Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Rock of Sisyphus Rolls Part of the Way Downhill

The Rock of Sisyphus Rolls Part of the Way Downhill

The first rule of John Deeth's New School of Sober Gonzo Journalism is: if you can't find the story you want to read, write it yourself.

The story I've wanted to read, and can't find, is how the Democratic losses of 2010 match up against the gains of 2006 and 2008. Or, as someone once said, are we better off now than we were four years ago.

Some of the measures are easy. Here's the Democratic raw numbers, going into 2006 and going out of 2010.

October 2006
Presidents: zero
Senate: 44 (with Lieberman still officially a full Democrat) plus Jim Jeffords vs. 55 Republicans
House: 203 to 232 GOP

January 2011
Presidents: 1
Senate: 51 plus Bernie Sanders kinda plus Lieberman, 47 Republicans
House: 193-242

So we're down ten House members and up six or eight senators (depending how you count) and an Obama. It's not a perfect comparison, especially since the 2006 senators haven't been up yet. But despite the inevitable disappointment of falling so far after we climbed so high, we're better off than we were going in. The rock of Sisyphus has rolled back down the hill, but not all the way back down.

The House comparison is most interesting because, as eastern Iowans know well, the seats we've gained and lost don't exactly correspond. Of course, a lot of them do. New Hampshire, for example, is a wash: +2 Democrats in 2006, -2 in 2010.

The only way to figure this out is the Deeth Way: A long list full of tangents and trivia. This one has turned into a three parter. Tomorrow we'll see the bad news for Democrats, and Thursday will look at the counter-trend of the Democratic gains.

Today we start with the longest chapter: the temporary gains. These are seats that went into 2006 in Republican hands, and came out of 2010 in Republican hands, but were held by a Democrat along the way. Think of them as opportunities. Qualify everything, of course, with the wild card of redistricting.

There's 41 seats on the list. 38 of those are possible and necessary opportunities for taking back the House in 2012.

The Class of 2006-2010

These are the 15 seats Democrats gained in 2006 but lost last month. 12 of these members were beaten, while three made failed Senate bids and saw their open seats go back to the Republicans.

Arizona 5: Harry Mitchell upset gasbag J.D. Hayworth (last seen failing in a primary challenge to John McCain) in 2006, but lost in 2010 to David Schweikert.

Florida 22: Ron Klein knocked off long-time Republican Clay Shaw in 2006, then got tea partied by Allen West this year, Given West’s wackiness this is one that could flip back.

Indiana 8: Brad Ellsworth knocked off Republican John Hostettler in 2006, then gave up the seat this year for a last minute long-shot Senate bid after Even Bayh bailed on re-election at the filing deadline. Republican Larry Buchson easily won the open seat in an afterthought.

Indiana 9: Kind of an asterisk. Mike Sodrel interrupted Democrat Baron Hill’s tenure for two years (2004-06). The rivalry was epic as the two faced off four straight elections. This year, Republicans picked Todd Young over Sodrel in the primary and Young beat Hill in the fall.

New Hampshire 1 and 2: Does anyone remember when we thought Paul Hodes might actually gain Judd Gregg's Senate seat for the Democrats this year? He lost by about 20 points, and the guy Hodes beat in `06, Charlie Bass, makes a comeback. Carol Shea-Porter surprised everyone in 2006, but fell victim to Frank Giunta this year. (Despite winning and losing the whole House delegation, we're still up a Senate seat here with Jeanne Shaheen.)

New York 19, 20 and 24: These upstate seats were the anchors to the Democrat’s brief 27-2 lead in the New York delegation.

John Hall is not Still The One as the ex-Orleans frontman lost to Nan Hayworth in the 19th this year. In the 24th, Mike Arcuri took over for retiring Republican moderate Sherwood Boehlert in 2006 but lost last fall to Richard Hanna.

The 20th has a more complicated history, as one of only two seats in the country with four winners in four cycles (see Idaho 1 below). Kirsten Gillibrand took the ancestrally Republican seat for the Dems in 2006, then got appointed to the Senate right after her 2008 re-election. Dem Scott Murphy won a special election upset to replace her, but Chris Gibson took it back for the Republicans this year.

Ohio 18: Zack Space was in the right place at the right time in 2006 as Republican Bob Ney imploded in scandal, resigned, and went to jail. But southeast Ohio is part of right-trending Appalachia and Bob Gibbs has moved into Zack’s space.

Pennsylvania 7, 8, and 10: We lost three of the best Democratic advocates for veterans here: Iraq vet Pat Murphy, Senate primary winner Joe Sestak, (who came close but fell short in the general), and the late Jack Murtha. Also MIA in PA is Chris Carney.

The 2010 landslide, and the cultural lean of the region, makes Democrat Mark Critz’s special election win in Murtha’s 12th district (the only one in the nation to flip from Kerry in 2004 to McCain in 2008) and his November survival all the more impressive.

Texas 23: Democrat Ciro Rodriguez got paired with fellow Democrat Henry Cuellar in the 2004 mid-decade, Tom DeLay driven gerrymander and lost the primary. He came back two years later in the neighboring 23rd and beat Republican Henry Bonilla, but fell to the GOP's Quico Canseco this year.

Wisconsin 8: Doctor Steve Kagen won an open seat upset in 2006 when GOP incumbent ran for governor and lost, but Packerland returned to its Republican ways in 2010 with Reid Ribble.

The Class of 2008-2010

The wave crested even higher in record turnout, Yes We Can 2008, but 19 of those members couldn't survive this year, and one more didn't even make it to Election Day.

Alabama 2: This started out as Republican Terry Everett’s seat. Bobby Bright took it in 2008 for one term; Martha Roby regained it for the GOP this year.

Arizona 1: Republican Rick Renzi stepped down amid scandal in 2008 and Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick took over for one term before losing to Paul Gosar.

Colorado 4: Betsy Markey beat the homophobic Marilyn Musgrave in 2008, but lost to the less abrasive Cory Gardner this year.

Florida 8: Alan Grayson was one of the progressive heroes of the last two years, and WILL be back, one way or another. But maybe not in this district, where 2008 may have been a unique alignment of the stars.

Florida 24: Suzanne Kosmas beat Republican Tom Feeney in 2008’s wave and was swept out by Sandy Adams in 2010.

Idaho 1: The other seat with four winners in four elections. Hard Right Republican Bill Sali took over in 2006 when Butch Otter -- sounds like a cartoon character -- was elected governor. Sali was too far right even for this district, which is really saying something for the turf that was home to the Ruby Ridge shootout. ConservaDem Walt Minnick won what was probably a fluke and voted with the Republicans on virtually anything of significance, but it wasn’t enough for him to beat Republican Raul Labrador this fall.

Illinois 13: Debbie Halvorson won it for the Dems in 2008, but lost to Adam Kinzinger this year.

Maryland 1: A near fluke here. Right-winger Andy Harris knocked off 18 year moderate incumbent Wayne Gilchrest in the 2008 Republican primary, but in the Yes We Can climate of 2008 lost the Eastern Shore seat to Democrat Frank Kratovil (who won with Gilchrest’s endorsement). In the No We Can’t climate of 2010 Harris won a rematch.

Michigan 7: A wild revolving door: Republican Tim Walberg beat one-term moderate Joe Schwarz in a Club For Growth backed 2006 primary, lost the seat to Democrat Mark Schauer in 2008, then came back in 2010.

Nevada 3: Democrat Dina Titus won the seat, the more suburban of the two Vegas districts, in 2008 but lost to Joe Heck in 2010. With Nevada going to four seats Titus may well be back.

New Jersey 3: Jon Runyan returns this seat to GOP hands this year after John Adler’s one term.

New Mexico 2: Kind of an asterisk: Republican Steve Pearce stepped down in 2008 for a failed Senate run, then came back to beat one-term Dem Harry Teague.

New York 13: Vito Fossella hit the scandal trifecta in 2008: busted for drunk driving… while on the way to his girlfriend who is not his wife’s house… to pick up their baby. Staten Island Republicans finally talked him into quitting… and then their replacement candidate died. In the turmoil, Democrat Mike McMahon snuck in for one term, only to lose to Mike Grimm this year. I left this off the fluke list (see end of post) because I can conceive of a Democrat winning the seat in a good year without wacky circumstances.

New York 25: Ann Marie Buerkle took this ancestrally Republican seat back from one-term Dem Dan Maffei in 2010.

New York 29: Two consecutive short term incumbents were touched by personal scandal. Republican Randy Kuehl (2004-2008) managed to get beat in relative obscurity, but Democrat Eric Massa’s meltdown and resignation was all over cable for a week. The seat sat vacant for months until Republican Tom Reed won quietly and easily in November.

Ohio 1, 15 and 16: Ohio’s 2008 gains were the most ephemeral. Three first term Democrats – Steve Driehaus, Mary Jo Kilroy and John Boccieri -- lost in 2010.

Pennsylvania 3: Kathy Dahlkemper took this swing seat from Republican Phil English in 2008 but lost to Mike Kelly this year.

Virginia 2 and 5: The Virginia wave crested high in 2008 with Obama winning the state and Dems gaining three House seats and Senator Mark Warner. But two of our happiest 2008 gains, and saddest 2010 losses, were Glenn Nye and Tom Perriello.

The Richard Vander Veen Club

Special election wins we couldn't keep. Named for the Michigan Democrat who, in the late days of Watergate, won a April 1974 special election shocker in the House seat vacated by the former Republican House leader, new Vice President Gerald Ford. Vander Veen held on in the fall but lost in 1976.

Third place: Democrat Don Cazayoux (great Cajun name there) held Louisiana 6 just eight months, winning a May 2008 special but losing the general to Bill Cassidy.

Runner up: Democrat Travis Childers won a shocker in a May 2008 Mississippi 1 special to replace appointed senator Roger Wicker, then survived in the fall to briefly make the Mississippi (Missi-freakin-sippi!) delegation 3-1 Democratic. With Alan Nunnallee knocking Childers off this year, it’s now 3-1 GOP and likely to stay that way as the Democrats are packed into Bennie Thompson’s black majority 1st district.

Our winner by losing: In an uncanny parallel to the Vander Veen election, Democrat Bill Foster won an early 2008 special to replace former Speaker Dennis Hastert in Illinois 14. Foster, with an assist from the homestate presidential nominee, held on in 2008 but lost it in 2010 to Randy Hultgren.


These are the three seats that went Democratic in 2006 but, against the trend, fell back to the Republicans in 2008. Two of them had bizarre circumstances unlikely to be duplicated in this universe.

Texas 22. No one even pretended this was anything but a two-year gain. The indicted Tom DeLay botched the timing of his resignation so badly that the Republicans were stuck with no name on the ballot. Nick Lampson, ironically one of the victims of DeLay's 2004 mid-decade redistricting, made a brief comeback by defeating the write-in line.

Florida 16: In 2006, Replacement Republican candidate Joe Negron was in the horrible spot of having to ask voters to mark their ballots for Mark Foley of page scandal infamy. (He bravely tried the slogan "Punch Mark for Joe.") That was the environment in which Tim Mahoney won. Re-election was always going to be tough -- then, believe it or not, Mahoney got caught in a sex scandal of his own! Pittburgh Steelers scion Tom Rooney returned the seat to its GOP ways in 2008.

Kansas 2. No scandal here, but Nancy Boyda was the only other Dem to win in 2006 yet lose in 2008. One of the contenders for Upset Of The Year in 2006 (along with Carol Shea-Porter and Our Own Dave Loebsack) when she beat ex-Olympic miler Jim Ryun, Republican Lynn Jenkins took the seat back in 2008 (after out-running - heh - Ryun in the primary).

So those are the hottest battlegrounds of the last four years, with two shifts of party. Tomorrow: The bad news for the Democrats.

1 comment:

Tom Slockett said...

Happy blogiversary,John. Job well done. And happy new year!