With Mitt Romney running ahead of Obama nationally, 2004 is shaping up to be a much more instructive baseline for the upcoming elections than Obama’s historic win in 2008. Indeed, only eight House Republicans hold districts that John Kerry won in 2004. That, more than anything, explains how the Democratic expectation of being within striking distance of the majority is falling far short of reality. Call it the 2008 illusion.He explains that the Illinois gerrymander is likely to fall short. Pennsylvania will disappoint Dems, too.
It’s not just Illinois. This week, Democrats canceled costly ad reservations in the Philadelphia media market originally designed to use against suburban Philly GOP Reps. Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., and Jon Runyan, R-N.J., districts that usually go Democratic in a good year for the party. The party and outside groups also withdrew attack ads against Rep. Scott Rigell, representing the one (Tidewater) bellwether district in the battleground state of Virginia. In Florida, even Democratic operatives are now sounding pessimistic about their prospects of defeating outspoken conservative Rep. Allen West, despite early predictions that he’d be one of the most vulnerable Republicans from the freshman class. These are all districts Obama carried in 2008.Democrats are looking good in California and some other places, but...
If Democrats want to regain the majority, they’ll need to dominate in the suburbs of major metropolitan areas. The fact that Republicans are holding their own there isn’t a good sign for the party, or for the president.
The lasting legacy of the 2012 election could end up being the unexpected stability of the House Republican majority over the next decade, thanks to gerrymandering and key elements of the Obama coalition (minorities, college students) clustered into districts overwhelmingly favoring Democrats. Democrats continue to struggle in predominantly white districts, only contesting 14 of the 110 districts, according to an analysis from House Race Hotline Editor Scott Bland. The GOP wave ushered in 84 freshman House Republicans, but relatively few of them are in trouble.
Democrats have been crowing that polls show the GOP party brand is in the toilet, which makes it all the more significant that they are not in striking distance of taking the majority. But to understand why a promising environment isn’t translating into results, they’ll need to recognize that it’s not 2008 any more.