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August 02, 2010

It's Concentrated Evil: Too Many Democrats In Too Few Districts

Gerrymandered to the point they have too high a number of absolutely safe districts. Too high, because while they have enough voters in those Districts to own them, those voters aren't out in more competitive districts.

I'm pretty sure this is a byproduct of the racial gerrymandering of oddly-shaped districts to well-nigh guarantee a minority Representative. By creating so many minority-majority districts, reliable Democratic voters are stuffed into weirdly-shaped highly-concentrated Districts... leaving a lot of swingy or Republican-leaning districts. (I.e., the browner the racially gerrymandered districts, the whiter the others.)

Barone's doing some number-crunching to determine the effect of the Democrats' misallocation of voters problem.

One of the asymmetries of American politics is the Republican advantage in the House of Representatives. Evidence: in 2004, George W. Bush, winning 51% of the national popular vote, carried 255 of the 435 congressional districts, while John Kerry carried only 180. In 2008, Barack Obama, winning 53% of the national popular vote, carried 242 of the 435 congressional districts, while John McCain carried 193.

To try to get an idea of how many districts Republican and Democratic candidates would carry if they got the same percentage of the national vote...
[f]irst, I estimated the number of districts Bush would have carried in 2004 if he would have won 53% of the vote... Result: Bush would have carried 15 more districts than he actually did. Second, I estimated the number of districts Obama would have carried in 2008 if he had won 51% of the vote, by assuming that his percentage fell 2% in every district and McCain’s percentage rose by 2%. Result: he would have lost 18 districts that in fact he won.

Using those estimates, I constructed the following matrix, showing the number of congressional districts carried by each president actually and hypothetically:

Republican with 53% of the vote: 270 Democrat with 53% of the vote: 242

Republican with 51% of the vote: 255 Democrat with 51% of the vote: 224

The results are rather striking. Had Bush won the same percentage of the vote that Obama did, he would have carried 270 districts to only 165 for his Democratic opponent. That’s a big, big majority. No party has held as many as 270 seats in the House in the last 30 years. In contrast, if Obama had won the same percentage of the vote that Bush did, he would have carried only 224 districts, not very much more than the 211 his Republican opponent would have carried.

Barone notes this structural advantage is now piled upon the general polling advantage Republicans (seem to) enjoy.

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posted by Ace at 12:25 PM

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