Now that the last House race (a Democratic held seat in New York that narrowly stayed in the Democratic column) has been settled, the House will now have 242 Republicans and 193 Democrats, which means that the GOP gained a net of 63 seats. We would like to revisit the issue of the Democrats’ hopes of recapturing the House in 2012 by again looking through the lens of the 1994 GOP landslide.
In our previous article, we noted that “…In both cases, the South and Midwest/Plains states contributed to the bulk of the GOP gains…” and that “…the size of both landslides differed in the Northeast and the Pacific Rim states…” What this means is that in 1994, the GOP made inroads into more Democratic friendly districts that proved to be tough to hold – 19 Republican incumbents were defeated in 1996. This time, GOP House pickups occurred in more Republican friendly districts that on average preferred McCain to Obama 51-48%, while the handful of Democratic House pickups occurred in districts that preferred Obama by a 69-29% margin. This makes the Democrats’ task all the tougher in 2012, unless the political climate shifts significantly by then.
To illustrate, below are maps illustrating the party composition of each state’s House delegation after the 1994 and 2010 elections. In general, House delegations in interior states in the South, the Midwest, and the Rockies have a stronger Republican presence in 2010 than in 1994, while the Democrats now have a stronger beachhead in the Pacific States, the Northeast, and New England. With this kind of polarization in existence now that was not as strong in 1994, the blunt reality is that Democrats on all levels have to do a better job of appealing to voters in the Interior states if they want to be electorally viable again.