Democrats Hunt Best in Packs and Other Election Facts

Extending the field paid off in a big way on Election Day for democrats.  At least three real long shots came through to win House seats: Carol Shea-Porter in Ne Hampshire, Jason Altmire in Pennsylvania and and Nancy Boyda in Kansas.  Late DCCC money went to Boyda and Altmire but we are talking real late.

Extending the field paid off in another, more surprising way.  Nearly every seat the Democrats won came from a state in which at least two seats were targeted.  Single seat efforts in places like New Jersey, Virginia, New Mexico and (mostly) Illinois came close but were expensive failures. A case by case analysis follows below the fold.

Democrats took two of three seats in Connecticut and went two for two in New Hampshire.  The one seat held by Republicans belonged to Chris Shays who ran more as a Connecticut for Lieberman candidate than as a Republican (note, he was listed on the ballot as a Republican).  Shays, at 52% in 2004 from a Kerry district was a more obvious target than Nancy Johnson or the two NH Republicans but he was the survivor.

As a side  note, Shays is left as the only Republican House member from the six New England states.  Democrats went from 16 seats in the region to 21 (Independent Bernie Sander4s was replaced by a Democrat).  The region seems to be following the Massachusetts model: elect a Republican as Governor or Mayor on occassion but don't trust them for federal office where they enable their right wing brethren.

In New York, 3 of 6 contested districts fell and it could have been six.  In PA, it was 4 of 5 if you count Jason Altmire's win with the group.  But while the group hunts yielded 11 seats an expensive campaign for Linda Stender in New Jersey failed.

The New Jersey results reveal another election fact.  Democrats were able to convert nearly all the close Senate races but were unable to win a single House seat in states with close Senate races (or even states where Senate races were perceived as close).  Look at New Jersey, Montana, Virginia, Maryland, Tennessee, and possibly Washington state.  Nary a pick up despite expensive efforts in WA-8 (Dave Reichert), NJ-7 (Mike Ferguson), and VA-2 (Thelma Drake).  Chuck Schumer was clearly better and stronger at his task than Rahm Emanuel.  Just look at the head-to-head.

Other group wins were in Ohio (1 of 4), Indiana (3 of 3), Florida (at least 2 of 5), North Carolina (at least 1 of 2), Minnesota (1 of 3), Kentucky (1 of 3), California (1 of 2), Colorado (1 of 3), Iowa (2 of 2), aqnd Arizona (2 of 2). As Christopher Walker notes below, attempts at "pack hunting" failed in Nebraska and Nevada. Pack hunting is not pissible in states with a single House member.

While single shots failed in Wyoming, New Jersey, Virginia, Illinois (yes, Dan Seals made the radar screens at the end), and New Mexico, the tactic worked for an open seat in Wisconsin.  The switch from an independent socialist to a Democrat in Vermont really should not make the count.

Stretching the field in some of these states seem likely to yield success in 2008 and down the road.  

In New Jersey, Scott Garrett has gotten a declining percentage in each of his three elections in NJ-5: 60% in 2002, 58% in 2004, and 55% in 2005.  Garrett's opponent in 2006 spent a piddling $150 k or so compared to over $800 K by his 2004 opponent.  This one was winnable this year.  Kerry drew 49% in NJ-2 but Frank Lo Biondo was essentially faced by only token opposition in 2006.  In NJ-3, Saxton ran in a 48% Kerry district and got just 56% vs. Sextpn (vs. 63% in 2004).   Also worth a challenge.  

Similarly, IL-10, IL-11, IL-13, and Il-15 all saw incumbents in the 53% to 58% range without strong backing from the Democrats for their opponents.  These could join Il-6 as targets for the future.

Virginia yielded two other strong challenges without muich backing.  The surprise was Andy Hurst in the NoVA suburbs.  We have great potential here, more really than in VA-2.  Judy Feder also ran strong on a shoestring.

I think we should run strong campaigns in New Mexico in 2008 in both Republican districts.  it will help  the national ticket in a very close state.  Maybe Pearce will prove to be the one to drop and Heather Wilson, like Chris Shays just survives everything.  Or maybe, it will losen statewide Republican help and concentration and Wilson, like Anne Northrup in Kentucky, will finally fall.

I also wonder if Ohio, without the statewide contests for Governor and Senator, might yield a couple of seats from close races this year.

Open seats proved unimportant or only marginally important to Democratic gains.  Republicans lost eight of 21 open seats.  But three of those eight were lost due to scandal (Ney, Foley, DeLay).  Overall, five of seventeen non-scandal open seats turned over compared to three of three scandal seats.  Overall, Democrats won more of their own open seats (11 for 11) than Republican open seats.

Weak congressional candidates proved as vulnerable as open seats.  Five Election Day losers were among the small group who finished behind  Bush in their own districts.  This included all three Indiana losers, Charles Taylor in NC, and Jim Ryun in Kansas.

A Republicaqn split between the Religious Right and mainstreamers hurt in the Plains states of Kansas and possibly Iowa.  The Religious Right was given credit by the DesMoines Register for Bush's victory in 2004.  The fundies controlled the GOP in Kansas and Democrats smartly have nursed the split and co-opted more moderate types.

Although Republicans still have 24 House seats from the Mid-Atlantic sub-region (NY, NJ, PA, MD, DE), their hold is extremely weak.  Democrats may well consolidate these seats in the next decade in the same way that Republicans consolidated their hold on the south following their breakthrough election in 1994.

The Great Lakes area is now pretty much in a flat-footed tie with Republicans dropping from 45 to 39 House seats and Democrats gaining from 32 to 38.  This, too, is very fertile ground.

Republicans in the south generally looked very strong.  Not only were seats gained in Florida and North carolina but additional opportunities are possible both there and in Virginia.  Republicans lost voting share in all seventeen contested districts they had held in Florida, losing two seats in the process.  Seven of the remaining sixteen seats were won with totals in the 50-59% range.

Tags: 2006 elections, Chuck Schumer, House, rahm emanuel, Senate (all tags)



Re: Democrats Hunt Best in Packs and Other Electio

You make some interesting points but you stretch your case a little with some of the examples. We can't hunt in "packs" for congressional seats in Wyoming, for instance, as there is only one seat at large in that state. And it's a little disingenuous to say that Democrats "targeted" two seats in New Hampshire.  We targeted one, and the other came along for the ride. In terms of national interest, if the netroots ripples are the proper metric, it would be more accurate to say we "targeted" a bunch of seats in Nevada or Nebraska. I heard more about Tessa Hafen, Jill Derby, Maxine Moul, Jim Esch and Scott Kleeb than I did about Shea-Porter, during the campaign season, in terms of blog postings and general hoo-ha, though the ActBlue totals do show a lot more tanglible support for Shea-Porter than any of the above.

In fact... (scritch) considering how indefatigable Jim Esch's cheering section was, whenever there were Scott Kleeb threads to try to hijack, it's surprising how ineffective they were at raising the temperature for him, in the netroots. There were a total of 43 donations to Moul and Esch COMBINED, this cycle, via ActBlue. Negligible interest in real terms, compared to how exciting it was to gabble amongst ourselves that "Nebraska is in play, this time."

Food for thought. We'll be continuing to sift results for awhile, I imagine.    

by Christopher Walker 2006-11-22 07:39AM | 0 recs
Re: Democrats Hunt Best in Packs and Other Electio

I was trying to be comprehensive and not selective with the single seat cases but was not too clear about that.  Thus I included Wyoming where pack hunting would be impossible.

Good point about Nebraska and Nevada,  Both NH seats, however, were making the national lists at times.  Carol Shea-Porter was clearly the long shot of the two and probably received what national support and interest she garnered largely due to NH's spot as the first primary state.  

Nevada is a strange state.  Democrats consistently seem to get more House votes overall but seem stuck on one seat of three.  I suspect that a fair redistricting would give us two.  IIRC Clark County (includes Las Vegas) has a majority of the state's population and is the state's Democratic strong point.  I think it may be included in all three districts although one has only a sliver, at best.

Thanks for the feedback.

by David Kowalski 2006-11-22 08:47AM | 0 recs
Re: Democrats Hunt Best in Packs and Other Electio

Nevada gains a House seat in 2010, probably in the Las Vegas area since that's the region of the population boom. Thinking toward redistricting, right now one chamber of the legislature is heavily Democratic but the other is 11-10 in favor of Republicans.

I would anticipate another district drawn close to 50/50, similar to NV-3. The problem there was losing it initially in '02 when Dario Herrera imploded. Jon Porter is like Ensign in the public's mind, basically harmless and invisible. The voters forget all about him for two years until he unveils an attack ad, misrepresenting his current opponent.

Dina Titus has made noise about pursuing NV-3 in 2008, saying she hasn't ruled it out. Supposedly, Republicans intentionally zigzagged the district when it was drawn, to exclude Titus' home. She would have to move about 1000 yards to be inside the district. No word whether Tessa Hafen will try again.

We win the statewide house vote only because NV-1 is heavily Democratic, and this year Republicans fielded a laughable candidate. Shelly Berkley barely campaigned. I think I saw one commercial all year.

If Democrats had forfeited NV-2 to the extent Republicans did not seriously contest NV-1, the statewide house vote would have been virtually even. Instead, Jill Derby was our strongest imaginable candidate for NV-2.

Turnout dynamics were predictable this year. Clark County had merely 55% turnout while the rural counties were in the 60s and  70s, with one above 80%. Democratic percentages in the so-called cow counties were dismal, no sign the 50-state strategy took hold at all. Titus said if she could do it all over again she would avoid the rural counties and concentrate on every available vote in Clark.

by Gary Kilbride 2006-11-23 04:49PM | 0 recs
Re: Democrats Hunt Best in Packs and Other Electio

In the last para, that should be "Democrats in the south generally looked very strong...", not Republicans.

by InigoMontoya 2006-11-23 12:27PM | 0 recs
Re: Democrats Hunt Best in Packs and Other Electio

Hopefully this election bodes a trend, but let me suggest that this election year may be an outlier with the electorate steamed about Republican misgovernance.

A more fruitful approach for future elections might be to rescind Republican gerrymandering. By my rough calculations, the Repubs obtained over 30 seats by sytematic gerrymandering in Pa., Michigan, Ohio, Georgia, Florida & Texas.

by carter1 2006-11-23 03:25PM | 0 recs
Gerrymandering I

Unfortunately, we're pretty much stuck with the gerrymandered landscape in FL and GA - we're miles behind in the state legislatures in both states.  

We might have a shot in TX - in the TX House we went from down 64-86 to down 69-81.  We'd need to pick up another 7 seats in the next 2 cycles to make them play fair in the post-2010 redistricting.

But in MI, PA, and even OH, we've got a pretty good shot.  In MI, we just won a majority of the state House; if we can hold it through 2010, we can win a decent map.  In PA, control of the state House hangs on a single still-undecided seat, but the momentum's moving our way there.  We should be able to control at least the House there in 2010.  And in the Ohio House, we went from down 39-60 to down 46-53 this cycle.  I gotta believe we can pick up another 4 seats between now and 2010, which is all it would take to get an even break in redistricting.

by RT 2006-11-24 02:26AM | 0 recs
Gerrymandering II: Where We're Really Losing

The best way to see where we're getting hammered by gerrymandering is to look at how red or blue a state is in general terms, then look at the composition of the House delegation from that state.

You know where we're really getting hammered?  Two very blue states - Illinois and New Jersey.

Take Illinois.  Dem governor, two Dem Senators, solidly Dem state legislature, a Dem lock on IL's electoral votes - and we only have 10 of its 19 House seats.  We've got to fix that in 2010.

All of that applies to NJ: Dem Gov, two Dem Senators, NJ's EVs reliably Dem, a solid Dem state House, an admittedly thinner 22-18 majority in the state Senate, but still: we should be doing better in NJ than a 7-6 majority in its House delegation.  We should really have, at a minimum, about 5 more Dem House seats from these two states.

Michigan is the only other state that looks like an obvious redistricting target to me.  It's a lean-Dem swing state, and we should have more like an 8-7 edge in its House delegation than the current 6-9 deficit.

OTOH, I don't see that we're getting screwed that badly in TX and FL.  Texas is seriously red, and we've got either 12 or 13 of its 32 House seats, depending on whether Ciro can win the runoff against Bonilla.  And 13 of 32 is 41%, which is about where we are in TX.  

With FL, once you get away from Presidential elections, FL is pretty solidly red too - the GOP has 65% of the seats in each house of the state legislature, and that's after we picked up 7 seats in the state House just now.  Yet if Jennings is ultimately declared the winner over Buchanan, we'll have 10 of FL's 25 seats, which is 40%.

Nor do I see our being gerrymandered into a weak situation in PA.  PA's another lean-Dem swing state, and we hold an 11-8 advantage in the incoming Congressional delegation.  That's about right.

OTOH, we're doing pretty good in many of 'our' parts of the country.  We have 20 of 21 House seats from New England - much higher than our support even in this blue region.  We have 23 of 29 House seats in NY, and prospects of making it even more lopsided next time.  In OR and WA, we have a combined 10 out of 14 in an area that's blue, but not THAT blue.

But let's get good mileage out of the redistricting in IL and NJ this time.  We really should have solid majorities in the House delegations from both states, and we don't.

by RT 2006-11-24 02:58AM | 0 recs
on the New Jersey case

I've been reading the NEw Jersey Constitution and it seems there is no way to get a strongly partisan gerrymander.  I'll include the quote below, but basically the two parties get equal representation plus one independent member.  Obviously the framers of our state constitution understood the process and didn't want any Tom DeLays.  I think the best we can hope for is making the districts a bit more competitive.

After each federal census taken in a year ending in zero, the Congressional districts shall be established by the New Jersey Redistricting Commission.
            The commission shall consist of 13 members, none of whom shall be a member or employee of the Congress of the United States.  The members of the commission shall be appointed with due consideration to geographic, ethnic and racial diversity and in the manner provided herein.
            (b)        There shall first be appointed 12 members as follows:
            (1)        two members to be appointed by the President of the Senate;
            (2)        two members to be appointed by the Speaker of the General Assembly;
            (3)        two members to be appointed by the minority leader of the Senate;
            (4)        two members to be appointed by the minority leader of the General Assembly; and
            (5)        four members, two to be appointed by the chairman of the State committee of the political party whose candidate for the office of Governor received the largest number of votes at the most recent gubernatorial election and two to be appointed by the chairman of the State committee of the political party whose candidate for the office of Governor received the next largest number of votes in that election.


(c)        There shall then be appointed one member, to serve as an independent member, who shall have been for the preceding five years a resident of this State, but who shall not during that period have held public or party office in this State.
            The independent member shall be appointed upon the vote of at least seven of the previously appointed members of the commission on or before July 15 of each year ending in one, and those members shall certify that appointment to the Secretary of State on or before July 20 of that year.  If the previously appointed members are unable to appoint an independent member within the time allowed therefor, they shall so certify to the Supreme Court not later than that July 20 and shall include in that certification the names of the two persons who, in the members' final vote upon the appointment of the independent member, received the greatest number of votes.  Not later than August 10 following receipt of that certification, the Supreme Court shall by majority vote of its full authorized membership select, of the two persons so named, the one more qualified by education and occupational experience, by prior public service in government or otherwise, and by demonstrated ability to represent the best interest of the people of this State, to be the independent member.  The Court shall certify that selection to the Secretary of State not later than the following August 15.

by John DE 2006-11-24 06:37AM | 0 recs
Re: on the New Jersey case

Excellent.  Which is why  i have always had an aversion to the idea that arbitrary kinds of "good processes" always result in a  good outcomes.  I think this kind of redistricting reform is in that mode.  

Repubs do heavy gerymandering in states like Texas and Fla and Georgia and we wind up emasculating ourselves because we go after this supposed good government reform.  They tried to institute redistricting reform in California in 2005 and failed.  Schwarzenengger knows that this is the only way he can push California into the arms of the Republican party.

So we don't have weapons in our arsenal to fight their underhandedness.

by debcoop 2006-11-25 09:16PM | 0 recs
Causation Issue & a Question re: joint ads

You appear to have shown a correlation (joint occurance) between running in packs and winning seats.  But is there causation, and, if so, which way does it run?

It is more plausable to me that conditions in a state, including the collapse of the GOP (NY) or job loss that is blamed on the Bush administration (OH), lead to both multiple serious challenges and to Dem pick-ups.  

This is an important question.  If running in packs causes Democratic pick-ups, then the implications are clear - run in packs.  But if there is no such causation, then we should run hard wherever we have the best chance of winning, ignoring whether there is another close race nearby.

Here is a way of thinking about whether there is causation, and that leads to my question.   There is a mechanism that one could posit for the causation I suggest: state conditions lead to both multiple contested races and to Dem pick-ups.  No mechanism of causation has been suggested for multiple races causing pick-ups.  That does not prove there is no such causation, but it weakens the case.

Here is a possible mechanism of causation:  the campaigns work together with joint fundraisers, joint ads, joint targeting of issues.  But I saw very little of that.  Bill Clinton came to Chicago to raise funds for both Duckworth (IL-06) and Bean (IL-08).  But that was it.

Okay, why are there no joint ads?  I think Bean, Duckworth and Seals would have all benefited from a joint ad.  They were each very attractive, but in very different ways.  And the economics of television in the Chicago region lead to advantages of joint ads.  Someone could point out that maybe Bean, not running hard against Bush, would have been hurt by such an association.  But I have not heard of such joint ads elsewhere.  Is there a legal prohibition?  Are campaigns hopelssly self-centered?  Were there joint ads elsewhere?  And if so, were they successful?

by lawyerDan 2006-11-23 08:35PM | 0 recs
Re: joint ads

You may remember a fuss at dKos a week or so
before the election. Someone suggested that
the DCCC or the DNC should put up some
statewide or, gasp, nationwide ads.

Well, why not? That's really 50-State Strategy,
to put some media in every district in every

Let's ask the "Write off the South crowd"
when was the last time a white male voter
in Mississippi saw a TV ad for a Democratic
Presidential candidate, or one from from
the Democratic National Committee?

We aren't that far along with the winning
strategy, after all.

by Woody 2006-11-24 06:01PM | 0 recs
How do I rate a comment?

If I like a comment, do I give it a 1 or a 3?

by lawyerDan 2006-11-25 11:11PM | 0 recs
Re: How do I rate a comment?

A 3 is the highest rating, a 1 would tend to mean you think it was crappy comment.

by Quinton 2006-11-25 11:42PM | 0 recs

by lawyerDan 2006-11-26 10:02AM | 0 recs


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