Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Rock of Sisyphus Part 2: The Bad News

The Rock of Sisyphus Part 2: The Bad News for Democrats

Yesterday we looked at the 41 U.S. House seats that were Republican going into the 2006 election and coming out of the 2010 election, but were Democratic in between.

Today we look at the bad news for the Democrats: the 28 seats that represent real gains Republicans made from 2006 to 2010. Some of these will be next year's one term wonders, some will settle in.

This is a heavily Southern list. Factoid of the year: In a five state swath of Old Wallace Country – Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina – there is only one white Democratic House member, John Barrow of Georgia, remaining. The state's other four House Democrats are black; the other four states have one black majority Democratic seat each and an otherwise all-Republican delegation.

We start the list with a quirky one in Alabama 5. Long-time Blue Dog Bud Cramer retired in 2008 and Parker Griffith held the seat for the Dems. Then Griffith made one of the more botched party changes in recent memory and lost his Republican primary to Mo Brooks. Since Brooks was the first to win the seat as a Republican, I call this a gain not a hold.

Arkansas 1 and 2: Dems Marion Berry and Vic Snyder both saw the writing on the wall and bailed in 2010; Republicans Rick Crawford and Tim Griffin took over to give the GOP an unprecedented 3-1 edge in the delegation.

Colorado 3: Kind of a ringer, as John Salazar only took over the western slope seat in 2004, the same year brother Ken, now in the cabinet, won the Senate seat. Scott Tipton knocked John off last fall.

Florida 2: Both Republicans and progressive Dems were gunning for panhandle Blue Dog Allen Boyd this year. The primary challenge fell short but Steve Southerland finished him off in November.

Georgia 8: Started the decade as Georgia 3 before the state got the idea of a mid-decade re-map from Texas. The new turf was designed to finish off Democrat Jim Marshall, but with help from the waves of 2006 and 2008 he survived until Austin Scott knocked him off this year.

Illinois 8: Another 2004 Dem gain as Melissa Bean was the upset of the year over 30 plus year Republican Phil Crane. (Old timers will remember that he ran for President in the 1980 primaries, to the right of Reagan.) Bean looked like she’d gotten lucky in 2010 when she drew tea partier Joe Walsh as an opponent.

The Real Joe Walsh sued him for using Real Joe Walsh music, and the fake Joe Walsh ran an abysmal race, but this year was that bad.

Illinois 17. One of the whaa? results of the year as Bobby Schilling came out of nowhere to upset Phil Hare in the old Lane Evans Quad Cities seat. This squashed spider gerrymander is likely to get torn up in redistricting.

Kansas 3. Democrat Dennis Moore had a tenuous but tenacious hold on the seat till his surprise 2010 retirement. His wife tried to keep the seat in the family but Republican Kevin Yoder took all the lupines to make the Kansas delegation all-Republican.

Louisiana 3: Democrat Charlie Melancon made a brave but failed effort in the Senate race against Diaper Dave Vitter. With the seat open Jeff Landry gained one for the GOP.

Michigan 1: I won't miss Bart Stupak much, but he did manage to hold Da U.P. for 18 years for the Democrats. Republican Dan Benishek now takes over.

Minnesota 8: My pick for Upset Of The Year: Chip Cravaack comes out of nowhere to beat 30 year DFL incumbent James Oberstar in a district that’s been Democratic since Bob Dylan was growing up in Hibbing.

Mississippi 4: How the hell did conservaDem Gene Taylor survive this long on the Gulf Coast? This seat was one of the first in the South to flip Republican waaaay way back in 1972 when Trent Lott took over from his boss, old-time segregationist Democrat William Colmer. When Lott went to the Senate in 1988, Larkin Smith beat Taylor, but died in a plane crash months later. Taylor won the special and voted with the Republicans more than the Democrats for 21 years. Even in the ballot box – in a last ditch effort for survival, he said he had voted for John McCain in 2008. Not good enough as Steve Palazzo takes this seat from the Democrats. This one's gone forever.

Missouri 4. One of the year’s bellwethers as House Armed Services chair Ike Skelton, first elected some time before God, loses to Vicky Hartzler down by Branson.

North Carolina 2. Renee Elmers was one of the year’s narrower and wackier Republican winners, knocking off Bob Etheridge.

North Dakota. Going into this fall North Dakota was an anomaly: solidly Republican at the state level, it elected an all-Democratic D.C. delegation. But Byron Dorgan left the Senate and Rick Berg beat Earl Pomeroy to win the House seat for the GOP for the first time since 1980.

Ohio 6. Democrat Charlie Wilson – not the flamboyant Texan of “Charlie Wilson’s War” fame – lost to Bill Johnson this year in suburban Cincinnati.

Pennsylvania 11. Republicans won Pennsylvania big but most of that was taking back the Democratic gains of the last two cycles. This was the only new win as Lou Barletta knocked off 26 year Democrat Paul Kanjorski, who'd been around since 1984.

South Carolina 5. One of the last senior southern white Democrats, John Spratt, lost to Mick Mulvaney here.

South Dakota. Stephanie Herseth (later Herseth-Sandlin after she married former colleague Max Sandlin, one of the Texas victims of Tom DeLay's mid-decade gerrymander) won this in a June 2004 special and seemed to be reasonably well established until losing to Kristi Noem this year.

Tennessee 4, 6 and 8. Two open seats and the defeat of Lincoln Davis moves Tennessee from 5-4 Democratic to 7-2 Republican. In relation to size, this may be the biggest Republican gain of the time frame.

Texas 17. Chet Edwards, who represented the Crawford Ranch through the Bush 43 years, was the only one of the intended Democratic victims of the mid-decade Republican gerrymander to survive. Bill Flores finally caught him this year.

Texas 27. Republican Blake Farenthold may be fluke of the year, as low turnout helped him beat 28 year Democrat Solomon Ortiz. With Texas gaing a whopping four seats, are there enough Republicans in Corpus Christi and the Rio Grande valley to draw him a district?

Virginia 9: Update; I missed the loss of Rick Boucher, first elected 1982, the first go-round.

Washington 3. Washington State was one of the anchors of the 1994 Republican takeover, as the GOP claimed five seats and dethroned the sitting Speaker. But it's been remarkably stable through the three wave elections of the 2000s. The only seat change was here this year, as Republican Jaime Herrera took over for retiring Democrat Brian Baird. That's also the only GOP gain on the entire West Coast, for a net change of zero in the five Pacific states.

West Virginia 1. An odd one, as 14 term Democrat Alan Mollohan lost his primary and Republican David McKinley takes the seat.

Wisconsin 7. Outgoing Appropriations chair David Obey held this seat for 21 terms and in six different decades, but stepped down this spring as things looked rough. Ashland DA and Real World alum Sean Duffy won this seat for the GOP, turning the whole northern half of the state red when combined with Steve Kagan's loss in the 8th CD.

So looking at this by states, here's the Democratic losses from October 2006 to today.

Down three seats in Tennessee.

Down two seats in Texas (but down six since 2004 thanks to the mid-decade redistricting) and Arkansas.

One each in Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Depressed yet, Dems? Tomorrow is counter-trend day: the gains Democrats have made and consolidated.

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