November 11, 2006

The New Democratic Majority

  4:56 pm

I’m very hesitant to use the “R” word, as I think it’s generally misused and overused by armchair pundits and political observers, but I cannot deny that 2006 was at least as much of a realignment as 1994, which is to say that it was a mini-realignment in which one region of the country culminated its flirtation with one of our major parties by making a full-scale commitment to that party.? In 1994, we saw the south embrace the GOP after flirting with the Republican Party for decades by finally throwing out the old Democratic guard and electing actual conservative Republicans in conservative southern states and legislative districts.? In 2006, we watched as the industrial north/northern midwest/Great Lakes region, the states in which the party of Lincoln was born and that voted heavily for Republican presidents and governors as late as the 1980s and 1990s, united with the northeast, tossed out veteran Republican incumbents,?and sent open seats like the Ohio governorship — which had been in GOP hands for 16 years — over to the Democrats.? In so doing, this region, which had been trending blue for the past 10-15 years, finally committed to the Dems, producing a 1994 style Democratic majority across America.

Following is a?portrait of the government we will wake up with in January, 2007.

U.S. House

It looks like Democrats gained 29 seats in the House, giving?Dems 232 seats to the GOP’s 203.? Of the 29 seats we lost, 19 were in the north/northeast, 3 were in the southwest, 1 was on the west coast, 1 was in the plains west, and?5 were in the south.? Moreover, 2 of the southern seats lost were TX-22 and FL-16, which were lost only because of the DeLay and Foley scandals specific to those two districts.? That means 66 percent of all GOP House losses occurred in the region?east of the Missouri River and north of Mason-Dixon.? The south and interior west largely held while the country went to the Democrats.? This is pretty much the death knell?of a regional majority strategy.? If Republicans want the House back, they’re going to have to figure out how to win the whole country, not just half of it.

U.S. Senate

Democrats will?have a 51-49 majority in the Senate.? Half of the GOP’s Senate losses occurred in the north/northeast, with a third taking place in the south and a sixth in the mountain west.? In January of 2007, 75 percent of the 36 senators from the north and northeast will vote for a Democratic Senate Majority Leader.? While it’s true that Democrats couldn’t have taken the Senate if MO, VA, and MT had stayed red, it’s also true that in both 2008 and 2010, Republicans come into the Senate contest with a major disadvantage, defending far more seats than the Democrats each time.? In fact, the first opportunity the GOP will have for major Senate gains won’t come until 2012, when the 2006 cycle is up again.


Democrats will control 28 of the nation’s governorships next year, while the GOP holds onto 22.? Two-thirds of Democratic gains took place in the north/northeast, with another third coming out of the southwest and south.? Again, the movement in the north/northeast alone was enough to tip the majority to the Democrats.? Dems also control the majority of state legislative seats.? Of the 18 states that make up the north and northeast, 13 now have Democratic governors and only 5 have GOP governors.? Before the election, this region was split evenly, with 9 Democratic governors and 9 Republican ones.

The Mountain West

It’s still light red, despite the Democratic landslide.? The House seats in Wyoming and Idaho stayed Republican, though did so narrowly, and the GOP held onto the governor’s seats in Alaska and Idaho.? Democrats did pick up the Montana Senate seat, but only by a few thousand votes.? The mountain west is no longer the GOP bastion it was under Goldwater, but if the Dems couldn’t turn it blue this year, it’s probably safe for now, and would be much safer if Republicans were to return to their Goldwater roots.

The Southwest

It’s drip-drip-dripping bluer every election, but it never quite makes the transformation that many analysts think it will.? Then again, all that slow movement does tend to add up over time.? Democrats now have 3 of the 4 governorships of AZ, NM, CO, and NV, but the GOP still controls the majority of Senate seats out of those states and won some major Nevada races that should’ve been prime pickups in a year voters rejected big government conservatism.? Again, the west is probably best described as turned off by GOP governance but skeptical that Democrats will do any better.

Future Outlook

Those new Democratic House freshmen in the north and northeast will be ideologically right at home in many of their districts and even a strong GOP comeback in 2008 will likely fall short of recapturing the House.? Similarly, the Senate will get worse before it gets better.? Republicans’ best bet is to elect a?president in 2008, weather the 2010 midterm, and then re-elect the GOP POTUS in a landslide in 2012, taking the House and Senate back as well.? 2012 will be the first election after the next reapportionment of House districts, which will increase the number of districts in the sunbelt and decrease those in the snowbelt.? That, combined with the vast number of Senate seats the Dems will?be defending in 2012 due to their 10 seat aggregate pickup in 2000 and 2006 will give Republicans a real shot at holding Democratic dominance to a mere 6 years, which isn’t lengthy by historical standards.

As things stand now, the south and interior?west are still bright red, the mountain west is light red, the southwest is a hearty purple, and the north and northeast are solid blue.? Despite being called a dying region by many, the 18 states that make up New England, the mid-Atlantic region, the industrial north, and the northern midwest have demonstrated a political clout that matches that of the New South?and the?new economy sunbelt.? And the electoral math isn’t there for a GOP win in 2008 if each and every one of these states decides to unite again two years from now behind a Democrat for president.? Republicans need to figure out how to make significant inroads back into the land of Lincoln in order to make a comeback in 2008.? Otherwise, we may all find out just what an unfettered Democratic government would do.? The dread rises.



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Excellent analysis, DaveG. I enjoyed reading it. It's all the more reason to nominate someone in 2008 that can flip the the solidly Democratic northern states. Our Congressional delegation here in Wisconsin is becoming more Democratic with each passing election (despite Kerry only winning the state by 4,000 votes). As of Tuesday's elections, the delegation has 7 Dems and only 3 Republicans. Only McCain or Giuliani could turn this state red.


Dave, Dave, Dave

g-eesh, realignment? even mini? no

Look at your main theme:

"The south and interior west largely held while the country went to the Democrats. This is pretty much the death knell of a regional majority strategy. If Republicans want the House back, they’re going to have to figure out how to win the whole country, not just half of it."

The south and interior west are part of the "whole country." ok

The fact is that both parties hold approximately half the country. The problem for the dems is that 20-25% of their members do not share the party's values and and even larger % of their members come from districts that don't.

Realignments are based on major issues or events, like the New Deal or the Reagan-Gingrich revolutions. We still live in the latter. The GOPs problem is PR and yellow dawgs, but the nation is 60% conservative.

The dem blue dogs will fail, and most will be replaced. And given their prominence in the 2006 media coverage, they will not be able to hide their voting records and get away with it like the old dem blue dog reps that remain.

Moreover, the dems did not win based on any issues they champion. Their gains were from aping conservative repubs.



"and the north and northeast are solid blue" - I have lived in New England my whole life and can tell you that, outside of Mass., Rhode Island, and Vermont it is not that blue. New Hampshire went to Kerry by something like a half a percentage point in 04, and that was after the Dem primary swung through there and Kerry was from over the border. Maine is like a Southern state that never went through slavery and is made up up moderate Republicans and blue-dog dems. Didos for up-state New York. Why Republicans have done so dismally up here is because the Republican party has become the party of Bush as of late. New Englanders don't trust Bush, Texas accents, or cowboy hats. If Giuliani or McCain were to be the Republican pick i think you would be surprised how fast some of the Northeastern losses would be reversed. People up here love those guys and really pine to rejoin the Republican party as soon as it stops being percieved as the party run by Christians and Southerners who are more interested in their own social agendas then being states-rights and fiscal conservatives.


John R makes a great point that shows that Dave G's conclusions are way overblown, esp for a Year 6 midterm.

John G. Caulfield

I must be missing something here, Gamecock, because it seemed to me that John R was makinga point that bolstered G's analysis.


JGC - JR refutes that his region is solid blue normally, ie not in 2006. Well, 2006 is a unique year 6 election. A mid-term. They had no problem with the same Bush in 2000 and 2004. Yes, some of JR's reasoning may support DG, but not the numbers underlying the facts of prior electoral success. There is no inherent conflict between Christians, Southerners, states rights and fiscal conservatism. Now, JR may have some latent anti-Christian/Southern bigotry, but I forgive him that. The fact is that the GOP started winning elections when Reagan brought us into the party and Gingrich kept us. We want state's rights as well. Heck man we started a war over it in 1961. We want the state right to religious free speech where a liberal Sup Ct doesn't tell us we cant have a prayer at a football game lest the Church of Old England rear its head.

John G. Caulfield

1961? Unless you are having fond memories of Ross Barnett, you mean 1861. Otherwise, we would still be calling it "the recent unpleasantness".


I guess no one noticed the large rock thrown at the Fort in 1961?

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