The Emerging House Republican Majority

In the days since I posted my case for a blowout Republican majority in this fall's elections, a number of people have helpfully sent data and other tips for constructing a comprehensive target list of Democrat-held seats we might be able to pick off without warning in a year like this one. 

One started with a copy-paste of the Cook PVI (Partisan Voting Index) scores from Wikipedia for each district. The PVI is a crude metric -- unlike this Thursday's British elections, incumbency matters a great deal in Congress, keeping a minority party incumbent in office long after his constituents have started voting the other way at the Presidential level. Ask Gene Taylor, Chet Edwards, Joseph Cao and Scott Brown about the predictive value of the Cook PVI. 

Nonetheless, even a cursory glance at the PVI numbers exposes, at a 30,000 foot level, a massive Republican underperformance in the House that was there even when we were in the majority, and indeed, may show vestiges of our weakness from our 40 years in the wilderness. For this analysis, I'm not interested in individual districts, but macro-level trends. Suppose every incumbent resigned tomorrow and we held special elections in every district whose overall results would mirror partisan preferences in each district. In the long-term, after all, we are headed for a total cycling out of current incumbents, to be replaced by representatives more in tune with the views of their districts. What would the results be? 

PVI scores show that it would be a Republican blowout: In 234 districts, Republicans perform above average, compared to just 192 districts for Democrats, and 9 that are tied. Split these evenly, and you've got a 239-196 Republican House. This is a shade above the biggest Republican majority in their 12 years in power -- and that's when Republicans perform as expected.

We talk about the Republicans taking over vestigial Southern Democratic House seats in 1994 as though political cognitive dissonance were a thing of the past, but in reality it persists to this day, and in both chambers. Democrats have been simply better at electing Democrats in Republican-leaning districts than Republicans are at returning the favor. How else to explain that there are 30 or so Republican states -- and so, 60 Republican-leaning Senate seats -- in a tied electoral college but the Senate is 59-41 against us? 

I wondered if there were something wrong with the Cook data, whether it had come to be out of balance since 2008. But in fact, a quick tally of total PVI scores on both sides show that Democrats have more overall strength in Dem PVI seats than Republicans do in their greater number of seats, by a total of 2,744 to 2,393 PVI points. It turns out that Republicans are more evenly distributed, with the hulk of net Democratic votes crammed into a smaller number of urban seats. 

Democratic overperfomance in the House grows more striking in swing districts. Let's take a look at seats within 5 points of the national average, and which party they're represented by:

D+5 11 0
D+4 7 1
D+3 11 1
D+2 7 1
D+1 7 2
TIE 4 5
R+1 8 2
R+2 2 2
R+3 4 7
R+4 5 5
R+5 8 6

Now, let's group these together into marginally Democrat and Republican seats by PVI: 

D +1 to +5 43 5
TIE 4 5
R +1 to +5 27 22

These pretty much speak for themselves. We get crushed by a net 38 seats -- 88 to 12 percent in percentage terms -- in seats that lean Democrats. And in lean Republican seats? Democrats beat us there too, by a smaller 27-22 margin. Somehow, we manage to miraculously win the tie seats, giving hope that victories anywhere in political swing districts are attainable. Overall, Democrats hold 74 "swing" districts to Republicans 32, a net of 42 from a quarter of the whole House. 

Sure, you might say this is expected after two good Democratic election cycles. And I can buy that: these numbers show that big changes in the electorate reflect easily in the overall House tally, lending credence to the potential for a big pendulum swing in 2010. 

Yet this doesn't solve the fundamental question that during our high water marks after 1994 and to a lesser extent 2002/04, we weren't able to raid lean Democratic seats to nearly this extent. And it does raise the upside question of whether doing so might be possible in the future by boldly targeting more seats. 

Another way to visualize the upside potential is to consider the fact that while Republicans hold just eight net Dem PVI seats, Democrats hold 69 of "our" seats. (Those eight seats, in case you're wondering, are NJ-2, OH-12, PA-15, WA-8, PA-6, IL-10, DE-AL, and of course, LA-2. Democrats have a serious chance at picking off the last two, even in 2010.) 

Meanwhile, nearly a third of House Democrats hail from districts that were won by Bush and/or McCain. In MS-4 and TX-17, Gene Taylor and Chet Edwards hold the 18th and 19th most demographically Republican seats in the country. The only remotely comparable example is Joseph Cao, in the 28th most Democratic seat. Taylor and Edwards getting re-elected is the direct equivalent of a Republican winning Jan Schakowsky's district on the north side of Chicago. And nor are these two outliers: Democrats routinely get elected in R+10 PVI seats or better. Democratic performance in Republican seats between a +10 and +15 PVI is better than Republican performance in seats between a +1 and +5 Democratic PVI. 

This is why winning back the House alone is not enough. We could get the needed 40 seats by beating every Democrat in an R+5 seat or better. Getting to my outlandish speculation of 70 seats would mean taking out every Democrat in a Republican-leaning seat (that's 69 seats) plus one tie district. And that's before any net takeovers of Democrat PVI seats, which we ought to be winning in spades in a year like this. 

There's a reason why American Congressional elections aren't nice and clean as this analysis would suggest. Old bulls like John Spratt in SC-5 don't go easy. And for the longest time, we didn't challenge these Democrats. For the most part, we are this year. Retirements will also be our best means of forcing change on these districts, and those can come all too slowly.

Still, a few conclusions suggest themselves: 

  • The inexorable tide, all things being equal, is for a more Republican House.
  • Democrats have been able to defy this trend by 1) having more popular Southern holdovers, 2) seeking out and destroying moderate Northeast and Midwest Republicans in a way Republicans haven't been able to do down South, and 3) under Rahm Emanuel's leadership, boldly targeting more takeovers deep in enemy territory, like ID-1 (Walt Minnick) and NC-11 (Heath Shuler). 
  • Picking off the "easy" seats should be a gimme. If we can't beat Chet Edwards this year, we're just going to have to wait till he dies or retires. Guys like him will be hardened targets. Watch those swing Democrat seats as they are the soft underbelly of the Democratic majority. There is no reason they should have a 9-to-1 edge in those seats. Getting to even in those districts would give us half the seats we need for a takeover off of just over 10% of the House.  


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538 dot com: "Rising Optimism in the White House?"

Obviously, somebody will have to eat lots of crow six months from now...

Every White House touts its supposed achievements and good news, while ignoring failures and minimizing bad news. But things are starting to turn around in a way that you get the sense that the Obama Administration is feeling a bit more cheery than they were, say, six months ago.

First, there was the 162K new jobs in March, and we will soon enough know whether that was an aberration or part of a broader turnaround once the Bureau of Labor Statistics announces its April figures this Friday. If the new number is six figures and positive, watch for some serious chirping from Robert Gibbs, David Axelrod and company.Second, objective improvements in the economic forecast matter electorally only insofar as people perceive the economy to be improving. So you can imagine the cautious optimism in the West Wing as the Administration circulated this New York Times piece and poll, out today, showing that 41 percent of Americans now say the economy is getting better—up 8 points from a month ago. (Only 15 percent say it is worsening.)


Third: Health care. Now, keep in mind that many of the provisions of the new legislation do not take effect until years from now, after both the upcoming midterms and even President Obama's re-election bid have passed. Still, WH communications director Dan Pfeiffer--or, more likely, some staff surrogate writing under Pfeiffer's name--was blogging quite effusively today about another New York Times piece (this one an editorial) on the subject of how benefits from the healthcare reform bill are already being felt by some Americans.There is another, fourth reason the White House may be feeling a bit more optimistic about its political situation and the Democrats' situation this autumn: Over the past few months, Organizing for America has been ramping up its organizing efforts.

Anyway, with a lot of talk about the Democrats potentially losing their majority in the House of Representatives and, though less likely, control of the Senate too, I will go out on a limb tonight--with election day six months from tomorrow--and predict that Democratic losses this fall, though significant, will not be as bad as some are speculating. A lot can happen between now and November, of course, including developments or news that worsen matters for the Obama Administration, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Harry Reid. But with six months to go, the political landscape for Democrats is looking a little less uphill than it did with nine months or a year to go until the 2010 midterms. Or I certainly get a sense that the White House thinks so.


Charles Krauthammer:

I think Republicans are rather overconfident and complacent about how well they'll do in November. They assume the electorate will be same in January when they won Massachusetts. But Obama is not stupid. He ran a great campaign in 2008 and this is all about the campaign for November 2010.

There is an old adage in Washington, sometimes you can choose a bill or you can choose an issue. The Democrats know they are not going to get an immigration bill out of this. They want the issue and they want it now.

And Harry Reid wants it personally because he thinks it's a Hail Mary that might help him in Nevada where he is way behind, and it might. And Obama wants it because he thinks it will galvanize his base.

He said over the weekend he wants a renewal of the coalition that elected him, and he said young people, African-Americans, Latinos. And that is his constituency which up until now has not been really enthused about his presidency. This bill is a way to rile it up in the way that conservative elements have been riled up over health care and all the other over-extension of the government.

This is smart, tactical politics — cynical as policy, but we shouldn't underestimate how smart tactically he is. . . .


Same here

I think the Republicans will make significant gains in the House, but no takeover of historical proportions.

In fact, the data that Patrick cites here in indicative of a systemic failure on the part of the Republicans.

I still think it comes down to too much influence of the national party.  Dean's 50-state strategy was very shrewd, but I don't see the climate in the Republican Party as being receptive to any meaningful sort of emulation-- to the contrary, the impetus is more toward a homogenous sort of Republican.

Think Santorum and Specter.  Both from Pennsylvania, both Republicans.  One of them very much in line with the national party, the other very much in line with his state.  One of the two is still a senator. 

New desperate media talking points, the propaganda war begins

Just as the Alphabet media sold Obama to the uneducated masses, the new media lies are now "not so bad in November" "will not be historic vote" "not be as bad as predicted" "6 months is a long time" and other new foaming media "tales from the Obama Crypt" will be constantly flowing.

Will the state run media propaganda machine work this time ? Is anyone watching anymore ? Are the unemployed confident in the Democrats economic capabilities ?

Dems are going to crash land, BS isn't going to sell, Obama now has a History of no hope and no change except "bad change" from what Bush managed as President.
The TOTUS speeches don't work anymore.
Click, Americans are turning off the propaganda news show broadcast by Idiot Journalists.
NY Times circulation is down.
Time and Newsweek are folding.
CNN can't get audience share.
Global warming is a Scam, and we know it.
Obama is winning the worst President ever award, and Bush's "safe since 911" record has been broken by Obama and friends.
Its going to be a horrible November for BHOle.

To which all I can say is:


We have Confirmation, NEWSWEEK is for sale

One down.

So, have Obama give a Press Conference. Its been awhile.

Predicting the Democrat future based upon NJ, Va., Mass. are we ?

Wonder if Harry Reid shares your "future" view ?

What's the future of a KSM trial in New York now ?

How's that Obama bowing on international trips working out ?

No Immigration reform coming soon from Obama ?

I think TAXES are next from Obama, how about odds on that ?



Oops, another one bites the Dust, Dem retirement

In a major blow to Democrats, House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey has told close associates that he will not seek reelection. An announcement of his plans is expected as early as Wednesday.


The Wisconsin Democrat faces tough poll numbers at home, but until Tuesday night his staff had insisted he was running aggressively and had hired campaign staff. But a person close to him confirmed the decision to POLITICO Wednesday and said Obey was preparing to make a statement.

Read more: 

Right now there are more GOP House Rep. retirees, 4speed

Why is this supposed to be a big deal? According to Wikipedia there are more Republican House incumbents who won't run for reelection this year (20, vs.17 for the Democrats as of today).

In contrast, in 1994 there were 29 Democratic retirees and just 20 on the GOP side.



PVI crosstabs

I had looked at this same data in January, and things have gotten significantly better for us even since then.  What's good about Cook data, even if it's sometimes wrong, is that nobody can say that it's tilted toward the GOP or the product of some overenthusiastic NRCC staffer.  

Everyone knows that the Dems are overextended, way out in our territory beyond their supply lines, if you will.  The great thing about data that proves something fairly obvious is that you know it's good data.  This analysis shows the magnitude of what we all sense.  Maybe Boehner is closer to the eventual number than anyone gives him credit for.  Let's go for 100.

Pardon me, while I continue to support the Thread, with facts

Democrat Primary turnout is falling off a Cliff .

Expanding upon the Thread here, the ever expanding Republican odds.

over confidence will doom GOP...

...folks like Patrick can pull out all their charts, graphs, spreadsheets, etc and come to the conclusions that they want.  Make their case.  But in the end does it all reduce down to more wishful thinking? 

BondageGate, the $340K Hawaiin Resort and now M. Steele coming out for amnesty has reminded the American voter that the GOP has  "not"  put its dysfunctional house in order since either  11/7/06 or 11/4/08.  In fact these instances have proven further deterioration of the party.  Enthusiasm has waned for the GOP in the past month or so, actually.

The GOP is not being Pro-Active in any way.  Instead their only strategy is to continually point fingers at the wicked left.  That's no winning strategy and will only serve to convince unenthusiastic swing voters to just stay at home on election day.  Darvin Dowdy


PA-12 & The Supposed GOP House Blowout Win in Nov.:-)



Pa12 is more than a disappointment.  It is a disaster.  You know politics as well as I do (even though I’m probably your senior by at least thirty years).  When there is a political wave the following happens: parties win special elections in normally difficult districts; they win with weak candidates; they win all the close elections. They just win, win, and win.   Burns’s defeat shows, as of now, the Rs will unlikely take the House.  Perhaps they’ll do well; as today’s generic Gallup indicates around a gain in the low thirties.  But not what we need.  I didn’t read much about what Burns’ campaign was like, perhaps you can offer some meaningful analysis.  My guess is that the Republican label is still a liability in many areas; areas that they have to win in order to take the House.


If you know politics, then you know PA12 is 3 - 1 Democrat

And you also know Murtha's seat is up again in Nov.
I wouldn't extrapolate the 3-1 advantage of Democrat registration in PA 12 too far beyound the borders of PA.

A McCain District

and if you know politics, this is a McCain district and if Republicans are going to win the House, they'll have to win McCain districts. Obviously, it's not going to be as easy as conservatives have been crowing about lately....100 seats, sure, buddy, is there somebody we should call. Just think what the Democrat's message will be in three months, "1.5 million new jobs, economic growth, health care reform (yeah, I know)..." This was your shot...and you are going to blow it, because Americans are not going to vote for hysterical idiots.

Hysterical Idiots ? How about Political Liars (Sestak)

We now have the Official Sestak - Bribe - Job Offer - fairy tale from the Whitehouse, and Sestak is a MIA no comment.   I think he in his  office memorizing his "lines" for the next on camera.

Americans will not vote for Blagojavich or his Imitators.   The  only Good thing to come out of this is that Sestak said "NO" to someone....Clinton, Rahm, Axelrod, Obama....he beat the Whithouse's preferred candidate.

That particular news may carry him another few weeks towards the November election.  But he isn't going to look speaky clean, because he obviously was told NOT TO TALK anymore until a cover story involving an Ex President, an "advisory" position, all via an innocent conversation, was constructed by lawyers.   

I think the Whitehouse read THIS Federal law concerning the "Job rebate offer" for Political gain/favors.   But they sure are slow readers.

THE WEEKLY STANDARD: "As Pennsylvania 12 goes" . . .

I wouldn't extrapolate the 3-1 advantage of Democrat registration in PA 12 too far beyound the borders of PA.



I would actually agree with you, except it's your side that was making lots of noise about Murtha's old district being the bellwether race to watch. A few examples of the hype:

As Pennsylvania 12 goes . . .

There are a dozen congressional districts in the Ohio River Valley—stretching from northwestern Pennsylvania to central Illinois—that elect “conservative” Democrats who have supported the Pelosi agenda. If Tim Burns can pull off a win in Pennsylvania’s 12th District next month, it will send a message that these Democrats’ days of talking conservative while voting liberal may finally be coming to an end.

It’s 1974 All Over Again Special elections are a harbinger of November.

The area leans Democratic at the local level, where registered Democrats heavily outnumber registered Republicans. Nevertheless, according to polling performed by GOP strategist Gene Ulm, Obama has only a 42 percent approval rating in the district, while health care reform is opposed by 64 percent of likely voters.

Democrats will attempt to spin these races as local events that do not bear on the November elections. But the symbolism of Republicans’ picking up the seat of a high-ranking Democrat and then the seat of the district where the president grew up would only feed the already growing narrative of massive Republican gains in the fall.

The Democrats want to change the election Narrative, Quickly

Spector is the fourth high-profile election loser that Barack Obama embraced in friendship, and has been kicked to the curb by the voters of a blue or purple state. Deeds, Corzine, Coakley, Specter. The White House doesn't want this "narrative" to get out.
Expect a full court press by the State run Media to explain this away.
Obamabots will be shilling for their leader's magic touch as undiminished. We know better, Obama didn't read the Arizona Immigration bill, and he's probably not looking at the election results either. You might say he's out of touch with Americans. He needs a press conference, that will help...LOL.