Tuesday, June 28, 2016


Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report tweeted this yesterday:

It's true -- in poll after poll, when you ask voters which party they favor for their House seat, naming no candidate names, the parties are running even, or the Democrats are only slightly ahead, in poll after poll.

If you're assuming that distaste for Donald Trump will translate into distaste for the Republican Party in general, please remember that the news is full of stories about mainstream Republicans' squeamishness about Trump, and about Trump's contempt for the party establishment. The dominant narrative is that Trump isn't really representative of the party. A lot of people read this as a party in chaos, but I think Reince Priebus, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, and other pary leaders are doing a pretty good of generating that Trump-vs.-GOP narrative. They're assuming that voters who like Trump will vote GOP downballot because he's at the top of the ticket, while many voters who don't like Trump will still vote GOP downballot because the pre-Trump party clearly still exists, and regularly expresses contempt for Trump. In 2008, when Democrats led the "generic ballot" question by 19 points in June, the GOP was the party of the despised George W. Bush -- there was no ambiguity about that. But this year it's not clear who really represents the GOP. Would-be Republican voters can believe it's Trump or believe it's the old guard -- whatever they choose.

I'm assuming you know why a 50-50 House vote wouldn't produce a 50-50 House: Redistricting and gerrymandering by Republican state governments means that Democrats have to win the overall vote in a near-landslide just to reach parity in the House. A Republican scheme called REDMAP, initiated in 2010, made sure of that, as David Daley explains in a new book titled Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America's Democracy. In a New Yorker review of the book, Elizabeth Colbert explains how it works, using Pennsylvania as an example:
Two of the most common gerrymandering techniques are “packing” and “cracking.” In the first, the party in charge of redistricting tries to “pack” voters from the rival party into as few districts as possible, to minimize the number of seats the opposition is likely to win. In the second, blocs of opposition voters are parcelled out among several districts, to achieve the same goal.

Both techniques were brought to bear in Pennsylvania. The new Republican majority “packed” blue-leaning voters into a handful of districts around Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Then it “cracked” the rest into districts that tilted red.

... So skillfully were the lines drawn that in 2012 -- when President Obama carried Pennsylvania by three hundred thousand votes and the state’s Democratic congressional candidates collectively outpolled their G.O.P. rivals by nearly a hundred thousand votes -- Republicans still won thirteen of Pennsylvania’s eighteen seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Kolbert adds:
In House races in 2012, 1.7 million more votes were cast for Democrats than for Republicans. And still, thanks to the way those votes were packed and cracked, Republicans came away with thirty-three more congressional seats.
So how big would the Democrats' overall lead in the House vote have to be if they want to win back the House? At Salon, Daley provides an estimate:
That ... edge in 2012 amounted to 50.4 percent of the two-party vote overall for the Democrats. You would need something upwards of 55 percent to get in the ballpark of the chambers switching, which would require many millions more votes.
In other words, a 10-point margin.

And we're nowhere near that, judging from the poll averages, because many people who loathe Trump still don't associate him with their nice GOP House member. And every time an outrageous Trump statement is denounced by an establishment Republican, the House majority gets safer -- and probably the Senate majority as well.


AllieG said...

You were making a sound point until the last seven words, which require a "show your work" paragraph or two.

Victor said...

I guess a lot of people like being represented by bigoted, moronic assholes!

Ten Bears said...

I remind folks as often as possible that "Representative" Greg Walden is an honest to goodness T Rump mini-me: Oregon's own trustfunder punk who's never done a day's work in its life and doesn't even live here. With about as much success as when I made the same allusion to Willard.

Overtaking the House is unrealistic right now. Gains could certainly be made but you're right, it would take a landslide. The Senate though... could see a solid dem majority, as long as yaw'l don't do something stupid like pull a highly effective Senator out for a Cabinet or VP seat and leave open seats for Republican Governors to fill.

Never Ben Better said...

Right on, Ten Bears -- leave the Senators alone, dammit! Especially mine, Warren!

Max said...

And every time an outrageous Trump statement is denounced by an establishment Republican, the House majority gets safer -- and probably the Senate majority as well.

Not necessarily. What's not being taken into account here is turnout. If the Rs stay home because of Trump or because they're discouraged because they know they're going to lose, the percentage lead changes in such a way that it might not show up in opinion polls. A 2% lead in House preference might translate into a 5-8% lead in actual votes.

Paul Ryan wheezing about how Trump bothers him with his uncouthness is only a selling point to people bothered by Trump and even then it sounds whiny.

In practice, its too early to tell, because of the economy (thanks, Federal Reserve!), and because our voters are the flakier ones. Which can be overcome with enthusiasm. Maybe.

On the other hand, this may all be bullshit and it may turn out that the Rs really love them some Trump (wouldn't surprise me). They're certainly working hard enough over there with the respectability-washing.

Possible fund-raising problems and lack of a ground game comes into play as well. We need to get through the conventions to get a clear view.

In practice, we should always be trying to take back the House, and gosh, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz has been kicked upstairs to figurehead (I hope!) so maybe we might get somewhere.

['On the other hand, we haven't been engaging in a 50 state strategy, so we lack a lot of candidates we should have to ride a wave. GRRRRRRRR.']

petrilli said...

For the 50 state strategy to work, it's my understanding that conventional wisdom dictates progressive, liberal Democrats have to be willing to support and accept conservative blue dog types. Well, shit, we just turned the corner on getting rid of most of them. Does anyone have an accurate take on just how necessary these DINOs are for getting the house back and becoming competitive again in the red states?

rclz said...

The one single good thing about the DINOS is even if they vote against us they still give us a majority. Meaning Dems head committees and those assholes can't turn the lights out or tell us to shut up when we're trying to get things done. It matters who is head of committees because they set the agenda like Benghazi for years and years. Or investigating PP for ever and a damn day. Those kinds of things. Even DINOs have their uses.

SipSip Titimo said...

"Blogger Victor said...
I guess a lot of people like being represented by bigoted, moronic assholes!"

Especially bigoted moronic asshole voters!

Erik C. said...

...and probably the Senate majority as well.

Oh, come on, Steve.

Steve M. said...

Sorry, I think the Republicans are going to hold the Senate. The other big reason: the Koch network is blowing off the presidential race and pouring all its money into downballot races -- e.g., a $2 million ad buy against Ted Strickland. How often do Democratic voters get passionate about non-presidential races?

Nick said...

I've been wondering about what Max expressed above-- what about turnout?