Republicans Cede 2-3% of National House Vote To Democrats
by Chris Bowers, Thu Jul 27, 2006 at 12:12:39 PM EDT
With most filing deadlines closed, right now at best Democrats can fill 426 House districts this year. However, after Republicans only managed to challenge three of the ten districts in Massachusetts, right now at best Republicans can only fill a rather pathetic 390 seats (and dropping). This enormous, 36 seat gap is more than twice as large as the advantage for either party since at least 1994. As Democrats are set to break the all-time districts challenged record of 419, Republicans look like they will clock in with the second worst year since 1994, surpassed only by the 1998 Democratic total of 380.
This translates into an important, though hidden, advantage for Democrats in the generic ballot and the national vote totals. When voters go to the polls, 10% of them will not even have the option of voting for a Republican. By contrast, only 2% will not have the option of voting for a Democrat. Wondering what this would mean in terms of actual votes, I was looking back through election results in the House from 2002 and 2004, and simply having a candidate's name on the ballot seemed to guarantee around 20-27% for a major party automatically. When a major party is not on the ballot, both incumbents and third-parties do exceptionally well, as they seem to split the 20-27% that would have gone to the major party that did not field a candidate.
I think you see where I am going this. Now, subtract the 2% of the country that can vote Rep but not Dem from the 10% of the country that can vote Dem but not Rep and you get an 8% advantage for Democrats. Multiply that 8% by 23.5% (the rough average of the "automatic vote" for each party in a given district) and you get 1.9% of the overall national vote that Republicans have simply thrown away. Figure that Democratic incumbents get half of the 1.9%, and you have a built in swing of 2.8% in the national House vote for Democrats this year. Figure that many of these safe Democratic districts will have lower turnout than other districts nationwide, and you can arrive at a rough estimate of a 2.5% pro-Democratic swing from an accurate pre-election poll to the actual vote.
Now, detractors of the fifty-state strategy will say that this doesn't matter, because House seats are not determined by popular national vote, but by a first-past-the-post mechanism in 435 distinct districts. However, there are many reasons why this is very good for Democrats nationwide:
- Nearly one million people will grow more used to voting for Democrats. Riffing off the term "Reagan Democrats," let's call those voters "fifty state strategy Republicans."
- This will drain Republicans resources--no telling how many--from competitive, Republican held-districts.
- This will help Democrats both down ballot and up ballot, while it hurts Republicans both down ballot and up ballot.
- A big national vote win will grant more legitimacy to a Democratic controlled congress, and less legitimacy to a Republican-controlled congress.
- Help identify local Democratic activists nationwide.
- Get more Democrats working on this election than Republicans.
Bravo, fifty-state strategists and activists, bravo.