Writings and observations

A couple of swings

cascades RANDY
West of
the Cascades

At the liberal Daily Kos site there’s a set of statistics anyone interested in horserace politics should examine. It suggests where he heated congressional races in the Northwest (and the rest of the country) will be, as least in statistical probability, in the next few years.

What they did was to compile, for all of the new U.S. House districts around the country (those formed after reapportionment for this decade, before the last election) the outcomes of the last two presidential contests, by district. This provides a really useful alternative check against the actual U.S. House races, where individual candidates and campaigns, or unusual local elections, might influence a specific election. It gives you an idea of how much change a Republican or a Democrat really has of winning in the district.

In a district, for example, where Barack Obama won twice, or lost twice, by decisive margins, you can pretty much tell which party is likely to hold the congressional seat.

And for nearly all of the Northwest’s 17 House districts, that result is very clear. In both Idaho’s congressional districts, for example, Obama lost by more than 30 percentage points in 2012 and by more than 23 in 2008. That gives you a clue. So does Obama’s wins each time by more than 45 points in Oregon 3 and Washington 7. These are among the most spectacular examples, but any time the gap approaches 10, the margins are too broad for a minority party to win under any but unusual circumstances. Or unless something important happens to change politics on the ground in those places.

There’s one gray-area district, not really a true swing but not far from it. Oregon 5, won the last three elections by Democrat Kurt Schrader, voted for Obama both times, but narrowly (50.5% to 47.1% in 2012, and 53% to 44.2% in 2008). It’s worth watching, because it’s not far from even-odds competition.

Only two districts of the 17 are close enough, in the presidential count, and they are both in Washington state. One I would have guessed falls into this category is Washington 1, the new construct that runs from eastern King County to the Canadian line; but it turns out that Obama won there pretty decisively each time, by 54.1%-43.3% in 2012, and 56.3% to 41.9% in 2008.

The closest district isn’t a massive surprise. It is Washington 3, in the southwest part of the state centered on Clark County, where Obama lost in 2012 by 47.9% to 49.6%, and won in 2008 by 50.9% to 47.1% – the only district of the 17 that flipped between parties in the two elections. Widely regarded now as a Republican district (maybe partly because of incumbent Jaime Herrera-Beutler’s strong win in 2012), it may have closer margins than many suspect.

The same is true in Washington 8, also a new construct which includes the eastern King County area across the Cascades to the Wenatchee area and large regions beyond. It looks like a solidly Republican district, but turns out that – surprise! – Obama won it in both of the last two elections, 49.7% to 48.1% in 2012 and 51.5% to 46.8% in 2008. That’s a narrow margin, but that’s the point: This should be classed as a swing district, other conditions being equal, which could happen if incumbent Dave Reichert eventually opts out.

Look to those two districts for some of the congressional heat in the decade coming up.

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