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The Democrats' Plight: Worse than it seems

By Charles Lane

There's really no gentle way to say this, so I'm just going to be blunt: In some ways, the political situation post-Nov. 2 is even worse for the Democrats than it may appear. And I am not just referring to the colossal losses they experienced in state legislatures -- a 650+ seat swing in favor of the GOP that has left the Dems in control of the fewest state legislatures since 1928. The resulting pro-GOP gerrymandering may lastingly blunt the demographic advantage Democrats could otherwise expect to reap from population trends such as the growth of Hispanic America.

No, what's really bad for President Obama and his party is the likely impact of the 2010 Census and ensuing House of Representatives reapportionment on the distribution of votes in the 2012 Electoral College. We can talk all day about whether a majority of voters would support Obama for re-election or not, but what really counts in presidential elections is the Electoral College. Each state's electoral vote equals its number of representatives in the House plus two, for its Senate delegation. And since the U.S. population continues to flow South and West, reapportionment will probably add House seats in red states and subtract them in blue states. Thus, the Census looks like a setback for Democratic chances to win the 270 electoral votes necessary to become president.

Texas, which has voted Republican in 9 of the last 10 elections will gain 4 electoral votes, according to projections from preliminary Census data by The other gainers -- one vote each -- include Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina and Utah. All of these states have voted for the GOP candidate in at least 7 of the last 10 elections.

To be sure, Florida and Nevada have been more up for grabs of late: Obama carried both in 2008. But the only reliably blue state that looks like gaining an electoral vote is Washington, which backed the Democrat in 6 of the last 10 elections. Only one reliably red state -- Louisiana -- is losing an electoral vote.

Ohio, the perennial swing state -- it backed the GOP in six of the last 10 elections -- is losing two.

Meanwhile, eight states that usually go blue in presidential elections -- Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Minnesota -- are projected to lose one electoral vote each.

Bottom line? Removing Ohio, Florida and Nevada from the analysis, because they are too unpredictable, it looks like Republicans can pretty much count on an additional 7 electoral votes (Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina, 4 in Texas, and Utah, minus the loss of one vote in Louisiana) in 2012, while the Democrats can count on 7 fewer (losses in Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota, offset by a gain in Washington).

To look at it another way, take the 22 states that voted for John McCain as the GOP base in the 2012 presidential election. That base is about to grow from 173 electoral votes to 180. And if Republicans hold it, they could get to 271 by carrying just six more states -- Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Indiana, Virginia and Nevada -- each of which has voted GOP in a majority of the last ten elections.

As it happens, all six of these states, except for North Carolina, will have Republican governors next year, and all six, except for Nevada, will have Republican state legislatures.

Sounds eminently doable.

Update, 2:16 p.m.: A previous version incorrectly said that red states are projected to gain a net 8 electoral votes in 2012.

By Charles Lane  | November 4, 2010; 11:30 AM ET
Categories:  Lane  | Tags:  Charles Lane  
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Mr Lane,

as i've been saying on this forum for months, the DIMocRATS are DONE, FINISHED & THROUGH as a major political party.

the New Deal Coalition is splintered beyond repair, as "union families" (like MINE, for example) are GONE forever from the "party of the working man" & most of the farm/surburban/rural vote is gone as well.
(the DIMocRATS are now "the party of left/right coast ELITISTS, SELF-important leftists, corrupt union bosses, statists, peaceniks, morons & just plain common criminals", led by a few arrogant "party professionals", who seem to despise "working people".)

in the case of my family, instead of being democrats, we are NOW all members of THE TEA PARTY & are working hard to unseat every DIMocRAT extremist & replace those dolts with people who will LISTEN & DO what we want them to do.

just my opinion.

yours, TN46
coordinator, CCTPP

Posted by: texasnative46 | November 5, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse


After listening to Billionaire Donald Trump describing the economic mess our country has been experience for years. The man has been demonized by the press and certain critics, but he doesn't have to kowtow to anybody? He is a self made entrepreneur's and has made several comments of joining the political cesspit in Washington, even confirming his intent of running for President. My personal opinion on that idea is that his business experience would be a protracted way of solving these United States fiscal problems. From his words, he is a very patriotic American and sees that the route we are taking now is into deeper financial mess. I thought as a Tea Party associate that his point of view makes perfect sense of how to extract ourselves from this unemployment quicksand? Trump opened up his broadcast saying,

"We don't need to tell you unemployment in this country is at a nightmare level, still 9.6 percent, and that doesn't even include those who are so beaten down to have given up. What can we do? What would Donald Trump do? So how do we get jobs? Trump opened up talking about unemployment in Iowa and how "Maytag" a company famous for home appliances skipped off to Mexico. The joke on us, that there is no custom tariffs when the products, return to America? The Irony is their commodities from Mexico is really not that much cheaper? Trump added that we don't manufacturer products anymore. My example being Television manufacturing Company in Bloomington, Indiana that closed down the plant in July 1995, so hundreds of people lost their jobs, to Mexico.

This was the inception of the Free Trade obsession, which has developed into a sad joke in itself, on the US worker. Doesn't every loyal American realize that we are the largest consumer nation in the world? That we should demand balanced trade agreements, not the insidious treaties we have now? If the Tea Party Senators Rand Paul, Marco Rubio are listening we need to immediately renegotiate our trade agreements with every country involved, because they are laughing behind our backs. From what planet did these trade ambassador morons in our nations Department of Commerce hail from, a lunatic asylum for brain dead zombies? The imports from China are so bad; I refuse to buy them anymore. Trump goes on to say, “we make hardly anything anymore, importing things like glass, curtains So much product is made in China.

Posted by: infinity555 | November 5, 2010 4:34 PM | Report abuse

> Bottom line? Removing Ohio, Florida and Nevada from the analysis, because they are too unpredictable... <

Sorry, but you should take Florida out of the unpredictable pile and back into the analysis. 2008 was an outlier.

Obama was an attractive candidate, the Republicans were tied to two unpopular wars and an unpopular president, and John McCain was a laughably bad candidate who had spent 30 years alienating his own base. There was the added incentive of making history by electing an African-American to the White House. Finally Obama ran as a post-partisan, post-racial, pragmatic problem-solver - not the hyper-partisan, far-left ideologue with delusions of granduer he really was. (Thanks ever so much, WaPo, for helping pull of the masquerade, by the way. )

Well, Obama's mask fell off a long time ago, and most of the independents and reliably Republican voters who crossed over to vote for him in 2008 have learned their painful lesson. We've just had 20 months to see what government looks like when liberals are running the whole show, and we have the trillions of dollars of debt to make sure we don't forget.

That's why Republicans ran the table in every major contested election in Florida on Tuesday - notably the statewide races for Governor, Senator and all the elective cabinet posts. They also increased their majorities in both houses of the legislature to veto-proof levels. And redistricting and an added seat are only going to make the state "redder" than it already is.

Swing state? Unpredictable? I don't think so. Obama had a perfect storm of factors that allowed him to carry the state in a highly anamolous year, even Al Gore, a sitting Vice President, also benefitted from some unusal factors in 2000 to make it competitive. (And both had the usual Democratic advantage of a tame mainstream media that was practically a part of their campaigns, running fake stories about Republicans while hiding inconvenient facts about the Democrats.)

But the "normal" Florida returns to is center-right, and barring some extraordinary external event, that's where it will be in 2012.



Posted by: jjsheridan522 | November 6, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Look at it another way: the Kerry states (252 EV) minus a Census loss of 6 (246) leaves the Democrats only 24 short of 270 -- a gap that can easily be made up with Nevada (6) (won by Harry Reid with a majority, and Obama with 55%), Iowa (6) and New Mexico (5) (both D in every election since 1992 except 2004) plus either Colorado (9), or Virginia (13), or Ohio (19) or Florida (30) or N.C. (15). In addition, McCain came within 3,903 votes of losing Missouri (11), within 11,723 of losing Montana (3), lost Nebraska-1, and almost lost Nebraska-2. McCain also lost Indiana (11).

In contrast, even with the Census added net 6, the Republicans have only 153 solid electoral votes -- 117 short of 270 -- meaning they need to draw an inside straight of Nebraska-2 AND Nebraska-1 AND Montana AND Missouri AND Indiana AND North Carolina AND Florida AND Ohio AND North Carolina AND Virginia AND Nevada. The Democrats can simply replicate the Reagan 1984 strategy of picking one or two of these states and giving them the equivalent of a governor's race -- or Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's brilliantly executed 2010 majority win in Nevada. This is vastly more "doable" than the Republican inside straight.

As for the presence of Republican Governors or legislatures in these states, this oft-repeated pseudo-metric is irrelevant, except in Nebraska where the CD division of electoral votes might get repealed (thus far, the bill to do so is "indefinitely postponed.") California went twice for Bill Clinton even though R Pete Wilson was Governor; New York did the same in 1996, 2000 (for Gore) and 2004 (Kerry) even though R Pataki was Governor.

Thus, the Democrats have an electoral college coalition that is very close to a lock, and that would have locked in 2004 had there been another 120,000 votes in Ohio for Kerry (despite a 2.8 - 3.0 M national popular vote majority for Shrub Bush). It will likely lock again in 2012, and may result in a 1936 or 1964 scope landslide, especially if the Reeps nominate Sarah Palin,the 21st-Century version of William Jennings Bryan.

Posted by: stevekamp1 | November 7, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Pennsylvania was always purple with Philly and Pittsburgh blue and everything else red. It has also voted for republican presidents and I expect that the blue collar vote here will go that way in 2012. Ohio is also a basic blue collar state and its voters are sick to death of the eletist crowd that is constantly looking sown their noses at them. I notice that the brilliant writers are putting down the voters for sloganeering and yet they fail to notice that this president was voted in on "Yes we can" and nothing else. He is the worst thing to happen to the US since Jimmy Carter and is an embarrassment to the office. Now that 2010 is over, 2012 can't come soon enough.

Posted by: LadyChurchillUSA | November 8, 2010 5:07 AM | Report abuse

The numbers don't show a lock for either party in 2012. Even starting with the Kerry totals, the census and negative momentum from the economy, the loss of independents, and Tea Party activism put the Dems in a hole. The Kerry analysis assumes the Dems hold all those states, which isn't a given. There is a big opening for the R's in Wisconsin (full of white independent voters Obama has lost). Colorado will be a tougher win for the D's next time around. Additionally, I expect PA will be more of a challenge for the D's to defend.
Also, look for the Republican House to clip the wings of organizations like ACORN, who, with federal funds, produce votes (both legal and illegal) for the D's.
The poster dismisses the impact of more Republican governors, but his examples are all governors in deeply blue states. In swing states, a popular sitting governor can have an impact at the margins which could be enough to carry the state. They can help immensely with organizing a ground game, and can orchestrate appearances by the party's candidate for maximum impact.
IN, MO, NC, VA are all gone for Obama; forget them. The large trend of older voters going R in 2010 bodes ill for the D's in FL as well. Holding that state will be a problem.
As for Sarah Palin, the only people who can't stop thinking about her are those on the Democrat left who hope she will be the Republican nominee. Dream on.
2012 will be a competitive, hard fought election which will be won in the Midwest and one or two Rocky Mountain states.

Posted by: dpinillinois | November 8, 2010 9:21 AM | Report abuse

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