Are Republicans sweeping "the vast interior," driving Democrats to "retreat" to a
few coastal states and besieged university towns? So The Washington
Examiner's Michael Barone
would have it. The column in which he advanced this argument—that "for the moment, anyway, the vast expanse of America is
hospitable to Republicans while Democrats seem appreciated only in
their coastal and campus redoubts"—has met with some skepticism. And the numbers and maps Barone cites are also
subject to debate. Here's the latest on just how sweeping this midterm election is likely to get.
- Get Out Your Maps, suggests Michael Barone. "The map of the Senate races shows Republicans leading over almost all the landmass of America," and the House and gubernatorial maps are similar, showing "a Democratic Party shrinking back to its bicoastal base and a Republican Party expanding to take in most of the vast expanse of the continent." Of course, he admits, "the Democrats' Northeast and Pacific Coast bases are heavily populated," but the point is that "these 2010 maps are quite a contrast with the maps you might have drawn just after the 2008 election," when "pundits ... were arguing that the Republican Party had receded to its base." Though he urges Republicans not to get "too giddy," he thinks this is significant.
- Okay, for Starters, This Column Has an Error, writes an unimpressed Dave Weigel at Slate. At one point, Barone wrote that Barack Obama campaigned at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, while Senator Russ Feingold "who lives in Middleton, four miles away, was unable to make it--and it's not the first Obama event in Wisconsin he's skipped." Feingold was there, protests Weigel. (The correction has since been made online) He also thinks Barone's columns, in general, "too frequently just confirm what conservatives are already thinking or hoping about the GOP's political fortunes." It would have been more interesting, he thinks, to look at why Feingold showed up to the rally:
Democrats are currently in a battle to overcome voter anger over the rotten economy by driving up enthusiasm with their base, and Feingold, unable to run the sort of "I'm not like the others" campaign he usually runs, has signed up in that battle. Anyway, it might be more interesting than another variation of the "polls show Dem doom" column.
- Setting GOP Up for Disappointment "Over time," writes The American Conservative's Daniel Larison, looking at New Mexico's heavy blue tint last election and Colorado's own recently blue leanings, "it is the GOP that has been losing ground, and Barone is doing them no favors by telling them flattering stories about how they are once again dominant." The patterns Barone observes are "partly a result of the smaller electorate during the midterms that would be more inclined to vote Republican than the much larger electorate during presidential years." Nor should Barone be relying on demographics:
The new estimates on House apportionment derived from early Census numbers do show that core Republican states are gaining a net of six seats and Electoral College votes, but what this masks is the effect new migration will have on voting patterns in these states. Northeastern and Rust Belt states continue to lose population, and mostly Southern and Sun Belt states keep gaining. While this gives traditionally Republican areas more weight in the coming decade, it is also changing the composition of state electorates that can make reliably Republican states less reliable.
- A Couple Points to Counter the GOP Takeover Narrative Some of the midterm numbers might be making Republicans look stronger than they are, muses poll analyst Nate Silver, who recently joined The New York Times. It turns out that the "generic ballot" questions often wind up pitting an unnamed Republican candidate against an unnamed Democratic one, instead of naming individuals. That might be giving Republicans a false boost: "When the candidates were named, however, the Democrats' gap was lessened," notes Silver. Silver also, in another post, reveals that he is one of many to suspect the Tea Party may wind up hurting Republicans, even if it hurts Democrats first. Right now it may be a mutually beneficial situation, as the Tea Party "may help to facilitate large electoral gains for [Republicans] in November in spite of a party brand which is badly damaged." Meanwhile, "the Tea Party is renting the Republicans' electoral infrastructure. But Delaware Tea Party candidate O'Donnell's primary victory over the GOP favorite, he thinks, is cause for caution, while, as he asks: "once some Tea Party candidates are in power, what need will they have for the skeleton of the Republican establishment?"