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Morning Jay: Special Democratic Desperation Edition!

6:30 AM, Oct 12, 2010 • By JAY COST
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What exactly is this going to mean for the Democrats?  The following map should provide a good sense.  It depicts the East North Central division of the United States -- basically the Great Lakes area.  Congressional districts are colored in according to the political dynamic of the midterm: red districts are Republican, blue are safely Democratic (according to the House ratings from RealClearPolitics), and purple are Democratic-held districts that RealClearPolitics has ranked as being vulnerable to a Republican takeover.

There is a pretty straightforward pattern here.  Democrats from (moving east to west) Youngstown, Cleveland, Toledo, Detroit, Flint, Indianapolis, Gary, Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, and East St. Louis are safe.  Why?  Because their districts are stocked with partisan Democrats -- college kids, union workers, and African Americans.  The fortunes of the rest of these Midwestern Democrats depend ultimately upon independents and soft Republicans in the suburbs or rural areas, and these voters have moved overwhelmingly against President Obama and his party.  In other words, the Democratic base that has been in place for 40 years is still solid for the President, but the rest of the region is primed to go Republican. In the Great Lakes region, the Democrats have been reduced to little more than the Mondale coalition.

It's worth noting that the gerrymandering of congressional districts means that union workers, African Americans, and college kids are basically congregated in those dozen or so safe congressional districts. President Obama can gin up the base all he wants, but in districts like OH-15 and WI-8 it's unaffiliated swing voters who make the difference. In other words, the desperation of the president's strategy is matched only by its inefficiency.

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