House of the Rising D
[Updated from previous version, errors corrected and new information added. Thanks to commenters for their suggestions.]
It was a good-enough Election Day for House Democrats, although they fell far short of capturing the 25 seats needed to regain the majority.
At this writing, news services have called House seats for 194 Democrats and 233 Republicans, with eight seats still being decided. Of these eight races, seven are led by Democrats, none are led by a Republican, and one will have two Louisiana Republicans (from an open general election ballot) running against each other in a runoff. If the current leads hold, the 113th Congress will have 201 Democrats and 234 Republicans. That would be a gain of nine seats for the Democrats over the 112th Congress (plus replacements for vacant seats once held by two elected Democratic Representatives). The composition of the 112th Congress (which serves through January 2, 2013) is 190 Democrats and 240 Republicans with five vacancies. There are 435 Representatives in the House, so 218 seats make a majority for most votes.
Cook Political Report did a great job calling the results of House races. Races rated “Likely Democratic” by Cook were won by all 10 Democrats rated. Eleven races were rated “Lean Democratic”. Of those, nine were won by Democrats and the results are still pending in two Arizona races: in AZ-2, incumbent Democrat Ron Barber now leads the Republican, Martha McSally, by more than 300 votes; in AZ-9, Kyrsten Sinema (D) is ahead of Vernon Parker (R) by 5,700 votes. Tossup races broke slightly toward the Democratic side: of the 29 “tossup” races, Democrats won or are leading in 20 and Republicans won or are leading in nine races. Most of the races where the outcome is still not determined come from this category: CA-7 (Bera [D] leads Lungren [incumbent R] by fewer than 200 votes); CA-52 (Peters [D] leads Bilbray [incumbent R] by fewer than 700 votes); FL-18 (Murphy [D] leads West [sort-of-incumbent redistricted R] by 2400 votes); NC-7 (McIntyre [D] leads Rouser [R] by fewer than 400 votes). In Florida’s 18th District, loser Allen West (R) also comes from this group. The preponderance of Democratic wins in this category is evidence for a very, very small wave favoring Democrats.
In “leans Republican” based on Cook’s calls, 15 Republicans and two Democrats (Tierney in MA-6 and Matheson in UT-4) prevailed. There are no remaining Republicans in the House representing New England states. In the “likely Republican” column, all Republicans won. Again, there was a minor wave buoying Democrats, but it was tiny compared to the 2010 wave that swept Republicans into leadership of the House. In Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District, firebrand Representative Michele Bachmann was threatened, but eventually prevailed over Democrat Jim Graves by 4,200 votes.
Political scientists have noted the increasing polarization of the House of Representatives. This is shown graphically by Keith Poole and Christopher Hare, political scientists at the University of Georgia, creators of the DW-NOMINATE scale and authors of the Voteview blog.
The number of moderate Democrats began dropping before World War II, while moderate Republicans held on until the Nixon administration. The reasons are not known, but I would speculate that Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” and the incorporation of the southern, socially conservative wing of former Democrats had much to do with the shift. Note the number of moderate Republicans in the House: near zero. (Not that the Democrats have bragging rights; within their party, their moderates’ share is at a level close to historical lows.)
How did each group of the 112th Congress’ House of Representative fare? I’ve taken the ten most liberal, ten most conservative, and ten most moderate members (based on DW-NOMINATE scores) to compare their fates. Since there is no overlap between the parties, the five most conservative Democrats and the five most liberal Republicans comprise the ten most moderate.
|Liberals (all Democrats)|
|Member (state)||DW-NOMINATE||2012 result|
|Lee (CA)||–0.744||won with 86% of the vote|
|Conyers (MI)||–0.717||won with 82% of the vote|
|Waters (CA)||–0.713||won with 71% of the vote|
|McDermott (WA)||–0.707||won with 80% of the vote|
|Filner (CA)||–0.682||elected SD Mayor; Vargas (D) 70%|
|Stark (CA)||–0.674||defeated 47%-53% by Swallwell (D)|
|Clarke (NY)||–0.650||won with 87% of the vote|
|Schakowski (IL)||–0.647||won with 66% of the vote|
|Grijalva (AZ)||–0.639||won with a mere 57% of the vote|
|Payne (NJ)||–0.635||won with 87% of the vote|
|Altmire (D-PA)||–0.135||redistricting put two incumbent Ds in 12th district; lost
primary to Critz; Critz lost to Rothfus (R) 41%-59%
|Donnelly (D-IN)||–0.132||elected to Senate|
|Barrow (D-GA)||–0.132||won with 54% of the vote|
|Boren (D-OK)||–0.111||retired; Mullin (R) 57%|
|Shuler (D-NC)||–0.102||retired; Meadows (R) 57%|
|Smith (R-NJ)||+0.121||won with 68% of the vote|
|Lobiondo (R-NJ)||+0.182||won with 58% of the vote|
|Meehan (R-PA)||+0.189||won with 60% of the vote|
|Reichert (R-WA)||+0.192||won with 59% of the vote|
|Hanna (R-NY)||+0.195||won with 60% of the vote|
|Conservatives (all Republicans)|
|Hensarling (TX)||+0.745||won with 64% of the vote|
|Campbell (CA)||+0.757||won with 60% of the vote|
|Franks (AZ)||+0.775||won with 64% of the vote|
|Stutzman (IN)||+0.781||won with 67% of the vote|
|Mulvaney (SC)||+0.819||won with 56% of the vote|
|Amash (MI)||+0.837||won with 53% of the vote|
|Graves (GA)||+0.914||won with 73% of the vote|
|Paul (TX)||+0.971||retired; Randy Weber (R) 54%|
|Flake (AZ)||+0.988||elected to Senate; Matt Salmon (R) 67%|
Sadly, these results will likely deepen the chasm between Democrats and Republicans in the House. While moderate Republicans survive, moderate Democrats are still losing their seats, which will open the gap between the parties’ DW-NOMINATE scores even wider. Meanwhile, extremely right-wing politicians are rewarded with re-election or, as in the case of Senator-elect Flake, promotion to the upper house.
Is this an example of The Ideology Gamble?
On the other hand, the Republican tactic of obstructionism in the 112th Congress may not be politically tenable for the 113th.
As The Economist writes in this week’s OpEd:
But what about the Republicans? Their script is depressingly easy to write. The party’s leaders will once again conclude that they lost because their candidate was not a genuine conservative, and vow to find the real thing next time. Possible future leaders like Paul Ryan, this year’s vice-presidential candidate, will head to the right in preparation for the 2016 primaries. Compromise with Mr Obama will be treason.
If the Republicans do that they will be abandoning all electoral sense.
What is your prediction for the 113th Congress? What will they accomplish?
- GOP to retain control of House (sfluxe.com)
- Republicans Retain House by Shoring Up Incumbents — New York Times (nytimes.com)
- House Republicans may actually add to their majority on Election Day (washingtonpost.com)
- Republicans Stand Firm in Controlling the House (nytimes.com)
- Americans Actually Voted for a Democratic House (politicalwire.com)