November 12, 2007
Five years ago

Last week, BOR took a couple of looks back at how things were five years ago in the aftermath of the 2002 election (short answer: it sucked), and compares to how things are now. I'll give you one way in which things are different now - I believe the base Democratic level statewide is higher. Take a look at this spreadsheet, which compares the Congressional vote totals and percentages from 2002 through 2006. Note that in 2006, the Democrats won a slightly larger share of the Congressional vote than they did in 2002 (45.9 to 45.1) even though they had six more incumbents in 2002.

A couple of notes on this spreadsheet: I counted votes for Shelley Sekula Gibbs as Republican votes for the regular election (the meaningless special election was skipped). In the special elections for CDs 15, 21, 23, 25, and 28, I added up the votes for candidates who carried the DEM and REP labels; if you were listed as LIB, IND, GRN, or CON, you were skipped. The "Competitive" label removes all of the races in which one party did not field an opponent. As you can see, in 2002 and 2004 this was basically a wash; in 2006, it favored the Dems. If you assume the Republicans would have netted about another 100,000 votes with all of these races filled in, the Dem percentage goes down to 44.8, which is a bit less than 2002, but again, that's working with six fewer incumbents.

What this suggests to me is that the partisan gap at the statewide level isn't as great as it might appear, at least by looking at the 2006 statewide election results. Generally speaking, the Dem Congressional candidates outperformed their statewide colleagues, with Bill Moody being the only statewide who did as well or better than most. I believe the way to close the gap between the Congressionals and the statewides is with money, which is what the statewide Republicans who did the best had in abundance. It seems clear to me that people who would vote for a Democratic Congressional candidate, especially those who did so in a district held by a Republican incumbent, would be open to the idea of voting for a Democratic statewide candidate. It would help if they knew something about these candidates - at least, if they knew as much about them as they did their Republican opponents - so they could make a fully informed decision. No guarantees, of course, but it sure couldn't hurt.

Now of course, we don't know what will happen in 2008. As you can see, 2004 was a much stronger year for Republican Congressional candidates than either 2002 or 2006. One presumes having President Bush at the top of the ticket to drive turnout for them didn't hurt; they obviously won't have that next year, and no I don't think having Hillary up there will help them, either. On the other hand, we've got a pretty sparse crop of Dem candidates so far, so this measure may not be that useful next year. But we'll see.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 12, 2007 to Election 2002