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Morning Jay: Electoral Review Part 2, The Northeast

6:30 AM, Nov 12, 2010 • By JAY COST
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Today we continue our post-election review with an examination of the Northeast. Let’s start with a look at the region-wide House map. Here are the results at the end of 2008.

Now, here are the results after last week.

There are two qualities that jump out at me. First, there was very little movement in the New England states, where the Democrats generally held the line. This is also true for the gubernatorial races, where the GOP managed but one victory (in Maine). Second, there was quite a bit of movement in the Mid-Atlantic states, or at least New York and Pennsylvania.

The goal of this write-up will be to account for these two phenomena. Let’s start with New England.

Disappointing, to say the least. The GOP only picked up two seats in New England, despite the fact that there were about eight Democratic-held seats that were in genuine contention.

Interestingly enough, there was a shift in the House vote in New England this year. The problem was, it wasn’t big enough.

The median shift between 2008 and 2010 was 14 points. That’s not too bad for the Republicans, but the trouble was that the Democrats were already at 71 percent to begin with! 

That 71 percent is actually an inflated number, as it depends on the fact that 6 of the 10 Massachusetts congressional districts did not have Republican challengers in 2008. But that speaks to the same basic point, which is that New England is so deeply blue that, even in a good Republican year, the Democrats will still win on average 57 percent of the vote. And in good Democratic years, the GOP will often not even field contenders.

The reason for this is pretty straightforward: 100 years ago New England used to be full of conservative Republicans, but now it is full of liberal Democrats. Unfortunately, the exit polling data in New England was pretty sparse this year, but I did manage to put the following chart together, which illustrates the basic point well enough.

That’s just a firewall into which there is no real incursion for the Republicans. The exception is flinty New Hampshire, which has long been an outlier. In the Jacksonian Age, when the rest of New England was fairly Whiggish, New Hampshire tilted toward the Democrats. It was also the only New England state to go for Woodrow Wilson in 1916 and for George W. Bush in 2000, which is interesting because the Wilson and Bush coalitions actually have a lot of nationwide overlap, both being founded on a South-West alliance (so did Jackson’s actually).

Moving on to the Mid-Atlantic, we see the Republicans doing much better. The GOP picked up a whopping 12 seats in this region. How did that happen? This chart will help get us started.

In all three states, what we basically see is the GOP snapping back to pre-2006 form. 

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