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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Shutdown and GOP Chances in the Midterm

The New York Times reports:
“The Tea Party benefits when the energy is focused on the Democratic Party and their agenda,” said Brian Walsh, a Republican consultant and former strategist for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “What’s concerning is a select few groups trying to turn that fire inward on the Republican Party. And that is not helpful.”
In states like Georgia, Louisiana and Montana, the members of the House who are now running for the Senate are demanding that Mr. Obama make concessions on the health care law in exchange for reopening the government. That might help in a Republican primary, but it puts the candidates at risk of damaging their viability in the general election.
And in other states like Kentucky, where the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, is fighting off a primary challenge from the Tea Party right and would face a strong Democratic opponent, being associated with Republicans in Washington is as freighted as it has ever been. Mr. McConnell’s newest advertisement, in fact, adopts the grievances as his own. “Angry with Washington? So am I,” says Mr. McConnell, a 28-year veteran of the Senate.
Many Republicans fear that if Mr. McConnell’s opponent wins the nomination, the seat will flip to the Democrats.
And instead of focusing attention from the woes of Obamacare, the shutdown is diverting attention from it. 

But Nate Silver explains that it probably won't cost Republicans their majority in the House:
Even if the shutdown were to have a moderate political impact — and one that favored the Democrats in races for Congress — it might not be enough for them to regain control of the U.S. House. Instead, Democrats face two major headwinds as they seek to win back Congress.
First, there are extremely few swing districts — only one-half to one-third as many as when the last government shutdown occurred in 1996. Some of this is because of partisan gerrymandering, but more of it is because of increasingly sharp ideological divides along geographic lines: between urban and rural areas, between the North and the South, and between the coasts and the interior of the United States.
So even if Democrats make significant gains in the number of votes they receive for the House, they would flip relatively few seats because of the way those votes are distributed. Most of the additional votes would come in districts that Democrats were already assured of winning, or where they were too far behind to catch up.
Consider that, between 2010 and 2012, Democrats went from losing the average congressional district by seven percentage points to winning it by one percentage point — an eight-point swing. And yet they added only eight seats in the House, out of 435 congressional districts.
In 2014, likewise, it will require not just a pretty good year for Democrats, but a wave election for them to regain the House. But wave elections in favor of the party that controls the White House are essentially unprecedented in midterm years. Instead, the president's party has almost always lost seats in the House — or at best gained a handful.