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View Diary: Did Dems Unilaterally Cost Ourselves the House Through Candidates, Redistricting, The DCCC? Probably (47 comments)

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  •  Maybe not (0+ / 0-)

    Over the time frame that I've watched elections closely- about 12-15 years- the value of incumbency has been in steady decline.  These days voters continue to look for people who are of the character and sensibilities of their state in their Senators, so largely there's a real vetting in the initial election and investment and then a significant incumbency advantage there.  But in House Reps and on a district level there's a lot less tribalism and significance given local tribal representation than there used to be.  In House Reps voters now bother less about the person than they used to- expectations of the person are generally middling or low, it's all about the results, about bringing in the bacon and voting the right ways on the issues of the moment.  Unless and until a House Rep has really established their personal and political bona fides over two or three terms, they remain pretty disposable.  

    So I'm not persuaded that incumbency is a major concern.  I'm more worried that in the current cultural and media environment and passive/centrist game playing of the Obama Administration, the Democratic brand loses in definition.  Meaning that good candidates have to expend major time and effort on reexplaining the Democratic party positions to voters in Republican-held districts.

    About the margins...well, for one thing there is net Democratic shift nationally due to generational replacement but it affects districts quite variably, depending on whether enough people in their 20s and 30s can find work there.  There are places where this is so low and/or downscale that there is net Republican shift...which is why I'm leery about expecting much in the way of lasting D House seat gains in the Great Lakes and Midwest, even if redistricted favorably.  I expect the seats gained in an enduring way will come from difficult expansions inland in eastern NY/NJ, eastern Pennsylvania, southern Florida, and suburban districts in the West and Southwest and eastern South.

    But that's sort of prologue.  About your main point, I think there's another way.  Which is about that popular sense about margins smaller than five percent being generally not regarded as decisive or conferring the policy mandate the winners desire.  Well, there's a converse to that, which is that when the statewide or nationwide margin becomes greater than that there do seem to be collective, if you will herd, effects.  That's the best explanation I can come up with for why some (often carefully gerrymandered) districts that seem technically safe for the party losing the election overall tend to 'crack' and vote in a rep from the winning party.  That very much happened in House elections in 2005 and 2006- Chandler winning in Kentucky, Stephanie Herseth in South Dakota, Zach Space in that rural Ohio district, Altmire over Melissa Hart, etc.  Similar probably happened for Republicans in 2010 in a small way- Maffei losing to Buerkle and some others.  But they didn't need those, getting quite enough seats for majority from Blue Dog and swing seats.

    So, I think Democrats can win back the House despite the present districts.  But it will take a larger margin nationally than was the case in 2012, though I don't believe it will require the extraordinary margin of 7-8% you suggest.

    My difficulty lies in seeing Democratic motivation/Republican demoralization and disgust with their party sufficient to generate the margin needed to regain the House in November 2014.  That's a long way off, of course.

    But the present does remind me somewhat of the early 80s- Democrats winning the 1982 elections and recovering control of the House from the Boll Weevils, roughly paralleling 2010.  Then they perhaps should have won the Senate back in 1984 but didn't due to Reagan at the top of the ticket, roughly paralleling 2012.  Taking over Senate majority then happened in 1986 with Reagan a lame duck and wounded by Iran-Contra and focussed on negotiations with Gorbachev.  So Senate Democratic leaders- Ted Kennedy- formed a kind of co-Presidency controlling domestic affairs during Reagan's last two years in office.  That's my deeper worry about 2014- it may be a desultory election with roughly even motivation and voter numbers and a lame duck Obama Administration, and the unanticipated/uncyclical Senate seat gains in 2012 might be more than wiped out by similarly uncyclical losses.  Then a closing of the margin in the House might not matter so much.

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