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Thursday, June 08, 2006

CA-50: Another Look

Posted by James L.

[UPDATE (David): As a courtesy to readers of the Swing State Project, Charlie Cook has graciously made Amy Walter's column freely available.]

Was Francine Busby's loss in CA-50 a sign of a Democratic base problem? We mulled over it a bit in my post-mortem, but the best summary of this lament came from Markos:

Well, it seems everything I've been saying for the last few months came to happen.

1) Democrats are not motivated to turn out. Sure, Busby exceeded Kerry's 43 percent he got in the district in 2004, but not by much. She got 45.46%. If the "culture of corruption" message was enough to bring people out to vote Democratic, this would be the place to do it. This is Duke Cunningham territory, he of the million dollar mansions, yachts, and hookers. Regardless, district voters sent a lobbyist back to Washington to represent them.

2) 2006 will be a base election -- the party that wins is the party that gets more pf its partisans to the polls. Busby worked hard to win the independent vote. And like Kerry in 2004, she probably won it. But it does no good when the other side gets more of its voters out to the polls. And a milquetoast campaign that hides partisan divisions and stresses "competence" will not inspire our partisans to come out and vote. The Republicans, on the other hand, made sure to rile up their base. Busby helped with her unfortunate comments that were so easily twisted out of context by the right wing noise machine, but they'll do that to every single one of our candidates. [Emphasis added]

Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report has another take:

But, as we had written from the very beginning, Busby could not win simply by getting her voters to the polls. The Democratic base in this heavily Republican district makes up just 44-45 percent of the vote. To win, she needed Republican voters to either stay home or to vote for one of the third party candidates. Busby even ran advertising encouraging conservative Republicans to support William Griffith.


Pre-eminent congressional scholar Gary Jacobson of the University of California San Diego notes that Busby actually did better than simply win the Democratic vote. She also got a bigger share of independents. Busby got 55,587 votes in the special election, almost 10,000 more votes than were cast in the Democratic primary (45,868). The special election and the regular primary were held on the same day. Bilbray, meanwhile, took 60,319 votes in the run-off election, while 59,195 votes were cast in the Republican primary. "Without too great an inferential leap," writes Jacobson, "we could conclude that Bilbray got the Republicans, Busby got the Democrats and a disproportionate share of the rest--just not enough to win."

Furthermore, notes Jacobson, when looking at party registration figures, it is clear that Democrats were more energized than Republicans. Bilbray's vote, he notes, was 38.6 percent of the number of Republican registrants, Busby's was 52.7 percent of the number of Democratic registrants. Based on the primary election vote, he notes, Democratic turnout was 43.8 percent, while Republican turnout was 37.8 percent. [Emphasis added]

So, after all that hubbub about Bilbray supposedly capturing the hearts and minds of progressives, it turns out that base motivation wasn't the problem at all here. The problem was, simply, that there just weren't enough damn Democrats in the district to mobilize in the first place. Given the huge amount the NRCC spent on Bilbray, and the RNC's much-vaunted 72-hour GOTV field operation in the district (a sign of smart strategy, not desperation), the Busby campaign did a pretty good job to get our side to the polls. As Walters contends, Republican incumbents in tight races shouldn't greet the CA-50 results with a sigh of relief:

So what's the bottom line lesson here? While a loss would have been disastrous for the Republicans, a win does not suggest that they are going to have an easy time this fall. In more marginal districts with stronger Democratic candidates and/or weakened Republican candidates, the political environment is certainly enough of a factor to take a toll. It's clear that Bilbray was unable to get the "soft" Republican voters that have traditionally broken for Republicans in the past, but in this heavily Republican district, he could afford to lose these voters. Republican incumbents who sit in more marginal districts do not have that luxury. For them, even a two or three point dip in turn-out could be politically fatal.

Posted at 11:38 PM in 2006 Elections - House, California | Technorati

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From a local perspective, I can attest to the observations by Amy Walters and Gary Jacobson. There is one caveat though. While Democratic turnout was higher percentage-wise than Republicant turnout, we really needed it to be even higher. Democrats, liberals, and progressives are notorious for low turnouts in special elections, offyear elections, and even primaries. Their highest turnouts? In presidential races. In fact, some only vote the top of ticket and forget about the rest. The best thing that we can do to motivate these voters is to educate them that everything is presidential. Want to block the Bushies? Then vote for the Democratic representative or senator. In other words, "nationalize" the election as national Dems are trying to do.

Posted by: phonatic [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2006 02:23 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I think you make a pretty prescient point there, phonatic, and that point is: did Busby run at all against Bush? All the TV ads I saw from her said absolutely nothing about Bush, or national issues besides ethics/corruption. Given Bush's weakness, you would think that Busby would try to tap into some of that resentment. But, alas, she steered clear.

Posted by: James L. [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2006 10:19 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I think Kos missed the mark with his first prediction and was on target with the second. I don't think it's so much that Democrats are unmotivated (Walters' report showed that Dems came out in full force to support Busby), I think it's that Republicans ARE motivated. The media has been off the mark in its observations that immigration is a Republican problem and not a Democratic problem, and also that Bush's sinking poll numbers portend a demoralized GOP voter base that won't turn out in November. I expect the exact opposite to happen. Republican candidates in Middle America will run to the right of Bush as an antidote to a Republican President "too close to Ted Kennedy", and GOP turnout will be brisk by midterm standards. This is the Karl Rove era. I don't expect unmotivated Republican voters to return anytime soon as they'll always have a bogeyman to drive a stake through the heart of every two years.

On the other hand, Kos is right that this will be a base election, which bodes poorly for Democrats consider the gerrymanders they have to overcome. Democrats and Republicans will both be energized, independents will not be. Dems will have to sweep the independents to beat back Republican incumbents or win GOP-leaning open seats. But as Walters' report points out with CA-50, even sweeping the independents won't win any elections for Democrats if the independents don't show up to vote.

Posted by: Mark [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2006 10:50 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I'm about done with post-mortems on CA-50.
We overestimated the opportunity and underestimated the odds in such a Red district.
We were seduced by that early special-election date. The moment passed.
The GOP now has an incumbent in CA-50 and he's qualified, having held the office before in an adjacent district.
He's not even the worst Republican who might have won, from among their field of candidates.

Bottom-tier race, now, barring the unforeseen. Moving on with a sigh, but I'm moving on.

One point, though, on the analysis posted.

In more marginal districts with stronger Democratic candidates and/or weakened Republican candidates,...

Let's get honest. You don't get a much more "weakened" Republican candidate
than one who pulled only 16% of his party's votes in the original primary
and whose opponents ostentatiously dragged their feet about coalescing around him after he won.

We've got opportunities for Fall, in Congressional and Senate races,
and in state-level races, that are less of a long shot.
Let's sweep up the confetti and focus on the next thing.

Posted by: Christopher Walker [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2006 10:55 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

The RNC just spent $11 million dollars versus $4.7 million for the Dems to win a heavily Gop seat with double digit registration advantage, by 4% and end up with less than 50% of the vote to boot. All this proved was that negative campaigns and bug bucks still work, but just barely. Given Schoolboardmember Busby's last minute "gaffe" and the fact that Bilbray was running against Bush & McCain on Immigration, I don't see how this portends badly for the Dems nor is this a vindication for the White House on their policies.

Trends: CA CD-50

2003 Shwarzenegger 63.1%
2004 Bush 55.2%
2004 Cunningham 58.5%
2006 Bilbray 49.3%

CD-50 Registration:
Dem 29.69
Gop 44.02
Other 4.34 (AI = 2.2)
Declined to State 21.95

Posted by: Predictor [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2006 12:23 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Kos maybe wrong about this particular district, but in the districts of which we have more a fighting chance this fall I would guess he is probably right. I don't see the argument for not motivating your base, which to me seems to be inherit in the let the Republicans self destruct theory. It's it possible to do both- or is it the fear that it will either a) confuse the voters or b) turn democrats into a target? On the later, we will be a targer regardless, and on the former, I think the voters are yearning for change. This means so long as you can articulate your case in a clear and compelling manner- it probably makes more sense to have a plan than not (ie, running as the outsider means saying how you are different than the status quo does it not?)

Posted by: bruhrabbit [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2006 01:02 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

What's wrong with you people? Why can't you see the obvious?

This was a huge election for us. We didn't lose anything. Sure we lost this specific race, but you should have been expecting that from the very beginning.

Fact #1:


Fact #2:


So why did we lose?

Because this district is overwhelmingly Republican. Do you think every district across America, held by a Republican, is this skewed towards the Republicans? Do you expect us to win 231 seats in November? Do you expect us to wipe out the entire Republican party? I always knew we would lose this election. I knew this because no matter what happened, Busby was held at 45%. So why then does it surprise you that Busby got 45%? But overall, just like in OH-10, we saw an improvement of about 18% overall - and an improvement of 10% over our best showing in the district (2004 where Bush beat Kerry by 14%). The Republicans beat us nationally by 3%. If we gain 10% - that means we'll win by 7%. If we gain 18% that means we'll win by 15%. So what does this election and OH-02 show us? That we can actually win the November elections by 7% to 15% (which incidently is in line with all the polls) - even when we are outspent two to one.

But here's the thing. There are a great many (more than 50) districts where the number of Independents and Democrats out number the Republicans! These are races we need to go after and win. So stop your bellyaching about this race...by any measurement it was a solid improvement and portents well for the uncoming midterms.

As for the gerrymandering issue. Am I the only one who thinks that this may actually help us? Why, you ask? Because there were a lot of districts, like CA-50 and OH-02, which were solidly Republican - whose margins were DECREASED by the gerrymandering. Gerrymandering didn't create any new Republican voters. What it did was shift the demographic breakdown of certain districts. Making some "swing" districts more favorable to the Republicans, but doing so by making more "solid" Republican districts - less favorable to Republicans.

If we gain 7% to 15% nationally, Tom Delay would have effectively put some of those districts in play, where they otherwise wouldn't have been. Gerrymandering only benefits the party who does it, if people basically vote the same way election to election. When you have a realignment, then gerrymandering may have the opposite effect of losing your party more seats. Case in point, 1994. The Democrats have "gerrymandered" those crap out of those districts, and it helped them hold on to Congress for decades. But in 1994, with the Republican realignment, we lost 54 seats (after having lost 9 in 1992).

You'll just have to trust me, I believe this election is a good sign for November. There are about 80 districts that are more competitive that CA-50. If a 4% win is the best the Republicans can do, with a two to one money advantage and an issue as red hot as immigration, then they are in bigger trouble than I first suspected.

Posted by: jackbourassa [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2006 02:54 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

The majority of our target districts are not as republican as CA CD-50 and are in regions where repub/Bush ratings are very low and also where we have top tier challengers. I too am not put off by Busby's loss, I think it was incredible that we were able to take a 14.35% republican advantage and whittle it down to a 4.24% margin with someone whose lead claim to political experience was as a school board member and former sacrificial lamb in a 2004 election contest.
I still believe we are looking at double digit gains in the House.

Posted by: Predictor [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2006 03:17 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

It's a huge leap to say that Democrats will gain 7%-15% nationally based on the CA-50 results.

Not every district has an open seat.

Not every district will be as intimately touched by the corruption issue as CA-50 was.

But you are right about one thing: I never really expected that we'd win this one.

Posted by: James L. [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2006 03:18 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I dunno; the Demcorats have some pretty top-tier targets that are as red or redder than CA-50.

From the Hotline:

But if Democrats plan on winning back the House, they’re going to have to win races in even redder territory. In fact, almost half of the Dems’ top pickup opportunities are in districts that Bush carried with over 55% in 2004. Here’s a list of Bush’s vote share in these vulnerable incumbents’ GOP districts:

Rep. Geoff Davis (R-KY 04): 63%
Rep. John Hostettler (R-IN 08): 62%
Rep. Don Sherwood (R-PA 10) 60%
Rep. Mike Sodrel (R-IN 09): 59%
Rep. Thelma Drake (R-VA 02) 58%
Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH 18) 57%
Rep. Charles Taylor (R-NC 11) 57%

Add the MN 06 (57%) and TX 22 (64%) open seats, and you’ve got 9 top-tier Dem races in heavily GOP districts, districts that make CA 50 (55%) look less than "ruby red."

Posted by: James L. [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2006 03:22 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

True James, but a lot of those are districts with even more special circumstances than CA-50

Just to pick off the easy ones, PA 10 and OH 18 feature scandal plagued incumbents who did not drop out. KY 04 has a popular former Congressman running, IN 08 has an incumbent who has raised basicaly no money.

All of these are easier candidates to run against than a moderate Republican with only a weak connection to the culture of corruption.

Posted by: dantheman [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2006 03:37 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Exactly, James. If we're gonna win back the House (and have any chance of holding it once we win it back) we're gonna have to win in far redder districts than CA-50 WITHOUT the benefit of filling an open seat vacated by an imprisoned Republican predecessor.

Posted by: Mark [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2006 03:42 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

You're absolutely right Jack B. Gerrymanders do have a tendency to backfire sooner or later. The Dems in GA learned that the hard way. Furthermore, in PA, the R's drew Picasso-like districts to concentrate Dems in as few districts as possible. However, in doing so, they also made their own districts extremely marginal and did little to shore up seats they already had--Weldon's in Deleware Co. and Fitzpatrick's in Bucks.

JL-true those districts are "redder" than CA-50, but the dynamics are quite different. For example, we have candidates in KY, VA, IA, and NC (Ken Lucas, Phil Kellam, Brad Ellsworth, and Heath Shuler respectively) that are either well-liked current or former local officeholders or, in Shuler's case, sports stars. Furthermore, the GOP in MN-6 just nominated rabid homophobe Michelle Bachman--who is less than popular among fiscal conservatives--to face Patty Wetterling, who performed well against mark Kennedy in 04.

Posted by: Corran [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2006 03:43 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Oops! Make that IN. Need to get my abbreviations straight. Although, that's not to say we don't have a good opportunity for pickups in Iowa, only that IA-1 and possibly IA-2 are as blue as CA-50 was red.

Posted by: Corran [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2006 03:46 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

James, For example, included in your list is VA-02 which Tim Kaine won by 3% and Mark Warner only lost by 200 votes in 2001. We have a top tier candidate & proven winner in Va Beach Commissioner of Revenue Phil Kellam and a rather weak two-term incumbent, Thelma Drake. There are exceptions to the rule when looking at Kerry's vote in 2004 as a sole point of comparison. Kerry did better in CA-50 than VA-02, but Virginia Statewide Dems have had better success in VA-02 than Calif Statewide Dems have had in CA-50. Plus, VA-02 had a Dem congressman for many years (Owen Pickett), CA-50 never has been held by a Dem.

Posted by: Predictor [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2006 04:04 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Great discussion, and I agree with a lot of your points, Predictor, Corran, and dantheman, particularly on the point that for these races, most of our candidates are stronger than Busby on paper. The other side of it is that people like Drake, Taylor, and Sherwood have the advantage of incumbency, which is still a plus even given their personal weaknesses.

I should be clear: I'm not saying I'm pessimisstic about our chances to take these thugs out--I definitely think more than a couple of them will be defeated, but the truth is that we're gonna be plunging into some pretty red turf this year in order to win. There are some ripe opportunities in NY, PA, and CT, yes... but the House isn't likely going to change hands solely based on Democratic performance in Northeastern districts.

Posted by: James L. [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2006 04:20 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

It's necessarily clear that our candidates in other red districts will pan out as "stronger" than Francine Busby, who had widespread name recognition after her last challenge to Cunningham. I certainly hope that Shuler, Carney and Ellsworth prove to be better candidates than Busby, but Democrats don't get much of a margin for mistakes in this country (just ask John Kerry), especially in districts as red as these.

Posted by: Mark [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2006 04:29 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Well James, I've had to deal with pessimism from the Hotline lovers and am honing my debating skills on this issue, heck its best to know what the other side is saying,thinking and planning, so I'd rather hear about it than not, so thanks for keeping us informed. And, be assured that we will have a retort!

Speaking of TX-22, just in case anyone was not aware of this, District Judge Darlene Byrne issued a temporary injunction Thursday barring De Lay's removal from the Nov. ballot. Unless overturned, this should make that race all the more interesting.

Posted by: Predictor [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2006 04:37 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Wow. This is a really excellent discussion, even by Swing State's usually high standards. I encourage everyone to read Amy's full article, now that it's freely available.

Posted by: DavidNYC [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2006 07:03 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

That's copacetic David ;-), actually this is the most civil site I've blogged on.
Two things re: Amy's article. I wouldn't agree that the Dem base is 44%. I'd say it is the Dem registration amount, 30%. I thought I read in CQPolitics or somewhere else that spending for Bilbray was $10-11 million versus $4.7 million for Busby. The article reports half those amounts. Granted the two sets of figures are both 2 to 1.
I knew when I heard turnout in the Dem Primary was going to be historically low, I realized that fate was sealed there. My prediction of hair's-breath success was based on a much higher turnout, closer to 45%.
It is a good article, many valid premises.

It should be noted that now that Absentee Voting is now a whopping 40% of total, and the demographics have adjusted to be representative of the voting population, we may not be seeing a huge difference between the Absentee & Precinct vote on election nights, especially in Primaries. I think the Dems will still have a slight edge in general election Precinct voting for the time being.

Posted by: Predictor [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2006 09:26 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

A couple of comments. Our performance figures are our Partisan Voter Index (PVI), which is based on the two-party presidential vote for an average of 2000 and 2004. This district has a PVI of R+5, meaning that this district votes for president five points more than the rest of the country. It is the 171st most Republican district in the country, or to look at it the opposite way, there are 264 districts that are less Republican/more Democratic than this one. In otherwords, Democrats could theoretically have a very comfortable House majority without winning any districts as Republican as the 50th. In short, this is a tough district, and available to Dems only under extenuating circumstances, like say a bad year for Republicans and the long-time incumbent headed for prison. But it still isn't an easy one. As Amy's piece argues, and Jacobson's data prove, just getting out the Dem vote doesn't cut it in a district like the 50th, a Democrat has to win a ton of independents/unaffiliated voters and quite a few Republicana votes as well.

Jacobson's numbers show that Republicans did NOT get their voters out as well as Democrats did, the problem is that there are too few Dems in that district, as several folks above noted.

One of the comments above noted that some of the top targets for Democrats are in even tougher districts than this one, which is true. But in some of these cases, the Republican incumbents are damaged by scandals, are freshmen who have yet to sink roots in their districts, or flawed incumbents who for peculiar reasons, are unusually vulnerable, allowing Democrats to compete in a ditrict that otherwise they shouldn't even look at.

Having said all of that, I think Busby had an excellent chance of winning until she opened her mouth about not needing papers to vote. The private tracking polls in this race showed her even or ahead slightly before she made that remark. My hunch is that GOP turnout would have been even lower than it was before she outraged Republicans with her comments. In short, Dems came awfully close with an awfully weak candidate. The challenge Democrats have this year is that many of their candidates are relatively untested candidates who have never run before or never been in a big-time race with this kind of scrutiny, and may be prone to making mistakes as Busby did. Someone who had run and won a number of state legislative or county level offices would probably not have made those comments, they learned their painful lessons before they reached the congressional level.

The takeaway from this race should be that the past voting patterns of a district does matter and candidate quality matters. Every district is not necessarily winnable, every candidate isn't necessary a winner waiting for a victory and that in tough districts and tough situations, there is no margin for error.

Posted by: Charlie Cook [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2006 10:37 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Couldn't there be a bit of a tie between Bilbray getting 54% in his primary and his weak base performance?

Posted by: RBH [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2006 11:50 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I don't understand your point, can you explain>

Posted by: Charlie Cook [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2006 11:59 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Thank you CC for the concise clarification of the macro view of the effects of the political climate on current races and specific view of what occured in CA-50.
As someone who remembers well landslide year elections since 1964, it is difficult for me to believe low ball predictions of Dem gains this year. I realize that the tone & composition of politics is different now than 4 decades ago regarding the areas of advertising, spending and the technology of redistricting. However, some things never seem to change and remain constant, i.e. advantage to incumbency, disadvantage to an unpopular incumbent due to ethics issues or unpopular political stands add, the macro effect of the general popularity of the President or Congress.
I note per the 6/7 Cook Report of "Competive or Potentially Competive" House seats that there are 53 Gop seats rated so and 21 Dem seats that fall in these categories.
Because I am a registered Democrat I factor in a 25% partiality factor and come up with a 22 seat Dem gain at this point in time.
I may have a completely different take on this come November, but for now I am only seeing much more conservative predictions on-line.
In 1964 I saw Jim Howard-D NJ CD-03 take that very republican district in which I lived. He managed to survive the '66 Gop landslide and the seat has remained in Dem hands ever since (Pallone). Granted this district is now more Dem and part of it is also now CD-04 (Saxton-R), but this is one example of a district that defied the usual logic on many levels for decades. So, as I see it, the incredible is possible and the unexpected happens.
My version of your PVI takes into account voter registration figures and past Statewide election results, although weighting the last two close presidential elections is certainly more than effective.
Salutations from a reader from San Francisco CD-08.

Posted by: Predictor [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2006 12:24 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

On the same day as the special election, Bilbray got 54% in a primary for the Republican nomination for the November election.

Basically what i'm thinking is that some of the more hardcore conservatives either just abstained from voting in the special election, or didn't vote for Bilbray.

On second thought, that could have been refered to as well.

In a primary without any serious competitition (Roach got 16% despite dropping out, the third place candidate got 10%), there's still not a solid core of support for Bilbray in his party.

In 2006, I'm thinking that the trends are due to reverse, and it'll be easier to be a candidate than an incumbent.

Posted by: RBH [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2006 12:44 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Bilbray getting 54% in the Gop primary was a surprise to me, I thought it would have been higher. My take was that when it comes down to it the republicans will stick together to defeat a Dem. Bilbray was an anomaly. On one hand he was painted as a moderate-liberal republican and on the other hand he took a rightwing position on the immigration issue. That provided a confusing perspective of the dynamics of this race. Mc Cain bailed on him and Bush did not come to the district, nor Arnold. That's one for the books.

Posted by: Predictor [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2006 12:58 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Once Republicans were at the polls, the primary really didn't hurt Bilbray much. He may have only snagged 54% of that vote, but as Jacobson's numbers show, his total number of votes was 1,000 more than the total number of Republicans who voted in the primary (60k vs 59k). So obviously Bilbray got a large number of Republicans and a small number of indies.

You could be right in saying that it depressed turnout, though.

Posted by: James L. [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2006 01:01 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Does this put an end to negative campaigning which has been cited for the poor turnout in the Dem primary and CD-50 election, or is this just seen as an advantage to be worked in the future?
I am concerned that the public seems overwhelmed to the point of turning apathetic.

Posted by: Predictor [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2006 01:19 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Just saw An "Inconvenient Truth", impressed, are we sure that Al Gore is not running in '08?
Good night & Good Luck.

Posted by: Predictor [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2006 01:45 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Given the national dynamics, one would expect a bigger gain for Democrats than the 12-18 or so that we currently expect. But we think the extenuating circumstances tend to diminish the possible gains from 30 or 40 or even 50 seats that one might normally expect.

First, redistricting. Those wipe-out elections in the old days wouldnt be as big under current boutique, designer districts like we have today.

Second, the incumbency advantage is greater today. In the old days, the cardinal rule was for incumbents to never mention their challengers name, let alone attack them. After all, attacking a challenger would give them name recognition, stature, credibility and show your scared. The leading proponents of that strategy soon became known as former members of congress. Now incumbents are quick out of the box to emasculate their challengers. Thus fewer incumbents lose.

Third, there are very few open Repubican House seats this year, many are in very safe GOP districts. There are also many fewer freshmen Republican members, with shallow roots. Many of the Dems who lost in 1994 were either in open seats or were freshmen.

Fourth, the districts are much better sorted than before. Each side is carrying fewer districts that they probably shouldnt. Fewer conservative/moderate Democrats in GOP-leaning Southern districts for example, fewer liberal to moderate Republicans in northeastern/midwestern districts.

Finally, the shortage of high quality Democratic callengers this year. For all of the effort by the DCCC, and they have moved heaven and earth to get good candidates, most of the experienced blue chip would-be candidates said no, so there are way too many rookies, and too many that have won only low visibility/low contact races before, who are not ready for prime time (eg Busby).

All of those factors work together to bring down the scale of potential gains into a 12-18 zone most likely or 10 to 20 to widen it out a bit more.

Posted by: Charlie Cook [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2006 08:04 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

CC: Thank you for your reply and and very convincing assessment of November's possible outcome. I am in accord with the points you have outlined and will be scaling back my optimistism somewhat, which should not be too difficult given my inherent cynicism..LOL.
Redistricting has always been a special interest for me. One thing I have noticed, and was exemplified in the recent legislative and congressional primaries in CA, is a movement to the extremes by both parties in the ideological propensities of winning candidates. The creation of "Safe" Dem and Gop districts has resulted in either the most liberal or most conservative candidates winning at the expense of the moderates. This may have a long term effect in the political landscape.
Best regards.

Posted by: Predictor [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2006 01:28 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

The scariest aspect of unfavorable district lines is that it's hard to see them any more favorable to Democrats with the current political trendlines of urban and inner-core suburban areas voting Democrat, and rural and exurban areas voting Republican. Even if we're lucky enough to get Democratic Governors and Legislatures in states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Illinois for the 2011 reconfiguration of districts, we still have the inherent problem of most Democrats centrallized in 70-30 blue regions and most Republicans centrallized in 55-45 red regions. We might be able to carve out an extra Democrat or two with creative gerrymanders, but it's hard to imagine a scenario where Pennsylvania wouldn't have more Republicans than Democrats even with a pitch-perfect gerrymander. If we can't win back some of the rural voters that sustained the Democratic majority for two generations, we're gonna have a permanently unfriendly Congressional map.

Posted by: Mark [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2006 04:26 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Mark: Do you have any conjecture on how that is going to happen when the gop insists on targeting and demonizing certain (mainly)urban dwellers and fueling social divisions to prop-up their support?
Two possible common points I can think of are 1. Economy 2. Environment. However, these seem to rank low in public opinion polls as issues of concern for both urban & rural dwellers.

There has always been a great divide between rural and urban, mostly centered on social issues. A greater % of the population lives in Urban/Suburban areas than 4 decades ago. Rural areas have had a larger net loss of seats over this time period.

On redistricting, New York would seem to fall into the same category as PA on this issue. California however, does not. We have an effective pro Dem districting without having the bizarre shapes and geographical aberrations, of say, the FL plan. It is billed as an "incumbent protection plan" however, most of the incumbents were Dem when it was created.
The horrendous Supreme Court decisions on redistricting will continue to contibute to imbalance and injustice in the political sphere. Elbridge Gerry is applauding in his grave.

Posted by: Predictor [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2006 07:23 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Predictor, the rural-urban divide you mention has definitely caught up to us in the Karl Rove era. Even rural areas where landslide loser Michael Dukakis won in 1988 (eastern Oklahoma, south-central Iowa, West Virginia) are now solidly red in national elections and show no signs of returning to us. It's easy to say that time will set them straight, but they seem to have made up their mind that the national Democratic party has become "too liberal" based on social issues and pesky matters like war, economy, and environment seem permanently consigned to second-tier issues in much of rural America.

The easy answer is one that already being applied.....to quietly support the candidacy of Republican-lite Democrats running in rural America, such as Dan Boren and Collin Peterson, simply because they're better than the alternative unless they're raging saboteurs like Zell Miller. I know this is an unpopular position on the left blogosphere, but I don't support the primary challenge to Joe Lieberman based on this very principle. Lieberman's the kind of Democrat that is celebrated among conservative Democrats, and his defeat would reinforce some minds that "the Democratic Party has abandoned people like me."

Tolerance of Dems like Lieberman, and the aggressive recruitment and hold-your-nose support for conservative Democrats like Brad Ellsworth, Ken Lucas, and Heath Shuler is necessary to show red state Democrats they have a place at the table in the Democratic Party the same way Sonny Montgomery, Jamie Whitten, and Ralph Hall had a home in the party a generation ago. It's a fine line between tolerating internal dissent and standing up for what you believe as a party, but Howard Dean's 50-state strategy is a very good start.

While it's true that rural areas have had a larger net loss of seats, the bigger gainers of seats has been in outer-ring suburbs (exurbs) which are in many ways more conservative than rural areas because they're both socially and economically right-of-center. There's talk that the GOP's grip on exurbia may be waning, but I have my doubts.

Posted by: Mark [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2006 09:33 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I disagree, Mark. Lieberman might be fine for a state like Kentucky, or Nebraska, or Idaho... but New England? Ugh, we can do better.

There's a reason that people like Ben Nelson are left alone, and Joe isn't.

Posted by: James L. [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2006 11:56 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Pretty much the same sentiment here re: James' post.
Shuler in NC, Webb in VA, Nelson in NE are understandable and acceptable even though I'm certainly left of center. But CT and Lieberman, no I think we can do better there, Lib Dems (and republicans ala Weicker) are electable in that state and I personally find Lieberman way too conservative on both the social and international fronts.
Really sad to think in 2000 he was painted as the "liberal jewish guy" from Yankee land, and was attributed with Gore's lousy showing in the Border & Southern States (except FL of course).
I beleive in an inclusive party, but I am concerned that the "50 State Strategy" will waste dollars in places like Utah & Idaho, even Texas. Although it is not impossible to gain leverage in states like this, Montana is currently a good example.

I believe that politics is cyclical and single party control tends to erode over time. Strong candidates with a clear message in tune with the mood of the public without comprimising basic Dem party values such as civil rights, seems a daunting task in "red" states. I'm tolerant but I'm not tolerant of intolerannce or candidates who come from that angle. So asking me to support a Dem who for example would support the Gay Marriage Ban Amendment or the Iraq War is out of the question. Nor on the other hand do I want to see the Gop in control. Its a conundrum.

Gore did well in the Northeast exurbs in 2000, Kerry lost alot of ground there. Unless we see a cast of candidates being elected at the local level in those areas, it will hard to get any traction at the congressional district level.

Posted by: Predictor [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 11, 2006 03:26 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment