Wednesday, November 03, 2004

So, is there really anything to the dominant media meme of "red state, blue states, a nation divided"? After all, while Bush was solidly winning the Plains, North and South Dakota returned lots of Democrats to the Congress (excepting Daschle); likewise as Kerry dominated New York and California, these two states sent 30 Republicans to the House for Tom DeLay's shock troops.

To find out, I look at the members elected to the House of Representatives this election. I define three categories of states: red (solid Bush -- 27), blue (solid Kerry -- 16) and swing (7 -- FL, PA, OH, WI, IA, NH, NM).

The red states were not only voting for Bush, they were voting for Republicans to the House as well. 65% of House seats from the red states went Republican. The same is true on the blue side. The blue states were not only voting for Kerry, they were giving 63% of their House seats to Democrats.

Now while two-thirds is a high number, it is hardly the case that there are no Republicans coming out of the blue states or no Democrats coming out of the red ones. The "nation divided" story doesn't work any better by focusing in on the two regions which the media presents to us as polar opposites -- the Northeast and the South. Defining the Northeast as New England plus New York plus New Jersey, 67% of the Northeast's Representatives are Democrats. Defining the South as the old Confederacy plus Kentucky and Oklahoma and minus Florida, 65% of the South's Representatives are Republicans.

Of course, because the South is so much larger than the Northeast, the Democrats desperately need those 50 members from the South which constitute one-fourth of the party's House membership (of 202). If the Democratic Party gives up on the South, it gives up on power altogether.

The red states have 173 House members; the blue states, 182. With this near equality both in size and in internal party strength of the regions, the real story of the country lies -- as you would expect -- with the swing states. It is here where the Dems are getting killed. Of the 80 House seats from the seven swing states I've defined, only 27 of them are held by Democrats. That's a mere 34%. Republicans hold more house seats than Democrats in all three of the big swing states: Florida (18-7), Pennsylvania (11-8) and Ohio (12-6).

The real problem for the Democrats is that they can't make the necessary headway in suburban Florida and the small-city Midwest. Until Democrats figure out how to win these kinds of places, they will continue to lose the country.

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