OpinionMeister

Monday, April 04, 2005

Presidential Vote by Congressional District

John Fund, one of my favorite political columnists, reports of Polidata's detailed breakdown of the presidential vote by the 435 congressional districts. It has some good news for the Republicans. Link.
The number of "turnover" districts--those voting for a House member of one party and a presidential candidate of the other--continues to shrink, mostly due to the growth of straight-ticket voting and gerrymandering. There were only 59 such districts in 2004, compared with 86 in 2000 and 110 when Bill Clinton beat Bob Dole in 1996.

The best chances for Democrats to gain the 15 seats they need to take control of the House in 2006 are in these districts held by "Kerry Republicans." The problem is that there are so few of them. John Kerry carried just 18 GOP House members' districts, while Mr. Bush carried 41 Democratic ones.

Only five Republican House members currently sit in districts where Mr. Bush won less than 47% of the presidential vote last year: two in Connecticut, two in Iowa and one in Delaware. But 31 House Democrats represent districts where John Kerry won less than 47%.

The district breakdown also supports the national figures on the strong pickup among Hispanic voters.
Take Texas, where six of the state's 32 House districts have Hispanic representatives (five Democrats and one Republican) and another 69%-Hispanic district is represented by Anglo Democrat Lloyd Doggett. In the areas that now make up those seven districts, Mr. Bush dramatically increased his vote totals over 2000, winning four of the seven districts and breaking even in their total popular vote. In two of the Democratic Hispanic districts, Mr. Bush won 55% of the vote, setting up the possibility that a Republican could win those seats when they become vacant.

In Florida, Mr. Bush's Hispanic percentages were artificially inflated in 2000 by Cuban-American anger over the Clinton administration's deportation of Elian Gonzalez. But Mr. Bush still did well in the three Miami-area districts represented by Cuban-American Republicans, winning them by an average of 12 percentage points.

But it is in California where Mr. Bush made the most surprising gains among Hispanic voters. Ten of the Golden State's 53 districts are held by Hispanic Democrats, and two others, in the Central Valley, by Portuguese-American Republicans. In the 10 Democratic districts, Al Gore won 65% of the vote in 2000. But in last year's election, Mr. Bush made gains in every district and ended up with about 40% of the overall vote in those 10 districts.

On the one hand, the shrinkage of turnover districts reinforces the view of an increasingly polarized electorate into straight party line voters. But the good news far outweighs this. More ethnic voting blocks are showing signs of more independence among their members. This is good for the country, and especially good for these ethnic blocks. When one party can reasonably assume a monopoly among a certain group, it no longer feels the need to bid for their votes, while the opposing party will see nothing to gain by bidding for them. When that group shows signs of a willingness to consider either party, then both parties will fight for their votes.

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