Comparative Importance of Federal and Statewide Elections in 2006
by Chris Bowers, Wed May 11, 2005 at 12:41:58 PM EDT
- Retaking the Senate is a Huge Longshot. As both Jerome and Harry Reid have admitted, our chances of retaking the Senate in 2006 are, um, not good. Obviously, we do need to try and pickup seats so that we can retake the chamber in 2008, but almost no matter what happens our efforts in the Senate will not result in a tangible shift of power from one party to the other.
- Controlling elections. For every Ken Blackwell we defeat and every Katherine Harris we toss out of office, our ability to win elections improves. Despite things like HAVA, elections are controlled at the state and local level. Without control of the elections, as both 2000 and 2004 demonstrated, our chances of winning are clearly damaged.
- Congressional Maps. For 2002-2010, Republican drawn maps of congressional districts around the country potentially cost Democrats anywhere from 20-35 seats in the House. The state by state balance of power was so bad for Democrats following the 2000 elections that Republicans controlled the trifecta in almost every key state: Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Virginia. Since that time, they have taken the trifecta in Georgia and Texas (also Arizona and New Jersey, but those states use non-partisan redistricting). By contrast, where do Democrats have gerrymanders? Tennessee seems to be pretty much it these days. California is actually a pro-incumbent gerrymander, not a pro-Democratic one.
Basically, current maps are so poor that in the House that there is no realistic chance of Democrats surpassing 220-225 seats before 2012. Considering Democratic voting loyalty when compared to Republicans, that margin would be the slimmest of slim majorities. It might not even be a majority. Thus, winning a real majority in the House starts with winning back state legislatures and Governor's mansions.
- Building a Bench Long after the demise of Newt Gingrich and the abandonment of the Contract with America, one of the main reasons Republicans are still in power more than ten years their 1994 takeover is that 1994 provided them with a massive bench of candidates who later went on to run for higher office. After all, the 1994 Republican sweep included not just the House and the Senate, but state legislatures, Governorships, and other statewide offices as well. All of these takeovers have provided Republicans with a far deeper bench than Democrats for almost every single election held since 1994. As much as I love to talk about broad, long-term, infrastructure development, when it comes time to run a campaign, ultimately it is always centered on having strong candidates. For the past decade, control of local and statewide offices has provided Republicans with just that. However, if by taking over statewide offices around the country we can make our benches deeper than theirs, that will be yet another tangible advantage toward capturing power in higher offices.
- Building a National Infrastructure. Most importantly, more significant focus upon local and statewide offices in 2006 than on federal elections will bring us closer building a real fifty-state strategy, toward leaving no election uncontested, and once again becoming a real national party. The stronger and more active the Democratic Party is in every local area of the country, the stronger and more active we will become nationwide.