Thursday :: Aug 31, 2006

In Search of the Ultimate Political Wave

by CA Pol Junkie

If you are reading this blog, you are probably a political junkie. About this time every two years, our attention focuses on the upcoming election, what we can do for our Party, and what the results will bring. Like our much cooler cousins, the surfer-dudes, we scan the horizon in search of that once-in-a-decade wave. This year, will we get that amazing ride, or will it be yet another wipe-out?

Don't look to Stu Rothenberg, Larry Sabato, or the Cook Political Report for answers, as their wisdom is strictly conventional. They look at individual seats and see which way they lean, but winning seats one at a time is not a path to taking back the House. We need realignment - GOP voters staying home and/or realizing the GOP sucks, so they give the Democrats a shot. In a wave election, the opposition party knocks off all the most vulnerable incumbents plus a few nobody thinks are in trouble. All the close races break in one direction as the majority's coalition unravels.

Here's what the leading political indicators said then and now:

Presidential Approval Rating
1994 August: 43% November: 47%
2002 August: 64% November: 62%
2006 August: 38% November: ??%

Congressional Approval Rating
1994 August: 22% November: 21%
1998 August: 41% November: 44%
2002 August: 49% November: 50%
2006 August: 30% November: ??%

Generic Party Vote
1994 August: Dem +0.0% November: Dem +3.4% Actual: GOP +6.8%
1998 August: Dem + 1.0% November: Dem +0.4% Actual: GOP +0.9%
2002 August: Dem + 4.5% November: GOP +2.0% Actual: GOP +4.6%
2006 August: Dem +11.8% Actual: ???%

In 1994, Morton Kondracke was basically the only talking head who saw the GOP wave coming even days before it happened. This year, others have analyzed the data to predict what will happen two months from now. I'm with our own eriposte - things look good for us, but there's way too much uncertainty to predict outcomes based on polling data.

The Gadflyer makes a good observation about the gerrymandering which has heretofore helped the Republicans but could be the source of a Democratic wave:

However, because Republicans have used gerrymandering to distribute their voters much more efficiently from a political-economic standpoint, they also face some risks--especially if they get hit with a bad election cycle. (Hint, hint, hope, hope.) Namely, they have to defend or win the 25 current districts with Democratic PVIs [Partisan Voting Index], plus those with marginally Republican PVIs. If we count as "narrowly" districts with a PVI of +3R or less, there are another 34 such Republicans in the House to add to those first 25, or a total of 59 Republican-vulnerable districts.

Though I cannot provide the districts' PVIs (the Cook Political Report is a paid subscription and I am being loaned the data as a courtesy), here is the list of districts:

Northeast (24) : Connecticut 2, 4, 5; Delaware AL; New Hampshire 1, 2; New Jersey 2, 3, 4, 7; New York 3, 13, 19, 20, 23, 24, 25; Pennsylvania 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 15, 18.

South (8): Florida 8, 10, 16, 22; Georgia 11; Kentucky 3; North Carolina 8; Virginia 11.

Midwest (20): Illinois 6, 10, 11; Iowa 1, 2, 4; Michigan 6, 7, 8, 9, 11; Minnesota 1, 2, 3; Ohio 1, 3, 12, 14; 15; Wisconsin 1.

West/Southwest (7): Arizona 1, 8; California 11; Colorado 7; Nevada 3; New Mexico 1; Washington 8.

Note that there are alot of districts in the Northeast and Midwest which vote Democratic for president, but Republican for the House. The South did the opposite until 1994, when it realigned to vote strictly Republican. Besides The Gadflyer's list of districts ready to realign, Chris Bowers has compiled a thorough accounting of the top races, and David Kowalski adds 40 longshot pickup opportunities.

Unlike the surfer-dude, getting a political wave is not a matter of waiting, but rather taking advantage of the conditions and then making it happen. We have friendly political seas, so this is the time to fight in as many districts as possible, so we can run more credible races and win more seats if we catch the wave.

The DCCC is targeting the high profile races, while The Netroots is helping some in the second tier. Take a look at candidates in your area, adopt someone from David Kowalski's list, or help out someone else whose odds are long. I'm helping out Steven Herr (I'm related to him) in the slightly red 1st District of Wisconsin which has been written off because the incumbent has $1.6 million in the bank. When you fight in districts like these, you're not likely to win but the worst that can happen is you build the Party, help other Democrats running statewide and locally, and make the Republicans burn through their warchest so they will be more vulnerable next time. This year, we could win a couple of these races too.

In the comments, share your stories of how you are working to make it a totally righteous wave this November...

CA Pol Junkie :: 7:43 PM :: Comments (19) :: Digg It!