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Counting by States

The Democrats’ Senate problem.

Apr 14, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 29 • By JAY COST
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What about the elections after this fall? There can be no doubt that the Republican party has problems putting together a national coalition to win the presidency. The GOP needs to win more Latino voters, more African-American voters, and more young voters. It also needs to drive better turnout among its core vote in critical swing states like Florida and Ohio.

But our government is a separated system in which the power to enact law is split between a presidency and a bicameral legislature. In the latter, the Republicans have the structural advantages. In 2012, Obama won 70 percent of the vote in the big cities, but less than 40 percent of the vote in rural areas. His political coalition may be favored to win the White House, but Republicans will be favored to win the Senate and, thanks to the concentration of Democratic voters into federally mandated minority-majority districts, the House of Representatives as well.

This development will likely be immune to demographic changes sweeping through the Southwest. No doubt immigration has redrawn the political landscape of California over the last 30 years, but California still has only two senators, just like Arkansas, Idaho, North Dakota, and Louisiana, whose demographic shifts have not altered their political balance.

Thus, the outsized majority that Obama enjoyed in Congress after the 2008 election appears in retrospect to be more of an artifact of the previous age, when the party brand was not so heavily dependent upon the “coalition of the ascendant.” Now, six years into the Obama administration, Democratic senators will have to deal with the “descendant” voters the Obama administration has ignored. And it’s those voters that may well hold the balance of power in the Senate, and it is looking increasingly as if they intend to wield it mercilessly come November.

Jay Cost is a staff writer at The Weekly Standard.

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