March 03, 2005
The WaPo on DeLay

The WaPo does a feature on Tom DeLay, noting that his continued string of scandals may be having an effect back home in CD22.

Though the change has received little notice, DeLay's strength in his suburban Houston congressional district of strip malls and housing developments has eroded considerably -- forcing him to renew his focus on protecting his seat.

DeLay garnered 55 percent of the vote in the November election against a relatively unknown Democrat, an unusually modest showing for a veteran House member who is one of the most powerful politicians in Washington. Some Republican officials and DeLay supporters worry that with President Bush absent from the top of the ticket next year, liberal interest groups might target the conservative majority leader and spend millions of dollars on campaign ads to try to defeat him.


DeLay now has to worry about "Texas 22," the congressional district he has represented for the past 21 years in the U.S. House. Ironically, the Texas redistricting plan he engineered over strong Democratic objections drained some vital Republican support and could make it tougher for him to win reelection. In his old district, DeLay took 60 percent of the vote in 2000 and 63 percent in 2002.

In 2003, at DeLay's behest, the Texas legislature redrew the state's congressional lines without waiting for the next census (in 2010), the customary occasion for redistricting. With the new districts, which still face court challenges, Texas elected five additional Republicans to the U.S. House last November, accounting for all of the party's net gain.

DeLay's new district wound up several percentage points less Republican than his previous one, and it has a substantial and growing Asian American population.

"When you're drawing the lines, you have to set the example," DeLay explained late last week as he traveled his district during the Presidents' Day recess. "If you're going to maximize the number of Republicans that are elected, everybody can't have an 80 percent district. If you're the guy that's sort of leading the effort, you can't tell your members, 'Well, I'm going to dilute yours, but I'm going to pack mine.' "

"In doing all that, we tried to be as fair to everybody as possible," he added. "And I had to take my hit, too."

I've covered a lot of this ground already. DeLay got 53.21% of the vote in his home county of Fort Bend. He underperformed George Bush there and in Harris and Galveston Counties by seven percentage points (note that the percentages I give there are for the straight two-party matchup; the two other candidates' totals are not included). He scrambled quite a bit at the end of the campaign, running ads (and having ads run on his behalf by the Club for Growth), opening a campaign office, attending actual debates, and so on. In every respect, he acted like a candidate who had to earn it (well, at least once he realized he was being seriously challenged, he acted that way).

All that said, he's still in pretty good shape. Turnout in 2006 won't be anywhere near what it was in 2004. Richard Morrison did a fantastic job making up those seven percentage points on DeLay, but it's the next seven that will be the real challenge. And despite what the WaPo story says, CD22 isn't all that much less Republican than it was before. Go to this page, click on "U.S. Congressional Districts, 109th Congress", then click on "Plan Comparison". Under the 2002 lines, CD22 had a Dem/GOP statewide split of 33.0/67.0, with the Lite Guv race splitting 37.5/62.5; under the 2004 lines, those numbers were 34.1/65.9 and 38.3/62.7. I expect the actual numbers from 2004 to be more favorable to the Dems, mostly because of DeLay's weak showing but also because the district, especially in Fort Bend, is slowly changing. DeLay certainly can't afford to coast based on how poorly he did in 2004, but he's not yet in a position where he really has to sweat. I stress the "yet".

Anyway. The Daily DeLay and DeLayWatch from the District have their takes on this story. The Daily DeLay also kicks off a new feature called Tom DeLay, this is your life, which today takes a look back ten years and sees how little has changed.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 03, 2005 to Scandalized! | TrackBack