2006 was not a Democratic earthquake. It was, in the words of Tom Schaller, more like a blizzard. Considering the two regions that are the most blizzard prone are also the two regions where Democrat gains were the greatest, that’s a good metaphor. The Midwest for our purposes is the 13 states making up the Dakotas, Kansas, Nebraska, Indiana, West Va., Iowa, Missouri, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Illinois. the Northeast are the 11 states north of Virginia and east of Ohio (or Maryland and up).
Of the 29 House seats Dems have gained so far, 20 of those seats (69%) come from those two regions (11 from the Northeast, 9 (so far) from the Midwest). 4 of the 6 new Democratic Senate seats as well as 4 of the 6 new Democratic governors come from the NE and MW. Among state legislature seats, the NYT reports:
“The legislative gains… were concentrated in the Midwest, where Democrats picked up about 104 seats, along with control of both chambers in Iowa, the Indiana House, the Michigan House and the Wisconsin Senate, and in the Northeast, where their net exceeded 140 lawmakers.” This compares to about 87 in the South plus the West.
It is not suprising the Dems would have most of their pickups here (and in the nonsouth in general). It’s where they were underperforming the most (and where Kerry did the best). There is only one less southern House Democrats now than there was in the aftermath of 1994. But outside the South, Dems had seen only a net gain of 4 seats outside the south from 1996-2004 (three of those four were in 2004). Without making up for their losses outside the South, there was little hope of the South regaining the House. But with a gain of at least 25 nonsouthern seats in 2006, Dems are back in the majority.
The Senate has also changed a lot too. Since John Kerry was nominated to be president in 2004 (not that the two events are related) Dems have also gained in the nonsouth but lost in the South. Of the 8 nonsouth seats that have changed parties since 2004, 7 shifted to the Democrats (5 of the 7 were in the Northeast or Midwest). Of the six southern Senate seats to change hands since 2004, only one (Webb in Va.) shifted to the Democrats.
Since 1994, Democrats had been unable to translate non-southern (and especially Northeastern) presidential wins into Congressional wins. For all the lambasting of the Democrats as a “liberal northeastern party” post-1994 Republicans always controlled a greater percentage of Northeastern House, Senate, and governorships than Dems had controlled in the South. Indeed, 5 of the 11 NE Congressional seats that shifted to the Dems in 2006 voted for Kerry but not for Democrats for House in 2004. Rick Santorum and Chafee managed to win election in 2000-while Gore was winning those states.
Just as Republicans for years won handsomely in the South but did not win many Southern Congressional and Senate seats, Dems had been shut out of Northeastern and Midwest areas that were voting for their presidential candidates. Now the other shoe has finally dropped! While it must be noted that Dems made gains in deep blue and deep red states alike, their most impressive gains were among “the base, the base, the base” region of the Northeast and industrial Midwest-and important swing states/districts.
Thank you, Karl Rove. Not only did you fire up our base, but your divide and conquer policies have left Democrats in control of House, Senate, and governor seats in important NE and MW swing regions. And we still have seats in those two regions (and the West) that are within striking distance for us. Meanwhile there aren’t too many more southern Dems that you could credibly pickoff. Maybe the GOP base was fired up in 2006. Too bad a lot of that base already lived in states where Republicans are already in charge.