Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Why the Democrats didn't retake the House.

There are several distinct reasons why the Democrats failed to retake the House of Representatives.

First and foremost Gerrymandering.  Now, in the past I have downplayed Gerrymandering.  I still think it is at heart less useful than people think.  People move.  But the Census was just done and it's only been two years, so right now is the most effective time to Gerrymandering.  And it worked extremely well.

The best example of how it worked is Pennsylvania.  Pennsylvania has 18 Congressional districts.  Of those 18 congressional districts won 13 of them, or 72%.

But Obama won Pennsylvania with 52% of the vote, and the Democrat running for Senator won with 53.6% of the vote.  (Source for all Pennsylvania numbers and maps)  How did the GOP manage to keep 13 districts, if a straight numbers game they should have kept about 47% - or only 9 districts.

That's four whole extra districts that the GOP  probably should not have won.

Well, if you look at the gerrymandered' congressional districts, you see that the Pennsylvania 14th district, which the Democrats won by 76.9%, has long tail that extrudes into and almost cuts Pennsylvania 12th district in half.  Also, the 12th district has a couple of smaller bumps that intrude into the 14th. The GOP wont the 12th district by a slim margin of 51.8%.  If you cut off that tail and made it part of the 12th district and smooth out the bumps, then the Democrats would have won the 12th district as well as the 14th.  It's also next to the 18th that the GOP won by 64% .

Without gerrymandering, the Democrats would have at least won the 14th, possibly even the 18th.

Then there is the 6th, 7th and 8th districts.  The 6th they won by 57%, 7th district b 59.5% and the 8th by 56.6% of the vote.  But the 7th and 8th surround the 1st, 2nd and 13th, with the 6th district getting real close to both of them.  The seventh districts looks like two districts because of how tight it gets around the 13th.

The Democrats won the 1st District by 85%, the 2nd by 89.4% and the 13th by 68.9%

A reasonable map would have had many of the 13th voters in the  8th District, with the Democrats winning both of them.   If the Democrats gerrymandered the districts, it could have had the 1st and 2nd district voters moved to the 6th and 7th district, again, winning all four of these districts.  Those last two are naturally concentrated in cities, so merely getting rid of gerrymandering wouldn't fix the problem, you'd need to actively gerrymander for the Democrats.

So GOP gerrymandering in Pennsylvania stole the 14th, the 8th districts, and could have let them win the 6th and the 7th districts.  You might say that 'natural' gerrymandering caused by the fact that democrats tend gather in a cities took the other two districts.

That's how the GOP managed to steal away two to four extra districts.

As I've said earlier, the Gerrymandering only works really well for one or two elections.  People move.   Come 2014, the GOP won't have that same advantage. 

But that's not the entire story.   There's other things at work as well.   Among other things, not everyone is a died in the wool party regular.  A lot of people vote the person, not the party.  Which can mean they voted for Obama over Romney, but also for their Republican Congressman over the Democrat challenger.   The GOP were simply better local level politicians.

Part of that is Obama's fault.  He did not offer a lot of support for the rest of the party.   He gave a single robo-call recording- he could have given 50.  They don't take a lot of his time.  Granted some Democrats did not want Obama's support as they were moderates in Republican states.   But there were quite a few moderates in swing states.  No need to campaign in rural Texas, but there were seats in California, Illinois, New York, Florida, even Massachusetts that were Toss Ups.

The President needs to support the Congressman.   Hopefully he will do that in 2014, as well as hope whoever runs in 2016.

That gives us four reasons why the GOP kept their congressional majority:

  1. GOP gerrymandering
  2. Natural gerrymandering
  3. Effective local republican politicking
  4. Poor support from Obama

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