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Swing Districts in 113th congress

by: AppleCon

Fri Dec 28, 2012 at 13:21:11 PM EST

Thanks to redistricting, there are fewer swing districts than ever before. The 113th Congress is argubly the most partisan ever. Nate Silver has an excellent analysis. According to him, there are only 35 swing districts. His definition is CDs that are within five percentage points of the national popular vote margin. 2012 elections had an all-time low of such districts.

Meanwhile, Cook Political Report also finds that there are also 35 pure swing districts between D+2 and R+2. That is an all-time low. There was double that amount going into 2000 elections. They also found that just 99 are considered swing districts between D+5 and R+5. That too is an all-time low. There were as much as 140 of these swing seats in 1998. Cook calculated that "If both parties hold all their 'strong' districts, Democrats would now need to win 73 percent of all 'swing' districts to achieve a majority." Swing districts as defined as between D+5 and R+5. So they need to win 73% of those 99 districts. Cook also found that the median district is currently MI-7, Tim Wahlberg, which is R+3. In this CD, Bush got 55% of the vote, while Obama got just 52% in 2008. That's a pretty conservative district. In 2010, the median district was actually WI-01, Paul Ryan, which was R+2. In 1998, it was WA-08, Republican Jennifer Dunn, which as R+1.

Based on my own analysis, there are just six Democrats in the 113th congress that will sit in districts that John McCain won: Jim Matheson, Mike McIntyre, Nick Rahall, John Barrow, Collin Peterson, and Ann Kirkpatrick. Only one Republican in the 113th congress will represent a district that John Kerry won: Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-7), where Kerry got 51% of the vote. PA-7 is D+1. Only two other Republicans have a district that is D+1 or higher: Rodney Davis (IL-13) and Gary Miller (CA-31). Kerry got 49% in IL-13 and 48% in CA-31. According to Cook, Miller's district is D+2, the highest for any sitting Republican.

Bob Dold almost won IL-10. He lost by just 2,000 votes. That CD is D+8, where Obama got 64% in 2008 and Kerry got 54% in 2004. Republican Richard Tisei almost beat Democrat John Tierney. He lost by just 3,500 votes. MA-6 is D+7. Both Obama and Kerry got 58% of the vote there. Finally, Democrat Dan Maffei barely beat incumbent Republican Ann Buerkle, 48%-44%. Buerkle is pretty conservative for this Democratic-leaning district. NY-24 is D+4. Obama got 57% here in 2008 and Kerry won with 52%. 

Some Democrats in the EVEN and D+1 and D+2 districts are moderates and will be very very tough for Republicans to beat (like Jim Costa in CA-16). Others don't have enough swing voters to the point where a Republican to win (like Matt Cartwright in PA-17). However, the fact that some Republicans can win in D+2 districts and higher in a Democratic-friendly election cycle is troubling for them. In addition, many of the Democrats' wins in 2012 were fluks (like Raul Ruiz, Joe Garcia, and Kyrsten Sinema). Republicans have a lock on the HOR for the next decade. Anyone disagree?

AppleCon :: Swing Districts in 113th congress
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The trend there is not good for the Democrats.  Romney won PA-8.  In terms of PVI, the Democrats peaked there with Kerry and have been declining since.  I suspect Kerry really was the fluke though as this district has a pretty strong anti-war bent.

28, Republican, PA-6

Why is the district more anti-war than
the neighboring 6th or 15th?

Age 21, CA-18 (home), CA-13 (college)
Idiosyncratic, pro-establishment. Liberal but not progressive.  For the poor, the children, the planet, and the rule of law.

Berkeley Class of 2015.

[ Parent ]
Bucks County
The religious right has a strong pacifist streak in the county and the religious left dominates a portion of the Democratic Party.

28, Republican, PA-6

[ Parent ]
Good point
Bucks County though actually trended toward Bush from 2000 to 2004. I was looking at the results and Gore won the PA-8 51%-46% and under the same lines, Kerry won there with 51-48%.

[ Parent ]
why are Raul Ruiz, Kyrsten Sinema, or Joe Garcia flukes?  They beat flawed opponents, but they aren't Joe Cao.  Are you willing to rate their races Likely R already?

Age 21, CA-18 (home), CA-13 (college)
Idiosyncratic, pro-establishment. Liberal but not progressive.  For the poor, the children, the planet, and the rule of law.

Berkeley Class of 2015.

AZ-9 is D-leaning
The other 2 are probably more likely than not to flip back to Rs in the next election.  

26, Male, R, NY-10

[ Parent ]
I'm not so sure
about Garcia's district.  It swung pretty far left.  And Ruiz's is D-trending too, although I think it'll be a tough hold for him in a midterm, but it's a tossup.

Age 21, CA-18 (home), CA-13 (college)
Idiosyncratic, pro-establishment. Liberal but not progressive.  For the poor, the children, the planet, and the rule of law.

Berkeley Class of 2015.

[ Parent ]
While FL-25-27 swung left on a Presidential level that may not be the best way to judge the districts on a congressional level. Diaz-Balart was unopposed and Ros-Lehtinen won in a landslide. You'd probably be better looking at the change from 2006 and 2010 on the gubernatorial vote. 2014 is a mid-term like those.

CA-36 may be D trending but it's tough to judge because Obama is out of whack in California. Still, nothing in California should be considered a slam dunk for the GOP after 2012.  

R, CA-37; hometown: PA-2

[ Parent ]
California has big electoral gap
In presidential election years, typical statewide Democrat gets 59%-64%. In midterms, it goes down to 52%-55%. The only Republican congressional candidate to win in a district that where Boxer cracked 40% or above was Gary Miller. That alone says a lot. With good recruits (state legislators), think they will win 3-5 seats in 2014 among these 7: CA-3, CA-7, CA-24, CA-26, CA-36, CA-41, and CA-52.

Male, PA-15, Libertarian leaning-Republican

[ Parent ]
Your stats
There are only two potential statewide races in a Presidential election year, the President and Senate. Here are the last four elections:

Gore 53.5%

Kerry 54.3%
Boxer 57.7%

Obama 61.0%

Obama 60.3%
Feinstein 62.5%

The last time a Democrat got more than Feinstein's 62.5% in 2012 was in 1986, not a Presidential year. The only Democrat to ever exceed Feinstein's 62.5% in a Presidential election year was FDR in 1936. A statewide Democrat has never gotten as high as your range in a Presidential election year.

In the last four mid-terms the statewide percentage hasn't fallen into a limited range:

2010: 46-56%
2006: 38-59%
2002: 45-51%
1998: 44-61%

On average Democrats have gotten 49-52%, 54-57% two party. It's true that Democrats won every district that Boxer got 40%. That, however, is misleading. When people hear that they think that Fiorina must've gotten 60% in these districts, but your 40% is not a two party number. CA-21 was 50.1%-39.7%. Fiorina ran very strong in CA-10 and CA-21. Whitman lost CA-21.

As you point out, and the numbers above show, Democrats haven't done as well in mid-terms as they have in 2008 and 2012 when Obama was at the top of the ticket. So comparing this year's results to Boxer may be a stretch.  

R, CA-37; hometown: PA-2

[ Parent ]
The problem, of course, is that very state legislators
are actually in these district. I think the GOP is best served looking at local county officials or people not in government positions.

State Senate:
Ted Gaines - CD-4
Jim Nielsen - CD-1
Anthony Cannella - CD-10
Tom Berryhill - CD-10
Jean Fuller - CD-23
Steve Knight - CD-25
Bill Emmerson - CD-36 (Only one? He'll be 69 in 2014)
Bob Huff - CD-39
Joel Anderson - CD-50
Mimi Walters - CD-48
Mark Wyland - CD-49

I'll do the State House in a bit...

[ Parent ]
GOP California
It's not surprising that Republicans hold state legislative seats in the same districts they hold congressional seats. It's the same for Democrats. The Democrats who won Republican seats in CA-7, 36, 41, and 52 didn't hold elected office.

The GOP has a long bench in both CA-36 and 52, so they'll be lining up to challenge Ruiz and Peters.  

R, CA-37; hometown: PA-2

[ Parent ]
Joe Cao was the Ultimate Fluke
Of course none of them are Joe Cao, he was the biggest fluke of modern history. But all three are typical flukes who faced weak opponents and got very lucky. All of them should lose re-election if they face a tougher opponent. I can't rate them Likely R until Republicans start to file to run.

Male, PA-15, Libertarian leaning-Republican

[ Parent ]
I think calling someone a fluke
means they have to be at or near Joe Cao status.  Otherwise they can be a "likely one termer" or "potential one termer," but "fluke" is a whole different thing.

Age 21, CA-18 (home), CA-13 (college)
Idiosyncratic, pro-establishment. Liberal but not progressive.  For the poor, the children, the planet, and the rule of law.

Berkeley Class of 2015.

[ Parent ]
Have to agree. Cao was a fluke because he won a seat that was far more Democratic than any Republican could win, his opponent was scandal ridden, and his election was a low turn-out December run-off.

the Democrats in the five most Republican seats are all incumbents who've been there several terms. The only Dem who could be a fluke would be Patrick Murphy because Allen West was an unusual incumbent.

Gary Miller would be the only Republican fluke. When all the districts are calculated there may be only 4 Republicans in districts greater than D+0.7 and two of them will be in D+1-2 and be unbeatable incumbents LoBiondo and Ros-Lehtinen.

If 2014 is a slightly Republican year Democrats may only knock off 1 Republican.

R, CA-37; hometown: PA-2

[ Parent ]
Update your PVIs
MA-06 is D+4. PA-08 is R+1 and IL-13 is EVEN (and was R+2 in 2012).

From IL-09, Living in PA-07.

Also, Mike Fitzpatrick doesn't represent PA-7
PA-7 is R+1 or 2 right?

23, Libertarian Republican CA-18
Liberals dream things that never were and ask why not.  Conservatives shout back "Because it won't work"

[ Parent ]
In 2012
PA-6 and 7 were R+3. PA-8 was R+2. If you weight both 2008 and 2012 50-50, then PA-6 is R+2, PA-7 is still R+3, and PA-8 is R+1.

R, CA-37; hometown: PA-2

[ Parent ]
Green Party vote in NY 21 and 24 CD
Although you mention that Republican Buerkle was narrowly defeated by about 4% in the Syracuse based NY 24 CD, it should be kept in mind that the Green Party candidate got 22,670 votes, or about 7.4% of the total. Most of that vote would have likely gone to Dem. Maffei if the Green Party candidate was not in the race, so Buerkle's electoral performance is not quite as good as it first seems. I think it will be very difficult to unseat the liberal Maffei in this Democrat-leaning district, even if the Green Party puts up a strong candidate in 2014 (assuming they even run a candidate).  

Also, although you didn't specifically mention it, the "North Country" based NY 21 CD was very close with moderate Dem. Owens winning by only about 5000 votes or around 2%.  The Green Party candidate got 4174 votes or about 1.6%, and again it is likely most of these votes would have gone for Owens if the Green Party candidate was not in the race. Admittedly, the Green Party vote is less of a factor compared to the 24th CD, so this district, which Obama narrowly carried, will be in play in 2014 regardless of what the Green Party does.  Of course, the Repubs need to put up a strong candidate and it wouldn't surprise me if the dysfunctional party is not able to manage that. We'll see.  

PA-8 and IL-13 are more Republican than their PVIs would suggest
In 2006, Patrick Murphy eked out a razor-thin victory in PA-8. Four years later, the incumbent he ousted, Mike Fitzpatrick, made a comeback bid and clobbered him. This isn't definitive proof that PA-8 leans Republican. 2010 was more of a wave yearthan 2006, and Mike Fitzpatrick is a better pol than Murphy. Nevertheless, given that this seat also went to Toomey, a former Club for Growth president, in '10 and Romney in '12, it's clear that this district should have no worse than an even PVI.

IL-13 is even more Republican than PA-8. Ignore 2008 results; Obama won a whole host of GOP strongholds by virtue of the home state effect. In 2004, Bush won close to 55 percent in IL-13. In '12, Romney narrowly carried the district, even though Obama's Illinois roots boosted down ballot Dems -- albeit marginally. When Madigan, Raoul, and Currie gerrymandered IL's congressional map, they were confident that they had put IL-13 in play by throwing Springfield, Bloomington, Decatur, and Champaign all into one district. However, the district will remain just of reach for Democrats for the next decade, as its sparsely-populated towns are far more Republican than its "cities" are Democratic. Even if Matt Goetten had beaten David Gill in the primary (as was expected), he would have lost in the general.

Ryan/Kasich 2016

Wrong justification on PA-08
The correct justification is that Mike Fitzpatrick won Bucks County in 2006 and that the MontCo and NE Philly precincts that defeated him in 2006 have been replaced by a 56% Romney (R+8) slice of upper Montgomery County that accounts for about a ninth of the district.

From IL-09, Living in PA-07.

[ Parent ]
Why did you say if Goetten would have won the primary, he would have lost in the general? Rodney Davis only beat Gill by a percentage point and, from what I remember, Gill is a lot more liberal than Goetten. Gill probably had more name recognition from running for the district previously but I think that might be a negative for him because he had lost overwhelmingly to an incumbent.

[ Parent ]
I think he turned out stronger.  Despite being too far left for the district, he was a strong campaigner and well liked (a good equivalent would be Pat Tiberi or Mike Rogers (the MI one), who in 2006 and 2008 held down swing districts despite being very conservative).  Goetten was clearly lazy, losing a primary he should have won, and I doubt his ads could've been as good as Gill's were.

Sometimes ideology isn't the only thing that makes a candidate strong.

Age 21, CA-18 (home), CA-13 (college)
Idiosyncratic, pro-establishment. Liberal but not progressive.  For the poor, the children, the planet, and the rule of law.

Berkeley Class of 2015.

[ Parent ]
Plus Johnson would have stayed in the race
Tim Johnson's retirement was triggered by Gill's win. He told Republican insiders in the district that he felt comfortable leaving the race given how unfit Gill was for the district. Had Goetten won, Johnson would have remained a candidate and won.  

Ryan/Kasich 2016

[ Parent ]
Good point

26, Male, R, NY-10

[ Parent ]
Robert Pittenger is the 218th seat
He won by 6.1 points. 217 Republicans won by more than 6.1 points.

17 Republicans won by 0 to 6.1 points.

27, R, PA-07.

Pretty amazing
And all things aside, he's not remotely vulnerable. Pretty much sums up the situation.

26, Male, R, NY-10

[ Parent ]

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