15 November 2006

Election Analysis

This is a cool graphic from the NYTimes today. I am a sucker for this sort of gee-whiz animation, but it's worth noting for one other reason. There has been some carping from the right side of the aisle that there really isn't a "mandate" for the new Democratic Majority, that the margin of victory was only a couple thousand votes here and there. (Though, oddly, I recall hearing that there was a mandate after a similarly narrow win for the GOP in 2004. But I digress.)

The interesting point of this graphic is that, truly, the bulk of the Democratic pick-ups were quite narrow -- they are largely stacked up in that band with a <10% margin of victory -- but the swings were huge. The average change from 2004 to 2006 was 20-25%. This was not an election where the Democrats picked up the marginal GOP seats; they reached deep into the "safe" seats and took them away. My personal favorite was PA-10, where Don "Choke-em" Sherwood was the victim of a 92 point swing! (In fairness, he did run unoppsed in 2004.) This illustrates two things. First, the size of the Democratic wave was huge. The number of seats taken was huge, and the seismic shift in two years was massive. It could have been even bigger - there are another nine seats not yet decided, all of which look to be GOP holds by less than one percentage point. Second, this strongly validates Howard Dean's fifty-state strategy, in which every seat was challenged, even the hopeless ones. It turns out that some of our pick-ups came from those seats that nobody in their right mind would have picked as competitive. Events threw them into contention (FL-16 Foley, TX-22 - Delay) and the fact that the Democrats had a viable, well-funded candidate in those seats allowed the Democrats to be opportunistic and take them.

The other question raised by this analysis is the durability of the new Democratic majority. How many of these deep red seats are tenable past 2008? TX-22 is going to be a tough hold. Incumbency and (hopefully) a record of success in Congress will provide some edge in 2008, but you know the GOP is going to target each and every one of these races with highly-financed challengers. But many of the pick-ups were in blue or deep purple districts (PA, NH, CT) and should be hold-able. The Dems have a bunch of vulnerable republican targets of their own. So perhaps the size of the majority night shrink, but it's way too early to tell. Lord alone knows what will be happening in Iraq in 2008. And the presidential election.

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