense. Based on Virginia law, if he resigns before the end of June they'll have a special election this November. Special elections have given an indication of how the next election would turn out before. Th elections of Scott Brown and Travis Childers were highly indicative of the coming election. The problem is that it's unlikely that there will be a big edge for one party or the other like there was in 2008 and 2010. Also, both of those elections were deep in enemy territory. Virginia is a swing state. A close win by one party or the other won't tell us much. A landslide a la Bob McDonnell would say something. I don't think that'll happen.

What will McDonnell do for an appointment? A Republican because that's his party? A Democrat to replace Webb, who is a Democrat? Will he appoint a caretaker or will he appoint a candidate to give his choice a leg up?

Pete Hoekstra looks like a possibility for 2012. Michigan and Wisconsin are the top two long time Democratic Presidential wins that the Republicans have a chance to win in the Presidential election. This seat, even in a non-Republican year, is a definite possibility.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

2012: House, Who's in Danger?

Today Larry Sabato addresses the 2012 congressional elections. While he provides a good analysis he misses a few things. He makes the same mistake many analysts do. They measure seat gains and losses compared to what they were before the election, instead of the current mean. This currently favors the Republicans around 227-208. The congressional make-up consistently stays around the mean. That’s why a big wave for one party is almost always followed by a correcting election. While Republicans hold more than they should, the mean favors them.

Of course we know that the mean is likely to move in the Republican party’s favor, not the other way around. And Presidents don’t have long coat tails in re-election campaigns.

He also makes a mistake of listing vulnerable districts. If the district is likely to be changed, you can’t know how much it’ll move in the redistricting party’s favor. There are only 14 potentially vulnerable Democratic seats and 18 potentially vulnerable Republican seats that are unlikely to be impacted by redistricting. Some of these are unlikely to be in danger, but I wanted to include all possibilities.

Republicans hold 15 districts that could be vulnerable, but might be helped enough by redistricting to make them safe.

On the other hand, there are 36 Democratic districts and 35 Republican districts that could become more vulnerable after redistricting. In some cases, these congressmen may be in danger of losing their seats because their state is losing a seat. In some cases two Democrats or two Republicans will be pitted against each other. In others sitting Republican and Democratic congressmen will have to face off. We should wait to see who is in the district before making that judgment.

I listed two Democrats in Massachusetts and two Republicans in Louisiana, because they are in danger of losing their seats because their states lose a district. The other party isn’t going to make gains.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Redistricting: Who Do You Go After?

Republicans will control redistricting in three states losing a seat, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan, as well as Indiana, Wisconsin, Georgia, and North Carolina. Democrats control redistricting in Illinois. The smartest move, when a state loses a seat, is to pit two congressmen from the other party against each other in a seat that may be safer than the current one. There's likely no downside here. They lose one and you lose none.

Whose district do you try to crack by spreading out their voters? The conventional wisdom is you go after the most powerful member or someone who is perceived to be on their party's extreme. Democrats may want to target Peter Roskam in Illinois, a rising star in party leadership. Republicans might go after Tim Holden in Pennsylvania, Dennis Kucinich in Ohio, and John Dingell or Sander Levin in Michigan. In 2002 Republicans went after Holden, pitting him against Republican George Gekas in a district that was designed for Gekas. Holden won. In Michigan they attempted to redistrict John Dingell into retirement twice and failed.

These guys know how to win elections. If you want a good chance of picking up a seat you're better to redistrict out a weak congressman, rather than a strong one. I'm sure some people will find this counterintuitive. You can beat the freshman who barely won without heavily altering his district, but you might fail with the more senior congressman. Yes, if you go after the more senior congressman you might be able to pick up both seats, but you also might lose both too.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Myth of Coat Tails

The Democrats believe that a strong showing by Barack Obama will have coat tails that will win a bunch of seats for the Democrats. I’ve already shown that Presidents have much shorter coattails in re-elections, so I’ll look at how congress does compared to the President’s performance.

In the last three elections congressional performance has tracked very closely with Presidential performance. Obama overachieved by a bit. This is what Democrats are hoping for.

When we look at Bill Clinton’s elections things get murkier. The Presidential vote totals were low because of Ross Perot. So there were people voting for parties in congress that voted for him. What’s noteable is that even though Clinton increased his margin from around 6 million to 7.5 million, congressional Democrats saw their margin shrink from 5 million to less than 300,000. Their performance yielded 258 seats in 1992, but only 206 in 1996. So, while Bill Clinton was successful, congressional Democrats were not.

If the GOP had put up a stronger candidate than Bob Dole this election might have been winnable. Clinton really didn’t win the showdown with Republicans. Republicans lost only 2 of the 54 seats they won in 1994. Bob Dole lost this election.

If we go back to earlier elections the coat tails myth gets completely debunked.

Despite some one sided victories in the Presidential races, the GOP never translated that into congressional races. Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon dramatically increased their margins of victory in re-elections, but both actually lost ground in the congressional races. If the Republicans could win the Presidency by 18 points and lose Congress by 6 points, there’s no guarantee Obama will take anyone with him if he does well.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Senate Range

The Democrats have 23 senate seats to defend, while Republicans only have 10. That sounds bad, but how bad is it? I took each seat and gave it a range of retention and what I feel it is currently. If Daniel Akaka runs against anyone other than Linda Lingle or Duke Alona, I'd put retention at 100%. If Akaka retires and Lingle runs, I'd put it at 60%.

The best case scenario for Republicans is +10.4 seats. The worst case is +1. Right now I see a +5.1, for a 52-48 Republican advantage. You can quibble with my percentages.

I'm sure there's plenty of disagreement on my ranges. I tried to make them as broad as possible based on the best and worst possible conditions for each party. I'm sure that with some adjustment you could find that the Democratic best scenario is losing 0 or the Republican best case is winning 11 or 12. And you might be right. After all, I thought the Republican best case in 2010 was +4 and worst case was -3.5. If you had asked me in January 2009 I would've thought that Evan Bayh, Blanche Lincoln, Russ Feingold, and the Illinois open seat would've been 60%-70% Democratic wins worst case for them. In addition to that Obama won Florida, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Those should've been toss ups at best for the GOP. It's difficult to see conditions that will be as good as 2010 for Republicans or 2008 for the Democrats.

Because they have so many seats to defend, Democrats are all but certain to lose seats even in favorable conditions. Right now I'd give Republicans a 65% chance of taking the majority.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Jumpin' Joe Lieberman Retires

Progressives are celebrating Lieberman's retirement, but this is a win for Republicans too. Democrats had to defend 21 seats next year. While Lieberman and Sanders caucus with them, the DSCC doesn't have to worry about supporting them. They'd be on their own. If they wanted to, the Democrats could've run a candidate and spent their dollars elsewhere, knowing that the winner would almost definitely caucus with them.

Now, however, the Democrats will have to support a candidate. They'll have to put their own money, and they don't have any more popular statewide elected officials like Richard Blumenthal. I think Democratic chances have gone up slightly, but defense costs more than offense. So the Democrats will have to spend more to win a seat that will still caucus with them. Any resources pulled away from other races is a net plus.

Monday, January 17, 2011

2012 Swing States II

I wanted to flush out my conclusions from Friday's analaysis.When looking at 2012, we can put 30 states/districts in the columns of the GOP or President Obama. (states listed in decreasing order of electoral votes)

This doesn’t include the electoral vote for Nebraska’s second district, which could once again be in play. It’s a tough call to say Maine can’t be in play, considering the size of 2010’s wins in the legislature and the governor’s mansion. The GOP had lame showings in the congressional races indicate that the state is unlikely better on a national level. In fact, Chellie Pingree won by a greater margin this year.

The 10 states here, and Nebraska, were won by Bush in either 2000 or 2004, and Obama in 2008. Obama had a big advantage due to the anti-Republican sentiment. So I don’t see them all going to him again. Florida, Indiana, New Hampshire, and Nebraska’s 2nd should favor the GOP. I think 2008 was an anomaly with these states, and they may be getting more Republican.

New Mexico, Nevada, and Colorado should remain with Obama. These states have become more Democratic and will be tougher for any Republican in the future.

That leaves Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, and Iowa. With the exodus of Democrats from the Cleveland area, Ohio keeps becoming more Republican. Virginia, on the other hand, keeps adding Democrats in the D.C. area. I still put these as toss-ups.

There are six states which could go Democratic this year. Conventional wisdom is that if Georgia were to go Obama then he will have already won. After all, wouldn’t he get this state after getting all the more Democratic states?

Not necessarily. Georgia has seen an influx of African-Americans, the most reliable Democratic voters and voters that are extraordinarily loyal to the President. Georgia was 30% African-American in 2008 and may be even have a higher concentration in 2012.

Arizona is tricky. Native son John McCain was able to blunt any possible Democratic lean in 2008. The governor’s mansion and the legislature went Republican again this year, but Democrats did better than expected in the congressional races. While the GOP did pick-up two congressional seats, they left two others on the table. This state probably isn’t a swing state yet, but you can’t ignore that Nevada to the north and New Mexico to the east have gone Democratic. Arizona has had the same Democratic migration as these states have had.

I consider Missouri an unlikely flip, but it was so close in 2008 that I included it.

I’m skeptical that Montana and the Dakotas could flip, but they are small states that could tip if Democrats keep moving into them. If they aren’t swing states now, they will be in 2016 or 2020.

There is, however, a group of states that could swing that Republicans haven’t been very competitive in years.

All these states have been losing population. Democrats have made western states more Democratic, but the Democrats have to come from somewhere. When they leave these states, they become more Republican. The GOP now has all eight of the legislative houses in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Three of them elected Republican governors and the GOP took two senate seats from Democrats. New Jersey had no elections in 2010. So it’s tough to see how the wave impacted this state. This state is a long shot to flip, but all five bear watching.

Friday, January 14, 2011

2012 Swing States

In 2000 and 2004 47 states were won by the same party both times. In 2008 Barack Obama managed to flip 9 states Bush won in 2004. Was this predictable? The best way to look at how a state is skewing is to adjust for the environment and quality of the candidate. The way to do this is to compare the candidate’s share of vote. Al Gore got about 2% more of the vote than John Kerry did. When we compare the 9 states we see that in 7 of them John Kerry did better compared to his overall share than Al Gore did. This, despite Kerry losing Iowa and New Mexico, states Gore won. There were a few other states where Kerry improved on Gore, but both lost them by enough that Obama couldn’t have been expected to win the states.

So which states will flip in 2012? To determine that I included both 2008 Presidential and 2010 congressional. These numbers are the difference between Fuji apples and Red Delicious. Congressional numbers aren’t as indicative because strong winners can go against the tide and weak challengers can drag the numbers. Knowing this, I excluded any state with 3 representatives or less. Due to incumbency, the Democrats did dramatically better in South Dakota, North Dakota, and West Virginia than the average Democrat did in 2010. In North Dakota, Earl Pomeroy was a stronger candidate than Barack Obama will be there in 2012.

First, let’s look at the states where the Democrats did better compared to the average Democrat than Obama did in 2008. Democrats did 7.2% worse in 2010. Since that was also their drop in Colorado, we can see that the Democrats didn’t actually do worse in 2010 than 2008. If Obama is a strong candidate in 2012, he should be able to win the state.

There are some surprising states on here. Democrats got swamped in Mississippi, Arkansas, South Carolina, and Louisiana, but their performance in these states was better than Obama’s in 2008. While none of those seem likely to flip, Arizona and Georgia are states to watch. John McCain’s presence on the ballot likely obscured Arizona’s Democratic trend. Democratic congressmen actually got a smaller share of the vote than Obama did, but they did better in a Republican year than Obama did in a Democratic year. Georgia is getting better for Democrats. African-Americans made up 30% of the vote in 2008 and may be even larger in 2012. This could be a big upset state.

There were some other states, however, that could be prickly for the President. Missouri barely went McCain and remains an opportunity. Pennsylvania, Colorado, and Virginia didn’t drift either way. Each was a swing state before and should be again.

There was a group of seven states, however, that could prove difficult for the President. New Jersey isn’t considered a swing state, but it keeps on getting more Republican. If Georgia is in play, New Jersey may also be.

Ohio, Indiana, Florida, and Iowa are all states Bush won. Obama took Ohio and Florida even though he did worse compared to his average than Kerry did. They were worse this year and may prove difficult for Obama in 2012. Indiana was regarded as a fluke in 2008. This was the state Obama improved the most. As any statistician will tell you, an outlier is the most likely to drop off.

Wisconsin and Michigan were very strong for Obama. Yet Democrats had their weakest effort of the decade in these states this year. Does he have something special in these states that we wouldn’t see in the numbers?

If Obama wins by 7 points again, he’ll cruise to victory. If it’s close, however, and Obama loses these seven states, he’d lose even if he flips Missouri or Arizona. If the Republicans also capture New Hampshire, they could win even if Obama manages to flip Georgia.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

California Redistricting Scramble

The only thing we know for sure is that when California congressional districts are determined there'll be a lot of uncertainty. Until we see them, we can't know who's helped and who isn't, and even then a district which becomes more Democratic might not be a loss for a seasoned Republican.

Who won't be hurt?
Los Angeles and Bay Area Democrats - There'll be a Westside district in LA that Henry Waxman will run in. It's likely to be a little less Democratic, but there aren't enough Republicans in the area to seriously threaten Waxman. The San Francisco Bay Area is so Democratic that any rep whose district is now anywhere in Marin, Contra Costa, Alameda, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties shouldn't have anything to worry about.

Rural Republicans - Kevin McCarthy, Jeff Denham, and Devin Nunes have enough Republicans in the area in and around their districts that they won't have to worry. Many of the rural Democratic leaning Hispanics will be reserved for minority majority districts. There should be safe districts for Wally Herger and Tom McClintock, but Dan Lungren's district might go either way.

Who will be hurt?
Southern California Republicans - There are bound to be a few fairly Republican districts in Orange, San Diego, San Bernardino, and Riverside counties, but not as many as there are now. Many of these districts are gerrymandered in a way that there are Democrats on all sides of their districts. So these districts will become more Democratic. A few will become more competitive.

There may be two neighboring districts that are fairly Republican now, but become a Republican district and a toss up district. If the two Republican congressmen have part of their old districts in each, will they both go for the safe Republican district and run against each other? What if a district contains a lot of the congressman's old district, but not where he lives? Will he move 15 miles to get a good district?

Will someone be asked to fall on his sword? Buck McKeon, David Dreier, Darrell Issa, and Dana Rohrbacher are committee chairmen. Would Republican leadership pressure Brian Bilbray and John Campbell to let Issa run in the most Republican district in the area, while they'd get swing districts? The worst case scenario is two Republicans running against each other in a safe district, leaving a neighboring swing district in the hands of an inexperienced, underfunded candidate.

Border Democrats - Loretta Sanchez, Joe Baca, Jim Costa, and Bob Filner are among Democrats who live in Democratic districts that are in Republican territory. If the districts are drawn just a little differently they could be staring down a lot of Republican constituents.

Most congressmen will be able to run in districts only a little more Democratic or a little more Republican than they have now. They may get tougher, but shouldn't be out of reach. A few, however, will be in big trouble. Lucille Roybal-Allard could add a bunch of Republicans and still win handily. David Dreier won't be able to do the same with his district. It can go from fairly safe to leaning Democratic.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

2012: New Jersey

Senate: Bob Menendez (D)
Legislature: No election
State Senate: No election
House: Democrats 7 Republicans 6
Redistricting: Bi-partisan

New Jersey is thought of as a blue state, but this state is far closer to Pennsylvania and Ohio than it is to New York or Connecticut. Chris Christie is a popular successful governor and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that this state could be in play. Republicans were unfortunate with the 2002 redistricting and that’s unlikely to be repeated this year.

Bob Menendez is an underwhelming senator, vulnerable to a strong Republican challenge. With a congressional district being eliminated look for someone like Rep. Leonard Lance to run for senate.

If the bi-partisan commission creates more compact districts, expect a district to be eliminated in the central part of the state. The 4th, 6th, 7th, and 12th will likely be impacted. Two of these are Republican districts, two Democratic. There’s no obvious congressman that’ll lose his seat.

Monday, January 10, 2011

2012: North Carolina

Senate: None
Legislature: Republicans +15 (+29%)
State Senate: Republicans +11 (+55%)
House: Democrats 7 Republicans 6
Redistricting: Republicans

Democrats won the 7th, 8th, 11th, and 13th districts this year with 53-55% of the vote. This occurred despite a Democratic gerrymander. This time the Republicans draw the lines and they could easily draw 10 of the 13 districts that John McCain would’ve won. While Republicans will try to protect their seats in most states, they’ll draw for pick-ups here. There is no state with greater opportunity for Republican gains in 2012.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

2012: Illinois

Senate: None
Legislature: Republicans +6 (+13%)
State Senate: Republicans +2 (+9%)
House: Democrats 8 Republicans 11
Redistricting: Democrats

If you think I’m pessimistic about Republicans’ chances in the House in Florida or Texas, skip this blog post. Republicans did take the senate seat in 2010, while picking up four congressional seats and retaining one, the 10th, that is now the Democratic seat the Republicans have. This is a blue state that Barack Obama makes bluer and the only state Democrats control redistricting that Republicans have any significant representation. In fact, this might be the only state Democrats are able to win seats with redistricting. Illinois loses a seat in 2012 and that almost certainly will come from the GOP. Going into 2010 Democrats held a 12-7 advantage and it’s not hard to see it being a 10-8 or 11-7 advantage after 2012. We’re talking a loss of 3 or 4 seats. If they only lose 2 that should be considered a victory.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Republican Wave

Stu Rothenberg is trying to defend his April 2009 prediction that Republicans had "None. Zero. Zilch." chance of winning the House in 2010. Rothenberg's critics are lambasting him.

They are right to do so. I didn't start studying the House and elections until early 2010, but once I studied the numbers, I saw a Republican take-over as likely. After the 2008 election, Democrats controlled 69 Republican leaning districts. Republicans controlled 9 Democratic leaning districts. That can only happen in years where Democrats turn out in high numbers, Republicans turn out in low numbers, and independents favor Democrats. That occurred because the President was unpopular. Once you removed George Bush from the equation, there was no reason to think Republicans would turn out at least in average numbers and independents would vote fairly equally for both parties. Democrats would have no compelling reason to turn out in high numbers, as they weren't voting against Bush or to put Obama in office. Off year elections get 70%-75% of the electorate every time, with lower turn-out from core Democratic groups, young people and African-Americans.

Mr. Rothenberg could've looked at history and seen that a big gain by one party almost always results in a similar drop for that party in the next election. Democrats postponed this due to the Obama/Bush combination, but a party never holds such a high percentage of districts that lean to the other party for very long.

Democrats control 17 Republican leaning districts now, a drop of 52. Republicans control 18 Democratic leaning districts, a gain of 9. Republicans control 2 more even PVI districts for the total of 63. It's evened out. That should've been predictable. Republicans do control 45 districts that are even or have a slight GOP skew, while Democrats only control 22 such districts with a slight Democratic skew. That's why 242 seats is 10-15 more than what was likely to happen.

Once I analyzed the numbers I found that the most likely outcome was in the 50 seat Republican gain neighborhood, similar to Republican losses in 2006 and 2008.

Right now "normal" is around a 229-206 Republican edge. Democrats can take control of the House for a temporary period of time. I'd give them a 15% chance of doing so in 2012 if Obama wins re-election in 2012. If a Republican wins, I'd give the Democrats a 50-50 chance of taking the House in 2014. In either case the House would flip back in the next election.

The only way a Democratic majority would be "normal" is if the Democratic prediction of a big change in the electorate comes true. There's a little bit of evidence of this now, but at the current pace that'll take 10-20 years. If it happens.

2012: Georgia

Senate: None
Legislature: Republicans +8 (+8%)
State Senate: Republicans +2 (+6%)
House: Democrats 5 Republicans 8
Redistricting: Republicans

Republicans fell just shy of beating Sanford Bishop this year. While John Barrow won by 14 points, the 12th is a toss up district. The GOP should be able to remove enough Democrats from each district to make them both attainable. Georgia gets another district in 2012 and that one will likely be in the heavily Republican Georgia suburbs. The GOP will pick up at least one congressional seat in 2012 and might pick up two or three.

The saving grace for Democrats is the state’s huge African-American population. Huge turnout in 2008 resulted in Republicans only winning Georgia by 5 points. If Georgia were in play in 2012 that means that states like North Carolina, Virginia, and Florida are going to the Democrats and the Presidential race will be a Democratic blow-out.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

9 Reasons the Democrats can't take back the House in 2012

1. A President’s party makes big gains when he’s elected, but rarely when he’s re-elected. Even in a landslide Presidential victory.

2. While Republicans control a disproportionate share of toss-up districts, Democrats need to increase their share of toss-ups from 32% to 60% to gain the majority. That doesn’t happen in a re-elect.

3. Republicans control redistricting in a lot of states. While they may not gain seats in those states, they are unlikely to lose many. A lot of toss-up districts will be safer.Democrats can really only redistrict Republicans out in Illinois.

4. There were another dozen pick-ups in heavily Republican districts where it was a fluke for a Democrat to win. Republicans didn’t win those types of districts in 2010. While Republicans do control 61 districts Obama won, John Kerry won only 13 of those. Obama took more than 58% of the vote in 1 district and took 57%+ of the vote in four districts. John Kerry got 53% in his best district. Republicans don’t hold marginal districts. So they can't lose them.

5. While Republicans have only 1 district where Obama exceeded his vote by 5 points, Democrats have 9 districts that exceeded McCain's vote by 5 points.Thus, the Republicans have better opportunities that will likely only get better with redistricting. Two of those districts are in Arkansas and West Virginia, states where Obama may make things worse.

6. Republicans won 13 southern House seats in districts that have always elected a Democrat, despite voting for Republicans for the senate and President. When the Democrats lose a seat in the south, they don’t win it back.

7. Democrats had a huge advantage due to Republican scandals. In some cases, they took scandal ridden seats, but they effected others.

8. Republicans only hold one legislative body. A party almost always generates the type of animosity that results in big losses when they hold the Presidency.

9. Democrats were only able to take the House and Senate in years when Republican turn-out was low. That’s unlikely in 2012.

GOP Target List

The NRCC has their first 2012 congressional target list up. There are 54 congressmen on the list. There aren't any districts on the list that are safe Democratic with a PVI above D+8. A number of them were GOP targets in 2010. All of these districts, however, will have a different make-up in 2012 and some will be eliminated. I suppose the NRCC is saying that Betty Sutton will run somewhere in 2012 and they want to turn up the heat. They aren't committing any money to any of these districts. Clearly the NRCC isn't looking to be timid and won't back away from going on offense. Good to see.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

2012: Florida

Senate: Bill Nelson (D)
Legislature: Republicans +5 (+7%)
State Senate: Republicans +2 (+8%)
House: Democrats 6 Republicans 19
Redistricting: Republicans

Don’t let the small legislative increases fool you. Republicans hold two thirds majorities in both Florida houses and the governor’s mansion. They have 76% of the House of Representatives seats. They won the majority of Latino votes. Such dominance could be considered unusual in a state this size, but it’s shocking in a state won by Barack Obama in 2008. This isn’t a state the GOP should lose in 2012.

Exactly how redistricting will work is unknown. Republicans control all the levers, just as they did ten years ago. Amendment 6 passed in November and it says, “Congressional districts or districting plans may not be drawn to favor or disfavor an incumbent or political party.” The Amendment says that the districts “must be compact, as equal in population as feasible, and where feasible must make use of existing city, county and geographical boundaries.” Not only are the terms vague but there’s no one designated to provide oversight. Redistricting will likely end up in court.

The 2002 Republican gerrymander was remarkably successful for the GOP. They managed to pack as many Democrats as they could in 6 districts. Rick Scott won the gubernatorial contest by 1 point. Republicans shouldn’t have such a large advantage in the congressional delegation. The state will have 27 districts in 2012. Of the current 25 districts 6 are R +7 or better and 6 are D +7 or better. Republicans will do their best to maximize their delegation, but there should definitely be losses here. A 19-8 advantage would be a gift. A 17-10 advantage is far more likely.

Bill Nelson’s senate seat is a huge opportunity for the GOP. So far they have no significant candidates to knock him off, but in 2008 no one ever heard of Marco Rubio. He turned out to be one of the most impressive candidates in 2010. Like Texas, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, controlling redistricting might not be enough to prevent losses. I expect them to only lose a handful in the four, but that’s only because of their control.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


News media outlets seem confused about how many freshmen GOP congressmen there are. There are 80. Five newly elected congressmen (Steve Pearce, Charlie Bass, Mike Fitzpatrick, Tim Walberg, and Steve Chabot) have served before and aren't considered freshmen. Marlin Stutzman and Tom Reed were actually elected to the 111th congress on election day. Their freshman tenure was only a month and a half, but this is their second congress.

Monday, January 3, 2011

When a 20 Seat Gain isn’t a 20 Seat Gain

A number of people have said that with Republicans controlling so much redistricting, they’ll gain 20 more seats. Others, such as myself, have said that the GOP won’t gain any seats. Both statements are right. Republicans will likely not have a net gain due to redistricting, but they will have a net of about a 20 seat gain from how they would’ve done if the redistricting were done by a bi-partisan or non-partisan committee. The chart below has states where Republicans control redistricting in red and Democrats in blue.

If the GOP weren’t drawing the lines in the 16 states below, they’d likely lose about 20 seats. Since they are, however, they’ll likely break even. The chart doesn’t include states like New Jersey, California, Colorado, or California that have bi-partisan or non-partisan commissions. These may net the Democrats a couple of seats, resulting in no net gain for either party.

If both parties had a fairly equal number of the current toss-up seats the House split would be around 227-208 Republican. If Republicans can move some toss-up seats into a firmer Republican lean that expectation may rise above 240. The GOP caucus wouldn’t expect to lose any seats.