Thank god for Jim Webb’s victory in his Senate race. It gave us control of the US Senate. But it’s also about all we got in the South. Indeed, the most significant outcome of the 2006 election is how the South has lost power. For only the third time since 1928, the party that controls a majority of Southern House seats does not control a majority of the House overall. For the first time in history, Democrats will control the House but not a majority of Southern House seats at the same time.
It is not much different in the Senate, where except for 1980-86, 1946-48, and 1952-54-the party that controlled a majority of southern Senate seats also held the total majority of the US Senate . That will not be the case come 2007. Similarly, not one member of the Dems Senate leadership is from the South, while a majority of Republicans in leadership positions are southern!
Why is this so? Because Dems gained so little in the South. Sure Dems gained in the number of state legislature seats they controlled in the South (for the first time since 1982) . Still, they gained only about 21 seats across the South-less than in any other region by a large amount.
Democrats only gained 5 seats among southern US House seats (compared to 20 gained the Northeast and the Midwest). Two of those seats were gifts (Mark Foley and Tom Delay’s districts) and Dems barely won those seats. Meanwhile the two Dems who came the closest to losing their seats were in the South (Georgia) and almost lost them. Dems only (barely) gained one southern US Senate seat (while they gained two each in the Northeast and Midwest), and fell short in Tennessee. Only one governorship switched to Dems: Arkansas, where the GOP governor was leaving office.
Consider these other electoral realties than exist post-2006:
Democrats control a majority of governships in all the regions of the country except the South, where the GOP still has an 8-5 advantage compared to Dems- 7-6 advantages in both the Midwest and West and 8-3 advantage in the Northeast.
Democrats control a majority of US House seats in the West and Northeast, while a shift of one US House seat in the Midwest would give Dems a majority off House seats there. In the South, Republicans control 86 of 144 US House seats (60.6%) despite Democrat gains in 2006.
In the Senate Democrats now control a majority of Senators from the NE and Midwest, while a shift of one Western Senate seat would give Dems a tie in that region. The number of Southern Senate shifts need for Dems to win just a tie in Dixie? Eight! Despite the loss of Allen, Republicans still control 21 of 26 Senate seats in the South (over 80%).
According to CNN House Exit polls, only 43% of Americans nationwide approve of the job Bush is doing as president while 57% disapproved (compared to 53%-approve to 46% disapprove in 2004).
But in the South 51% of voters approved of the job Bush is doing as president. While this number is down from 2004, The South is still the only region where a majority of voters approved of the job Bush is doing as president.
Sure the South made a contribution to Dems winning the House and Senate and there are progressive forces in Dixie. No, Jim Webb does not owe President Bush an apology (in fact it’s the other way around). But 2006 was most assuredly not the year of great Democrat gains in the South. And Dems can’t make big gains in the South in a year like 2006, when can they? After all, the region of the country that has seen the most social, political, and economic change since WWII, saw arguably the least amount of political change from 2004-2006.