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Morning Jay: How To Read The Polls, the "Northeast Firewall," And Quantifying The Dems' Midwestern Malaise!

6:30 AM, Sep 28, 2010 • By JAY COST
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And even in 2004 the number of Northeastern Republican House seats was pretty small.  In the last 100 years, the two parties have effectively engaged in a trade.  The Democrats gained the Northeast as a stronghold while the GOP has taken control of the South.  I’d argue that, considering population trends, the Republicans got the better deal.

From 1896 to 1924, the Northeast was a Republican bastion, going GOP in every cycle except 1912 (and New Hampshire in 1916).  That meant that, in 1924, the GOP could count on 141 secure electoral votes from the Northeast.  The South was equally solid for the Democrats, who could count on 136 Electoral votes in 1924.   

Today, the Democrats have solid control over just 76 Northeastern electoral votes while the GOP solidly controls 118 Southern electoral votes.  Advantage: Republicans.

The House vote has generally tracked the presidential vote, so much so that we can note the following: for decades after the Great Depression, the GOP had a large share of Northeastern congressional districts, but could not get close to a majority in the House.  In 1994, the GOP broke through and won a majority of Southern congressional districts.  Remind me again what else happened that year…

3. Quantifying the Democratic Decline in the Midwest.  One thing about electoral politics has not changed: the Midwest swings the balance of power in the United States government.  And this year, it is looking brutal for Democrats.  To quantify this, I’ve put together the following chart.  It tracks the change in the D-R spread from the 2008 presidential election to current polling averages in 2010 for gubernatorial and senatorial races in the Midwest (excluding those where a Republican incumbent is running for reelection).  So, for instance, Obama won Ohio by 4.6 percent in 2008.  This year, the Democrats are behind in the two main statewide races by an average of 11.4 percent.  That makes for a total swing to the GOP of 16 points. 

I'm not really sure how to respond to this chart.  The swings it shows are just extraordinary.  My guess is that the Democrats will close the gaps in many of these contests, but still.  Obama's political coalition stands a real chance of getting swept in all of the Midwest battles for senator and governor.  That didn’t even happen in 1994, when the Democrats won the Nebraska governor’s race, and as well as Senate seats in North Dakota, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. 

We should take these results as leading indicators for the competitive House races in the region, for which there is very little reliable polling.  Generally speaking, the swing toward the GOP in the Midwest looks to be enormous and broad-based, and it should show up in the Senate, Governor, and House races.

This is where the balance of power is determined.  Not the Northeast!

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