Monday, August 5, 2013

House Vote Change 2008 to 2012

There’s been a lot of focus on the Presidential vote/demographics and what Republicans will need to do if they’re going to win the Presidency.

There hasn’t been as much focus on the House vote, which I think is more important. Why? The Presidential vote is heavily dependent on two people, their popularity and campaign operations. Neither of those people will be running in any House district or running for anything else again for that matter.

Mitt Romney cut Barack Obama’s margin from the 7.3% he beat John McCain in 2008 to 3.8%. That’s a gain, but still not a win. Democrats can argue that Obama had mediocre approval ratings in a mediocre economy and still managed to win comfortably.

The House vote, on the other hand, went from a 10.6% Democratic win in 2008 to a narrow 1.1% win in 2012. No matter how mediocre Obama’s approval ratings were or how mediocre the economy was, that’s a really bad direction to be headed. Yes, they won more votes, but not by much.

I’m looking at the congressional vote state-by-state because redistricting meant that the 2008 and 2012 districts were different, in some cases very different.

The good news was that it wasn’t as bad a drop as it looks. Republicans knew 2008 was going to be a tough year and failed to field candidates in some states, while Democrats fielded candidates almost everywhere. In 2012, the GOP increased their candidates in these states, while in some cases Democrats decreased theirs.

As a result, the Democrats had big drops in the vote in states where there was a big variation in the number of candidates between 2008 and 2012. In 2008, there were 10 Democratic candidates and 4 Republicans in Massachusetts. Republican share went from 12% to 24%, but it’s tough to say the GOP was a lot better. Because almost every district on the list had. The lone state moving in the Democratic direction was California, where Democrats had a bigger advantage in 2012 than 2008.

The remaining states have been divided into three groups, blue, red, and competitive states. For the most part, Republicans don’t compete for districts in the blue states listed, while Democrats don’t compete for those in the red states listed. In fact, Republicans only have seats in one state, New York, while Democrats have almost entirely minority majority districts in the red states listed.

Democrats dropped by 2.1%, a 4.2% margin, in the blue states and 3.7%, a 7.4% margin, in the red states. This is bad news for them. They’d like their biggest drops to come in non-competitive states. Who cares if Republicans are making gains in seats which won’t change hands?

The last group contains competitive states. While some of these states might not be that competitive on a Presidential level, they are more competitive on a congressional level. Democrats lost an average of 3.9% off their vote, a 7.8% margin. Their 2008 win was 8.6% and their 2012 win was 1.0%. That’s a big drop, just not as big as their overall drop.

The good news for Democrats is that the states where they had their smallest drops have a good share of competitive districts, while some at the top of the list have fewer.

Overall, the 2008 to 2012 change in the House vote, 9.5%, was much larger than the Presidential drop off, 3.5%. The drop in competitive states, 7.8%, is smaller, but it should still be a big concern for Democrats going into the 2014 and 2016 elections.

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