POLITICS

It’s Not Just Partisanship That Divides Congress

The same demographic trends that helped the GOP keep the House will hurt their shot at the presidency. And the trends that propelled Obama to reelection will impede Democrats from retaking the House.

Members of the 113th Congress, many accompanied by family members, take the oath of office in the House of Representatives chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)  
National Journal
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Scott Bland and Ronald Brownstein
Jan. 10, 2013, 11 a.m.

The House of Rep­res­ent­at­ives is not just di­vided between the red and the blue. It also frac­tures along lines of white, black, and brown.

Four-fifths of the House Re­pub­lic­ans in the new Con­gress rep­res­ent dis­tricts in which the white share of the vot­ing-age pop­u­la­tion ex­ceeds the na­tion­al av­er­age, ac­cord­ing to a new Na­tion­al Journ­al ana­lys­is. In a near-mir­ror im­age, al­most two-thirds of House Demo­crats rep­res­ent dis­tricts in which the minor­ity share of the vot­ing-age pop­u­la­tion ex­ceeds the na­tion­al av­er­age, the ana­lys­is found.

For each party, these stark pat­terns bring op­por­tun­it­ies and chal­lenges. The GOP’s strength in these pre­pon­der­antly white dis­tricts helped sus­tain its House ma­jor­ity in a year when over­whelm­ing minor­ity sup­port powered Pres­id­ent Obama to a com­fort­able reelec­tion. But the party’s dis­pro­por­tion­ate re­li­ance on whites also means that few House Re­pub­lic­ans have much ex­per­i­ence in court­ing non­white voters — or much elect­or­al in­cent­ive to do so.

That dy­nam­ic will likely make it tough­er for the party to for­mu­late an agenda, on is­sues from im­mig­ra­tion to health care, that at­tracts more of the minor­ity sup­port it will al­most cer­tainly need to re­claim the White House in 2016 or bey­ond. “If we are go­ing to be­come a na­tion­al gov­ern­ing party again, the first thing we need to do is ac­cept the real­ity of Amer­ica as it is today, and these re­ap­por­tioned dis­tricts work against that com­pletely,” says vet­er­an GOP strategist John Weaver. “While I don’t want to lose House seats, I would much rather be en­trus­ted with gov­ern­ing the coun­try than hav­ing a per­man­ent House ma­jor­ity that is out of touch with the rest of the coun­try.”

Con­versely, the tilt to­ward minor­ity dis­tricts among Demo­crats re­flects both the party’s gains in heav­ily di­verse areas and its sys­tem­ic de­cline in the mostly white dis­tricts once rep­res­en­ted by cent­rist Demo­crat­ic Blue Dogs.

Those twin trends could make it easi­er for the party to co­alesce around com­mon po­s­i­tions on is­sues that have long di­vided it, such as im­mig­ra­tion and gun con­trol. But with Re­pub­lic­ans hold­ing such a com­mand­ing ad­vant­age in heav­ily white dis­tricts — which still sig­ni­fic­antly out­num­ber the di­verse dis­tricts — it also means that Demo­crats will struggle to re­gain a House ma­jor­ity un­til chan­ging demo­graphy brings more seats with­in their reach.

Above all, these di­ver­gent pat­terns of sup­port threaten to deep­en the na­tion­al po­lar­iz­a­tion so evid­ent in the stan­doff over the fisc­al cliff. In Con­gress, as in the pres­id­en­tial race, the two parties are sup­por­ted by elect­or­al co­ali­tions in­creas­ingly di­vided not only by ideo­logy but also by race. Each side’s con­gres­sion­al caucus is now rooted in places that dif­fer enorm­ously from the oth­er side’s, in their demo­graph­ic com­pos­i­tion, cul­tur­al val­ues, and at­ti­tudes to­ward gov­ern­ment. It’s be­com­ing more dif­fi­cult to bridge those dif­fer­ences. “It’s a prob­lem for the coun­try,” says Tom Dav­is, the former Re­pub­lic­an rep­res­ent­at­ive from Vir­gin­ia and chair­man of the Na­tion­al Re­pub­lic­an Con­gres­sion­al Com­mit­tee. “You hate to have any so­ci­ety eth­nic­ally di­vided. But that’s what we are be­com­ing.”

Com­pared with the wave elec­tions of 2006, 2008, and 2010, the 2012 cam­paign pro­duced only mod­est change in the House’s par­tis­an bal­ance, with Demo­crats adding eight seats. But be­neath the sur­face, a demo­graph­ic riptide pushed the two parties fur­ther apart. Des­pite their losses, Re­pub­lic­ans in­creased their share of dis­tricts that are whiter than the na­tion­al av­er­age; the Demo­crat­ic gains came en­tirely from dis­tricts that lean to­ward minor­it­ies.

For this ana­lys­is, Na­tion­al Journ­al used 2010 census data to rank the 435 House dis­tricts based on the share of their vot­ing-age pop­u­la­tion rep­res­en­ted by whites. NJ then com­pared the dis­tricts with the na­tion­al white share of the vot­ing-age pop­u­la­tion — which stands at al­most ex­actly two-thirds, or 67 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to the latest census cal­cu­la­tions. The vot­ing-age pop­u­la­tion fig­ure in­cludes res­id­ents who are not cit­izens or are in the U.S. il­leg­ally, so it does not meas­ure the share of eli­gible voters in each dis­trict. But it still provides a use­ful gauge of the demo­graph­ic bent in the House’s dis­tricts — and a clear di­vid­ing line in the for­tunes of each party.

In dis­tricts where the white share of the vot­ing-age pop­u­la­tion ex­ceeds the na­tion­al av­er­age, Re­pub­lic­ans in Novem­ber cap­tured nine Demo­crat­ic-held seats and lost sev­en of their own, for a net gain of two. In seats where the minor­ity share of the vot­ing-age pop­u­la­tion ex­ceeds the na­tion­al av­er­age, Demo­crats gained 11 and lost just one, for a net gain of 10. (The cal­cu­la­tions are some­what com­plic­ated by the re­dis­trict­ing that oc­curred after the 2010 census; this tally al­loc­ated new seats cre­ated by re­dis­trict­ing to one or the oth­er party based on the dis­trict’s Par­tis­an Vot­ing In­dex, a meas­ure of polit­ic­al lean­ing cal­cu­lated by The Cook Polit­ic­al Re­port.)

Among the Demo­crat­ic losers in the heav­ily white dis­tricts were sev­er­al of the last re­main­ing Blue Dogs — mod­er­ate Demo­crats who rep­res­en­ted pre­dom­in­antly white, of­ten rur­al, seats. These in­cluded Demo­crats Mark Critz of Pennsylvania, Ben Chand­ler of Ken­tucky, and Le­onard Boswell of Iowa, all of whom lost reelec­tion bids; and Ok­lahoma’s Dan Boren, North Car­o­lina’s Heath Shuler, and Arkan­sas’s Mike Ross, whose seats flipped to the GOP after they re­tired.

The Re­pub­lic­an losers in the di­verse dis­tricts prom­in­ently in­cluded three Cali­for­nia in­cum­bents de­feated in re­drawn seats with sub­stan­tial His­pan­ic pop­u­la­tions: Mary Bono Mack, Dan Lun­gren, and Bri­an Bil­bray. An­oth­er loser was Rep. Fran­cisco Can­seco of Texas, who was ous­ted by Demo­crat Pete Gal­lego in a ma­jor­ity His­pan­ic dis­trict. At the Re­pub­lic­an Na­tion­al Con­ven­tion last sum­mer, NR­CC Ex­ec­ut­ive Dir­ect­or Guy Har­ris­on heaped scorn on the sug­ges­tion that Can­seco could lose. Demo­crats “be­lieve that a 67 per­cent His­pan­ic seat should nev­er vote for a Re­pub­lic­an,” Har­ris­on told The Dal­las Morn­ing News then. It’s not quite a hard-and-fast rule, but Can­seco’s de­feat is one of sev­er­al last year demon­strat­ing how close that sen­ti­ment is to be­com­ing a real­ity.

After this re­shuff­ling, the parties glare across a deep ra­cial chasm in the House. That’s evid­ent most vis­ibly in the com­pos­i­tion of each party in the 113th Con­gress. White men will still con­sti­tute 88 per­cent of House Re­pub­lic­ans, while, for the first time ever, they will rep­res­ent a minor­ity of the House Demo­crat­ic Caucus, in which wo­men and minor­ity mem­bers are now the ma­jor­ity.

Even more im­port­ant is the di­ver­gence in the voters each side rep­res­ents. Re­pub­lic­ans now hold 187 of the 259 dis­tricts (72 per­cent) in which whites ex­ceed their na­tion­al share of the vot­ing-age pop­u­la­tion. Demo­crats hold 129 of the 176 seats (73 per­cent) in which minor­it­ies ex­ceed their na­tion­al share of the vot­ing-age pop­u­la­tion. From an­oth­er angle, 80 per­cent of Re­pub­lic­ans rep­res­ent dis­tricts more heav­ily white than the na­tion­al av­er­age; 64 per­cent of House Demo­crats rep­res­ent seats more heav­ily non­white than the na­tion­al av­er­age.

Look­ing solely at His­pan­ics, the dif­fer­ences are even more strik­ing: 68 House Demo­crats, about one-third of the total, hold dis­tricts in which His­pan­ics con­sti­tute at least one-fifth of the vot­ing-age pop­u­la­tion. That’s true for just 28, or 12 per­cent, of House Re­pub­lic­ans. Con­versely, 165 House Re­pub­lic­ans, or just over 70 per­cent, rep­res­ent dis­tricts in which His­pan­ics make up no more than 10 per­cent of the vot­ing-age pop­u­la­tion; that’s true for only 81 Demo­crats (or two-fifths of their caucus).

Whatever the vant­age point, in the House, Demo­crats now hold a clear edge in the por­tions of Amer­ica be­ing re­shaped by di­versity, while Re­pub­lic­ans dom­in­ate the por­tions that re­main largely un­touched by it.

The biggest ques­tion these pat­terns raise for the GOP is wheth­er it is pos­sible to align the in­terests of House Re­pub­lic­ans and the na­tion­al party on is­sues that the grow­ing non­white pop­u­la­tion cares most about.

For many Re­pub­lic­an strategists, the clear mes­sage of the 2012 elec­tion was that the party will struggle to win the White House un­til it gains sup­port among minor­it­ies. The num­bers left little room for de­bate: Ac­cord­ing to the Elec­tion Day exit poll, Mitt Rom­ney car­ried 59 per­cent of white voters — the same per­cent­age George H.W. Bush did in his re­sound­ing 1988 vic­tory. Yet Rom­ney was soundly de­feated be­cause Obama won 80 per­cent of all non­white voters, who in­creased their share of the elect­or­ate to a re­cord 28 per­cent.

Obama not only cap­tured more than nine in 10 Afric­an-Amer­ic­ans but also soared past 70 per­cent with both His­pan­ics and Asi­an-Amer­ic­ans after a cam­paign in which Rom­ney cham­pioned “self-de­port­a­tion” for il­leg­al im­mig­rants. “The na­tion­al num­bers “¦ were a wake-up call,” says Jen­nifer Korn, ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or of the cen­ter-right His­pan­ic Lead­er­ship Net­work. “Re­pub­lic­ans need to look at how they talk to these dif­fer­ent demo­graph­ics without pan­der­ing to them. On the im­mig­ra­tion thing, it didn’t just af­fect His­pan­ics.”

But even some House Re­pub­lic­ans from ra­cially di­verse dis­tricts worry that many of their col­leagues rep­res­ent­ing more mono­lith­ic­ally white areas aren’t do­ing enough to court minor­it­ies. “Hon­estly, I don’t be­lieve they are,” says Rep. Joe Heck, who won reelec­tion in a di­verse dis­trict out­side Las Ve­gas.

Heck says he’s es­tab­lished beach­heads among minor­ity voters by work­ing first with eth­nic cham­bers of com­merce. “For me, meet­ing with the mem­bers of the cham­ber was a door to build­ing re­la­tion­ships with mem­bers of those com­munit­ies,” he says. Then he hired aides to co­ordin­ate out­reach to His­pan­ic and Asi­an con­stitu­ents; dur­ing his cam­paign, he or­gan­ized co­ali­tions in those com­munit­ies. “When I’m home in the dis­trict, we would do en­tire out­reach days, vis­it­ing mul­tiple His­pan­ic busi­nesses, even ones out­side of my dis­trict.”

Rep. Scott Ri­gell, R-Va., also won reelec­tion last fall in a ra­cially di­verse New­port Beach-area dis­trict. He says that ac­cess and at­ten­tion have been the keys to his suc­cess. “I see a Demo­crat of any hue as a pro­spect” for fu­ture sup­port, he says. “Your cal­en­dar has to re­flect that. I’ve spent time in the Afric­an-Amer­ic­an com­munity. The Latino com­munity: I bring them in.” Ri­gell says that build­ing bridges to minor­it­ies also has re­quired sens­it­iv­ity to subtle cul­tur­al dif­fer­ences in­vis­ible to many of his col­leagues. For in­stance, he says he nev­er refers to the pres­id­ent’s health care re­form as “Obama­care,” be­cause when “you refer to a sit­ting pres­id­ent by last name only, some will be of­fen­ded by it, and some will see it as dis­respect to a per­son of col­or.”

Both Ri­gell and Heck be­lieve that the rising tide of di­versity could sub­merge the GOP un­less the party at­tracts more minor­it­ies. Heck says that his col­leagues in areas largely un­touched by ra­cial change “need to look past their own polit­ic­al fu­ture and their own dis­trict. While they may be in a safe dis­trict or a non­minor­ity dis­trict, for the party to be sus­tain­able in­to the fu­ture we’ve got to think about things at na­tion­al scale.”¦ The Re­pub­lic­an Party is, I think, at risk of fad­ing away in­to in­sig­ni­fic­ance as the minor­ity pop­u­la­tion grows in the U.S.”

Ri­gell holds sim­il­ar con­cerns. “We as Re­pub­lic­ans have one of two choices,” he says. “You can either see this as some omin­ous dis­heart­en­ing trend caus­ing you to hunker down and lament the long-term fu­ture of Amer­ica — or, al­tern­ately, the only ap­pro­pri­ate re­sponse [is to say], “˜Hey, no prob­lem. Our ideas are bet­ter, our val­ues are best for all Amer­ic­ans, people of col­or, people who aren’t.’ “

Both men ar­gue that the GOP’s dis­con­nect with minor­ity voters springs from tone rather than agenda. Cer­tainly, House Re­pub­lic­ans from di­verse dis­tricts re­flect that be­lief in their vot­ing re­cords. Ac­cord­ing to the latest Na­tion­al Journ­al vote rat­ings, Re­pub­lic­ans from more-di­verse seats have vot­ing re­cords no less con­ser­vat­ive than their col­leagues from more heav­ily white areas. (By con­trast, Demo­crats from pre­dom­in­antly white dis­tricts vote to the right of those from more di­verse places.)

But polling evid­ence sug­gests that, on sev­er­al fronts, the con­ser­vat­ive agenda pop­u­lar in the vast ma­jor­ity of Re­pub­lic­an-lean­ing House dis­tricts could col­lide with the party’s na­tion­al goal of im­prov­ing its minor­ity per­form­ance. Sur­veys, in­clud­ing the Elec­tion Day exit poll, con­sist­ently show that most minor­ity voters sup­port more gov­ern­ment act­iv­ism than Re­pub­lic­ans prefer. In par­tic­u­lar, while re­trench­ing or re­peal­ing Obama’s health care re­form may be pop­u­lar in GOP dis­tricts, the law wins much more sup­port among His­pan­ics, nearly one-third of whom lack health in­sur­ance. Rais­ing taxes on the highest earners also draws over­whelm­ing minor­ity sup­port.

Im­mig­ra­tion looms as the sharpest con­flict between the needs of the na­tion­al party and those of a House GOP ma­jor­ity with very few mem­bers rep­res­ent­ing large His­pan­ic con­stitu­en­cies. Polls show that most minor­ity voters, es­pe­cially His­pan­ics, sup­port com­pre­hens­ive im­mig­ra­tion re­form that in­cludes a path­way to cit­izen­ship for those here il­leg­ally.

Obama’s sig­nal that he will make a ma­jor push for im­mig­ra­tion re­form in 2013 could place House Re­pub­lic­ans in an ex­cru­ci­at­ing spot. Vir­tu­ally all of them op­pose a path­way to cit­izen­ship for un­doc­u­mented im­mig­rants, and many fear that sup­port­ing the idea might ex­pose them to a primary chal­lenge from the right. Yet a scen­ario in which House Re­pub­lic­ans block im­mig­ra­tion re­form (es­pe­cially if a com­pre­hens­ive plan clears the Sen­ate) could ac­cel­er­ate the party’s losses among His­pan­ic voters.

“That’s the worst pos­sible out­come,” says Weaver, a seni­or strategist for Sen. John Mc­Cain’s 2008 pres­id­en­tial cam­paign. “We just got 27 per­cent [among His­pan­ic voters in the pres­id­en­tial race], and the trend lines are down every­where. If we block im­mig­ra­tion re­form, what is go­ing to hap­pen? We should not only help pass it, we need to em­brace it; and then we need to com­mu­nic­ate oth­er policies, par­tic­u­larly on the eco­nom­ic side, that can tar­get [His­pan­ic voters].”

Obama’s fo­cus on im­mig­ra­tion re­form shows how these pat­terns of House sup­port are af­fect­ing the Demo­crat­ic Party. One reas­on he down­played the is­sue dur­ing his first term was con­cern among the Blue Dogs that a re­form push could hurt them polit­ic­ally. (The same dy­nam­ic has dis­cour­aged Demo­crat­ic ac­tion on gun con­trol.) But even with that is­sue shelved, those Blue Dog Demo­crats suffered sweep­ing losses in 2010 and fur­ther erosion in 2012. In the next Con­gress, Demo­crats will hold just 31 of the 143 seats in which whites con­sti­tute at least 80 per­cent of the vot­ing-age pop­u­la­tion.

That weak­ness in the most heav­ily white seats com­plic­ates Demo­crat­ic hopes of re­gain­ing the House ma­jor­ity. But with few­er Demo­crat­ic mem­bers re­ly­ing on con­ser­vat­ive whites to win, the party has more free­dom to ad­vance is­sues, such as im­mig­ra­tion re­form, that it muted for fear of ali­en­at­ing those voters.

Rep. Xavi­er Be­cerra of Cali­for­nia, the re­cently elec­ted House Demo­crat­ic Caucus chair­man, says he be­lieves that the fresh­man mem­bers rooted in these di­verse dis­tricts will co­alesce more closely, even on is­sues such as health care and im­mig­ra­tion that pre­vi­ously di­vided the party. Mem­bers who pre­vi­ously were “spooked by the Re­pub­lic­an at­tacks” on those sub­jects “today are sol­id,” he says. “The con­ver­sa­tion we’re hav­ing about im­mig­ra­tion re­form is dra­mat­ic­ally dif­fer­ent.”

The change Be­cerra de­scribes is a con­gres­sion­al ana­logue to the pro­cess Obama went through at the na­tion­al level over the past year. On is­sues from gay mar­riage to con­tra­cep­tion cov­er­age to im­mig­ra­tion re­form, Obama em­braced po­s­i­tions that mo­bil­ized ele­ments of the new Demo­crat­ic co­ali­tion (young people, so­cially lib­er­al wo­men, minor­it­ies) even at the price of fur­ther ant­ag­on­iz­ing cul­tur­ally con­ser­vat­ive, older, and blue-col­lar whites.

In Novem­ber, Obama em­phat­ic­ally demon­strated that his for­mula could pro­duce a na­tion­al ma­jor­ity. But the cal­cu­lus is more com­plex for House Demo­crats. While minor­ity voters are dis­pers­ing, they re­main heav­ily con­cen­trated around big cit­ies. That means the chan­ging demo­graphy is re­shap­ing the con­gres­sion­al bat­tle­field more slowly than the pres­id­en­tial land­scape. The 259 dis­tricts in which whites rep­res­ent at least two-thirds of the vot­ing-age pop­u­la­tion is down from 304 in 2000, but they re­main a sol­id ma­jor­ity of House seats; the Re­pub­lic­ans’ hold on 187 of those dis­tricts provides the GOP a struc­tur­al ad­vant­age in the battle for a ma­jor­ity (just as the Demo­crats’ ad­vant­age in the most di­verse states gives them a struc­tur­al ad­vant­age in the Elect­or­al Col­lege).

All of this presents Demo­crats with a mir­ror im­age of the Re­pub­lic­an conun­drum. Al­though Be­cerra says that it is crit­ic­al to de­liv­er on is­sues such as im­mig­ra­tion re­form to con­vince the party’s na­tion­al co­ali­tion that “there is a reas­on for the faith that they have in vot­ing,” those same ini­ti­at­ives could make it tough­er for Demo­crats to cap­ture the heav­ily white dis­tricts that un­der­gird the GOP House ma­jor­ity.

That could re­quire a shift in the party’s elect­or­al strategy. In 2006, then-Rep. Rahm Emanuel, who chaired the Demo­crat­ic Con­gres­sion­al Cam­paign Com­mit­tee, re­gained the House ma­jor­ity largely by re­cruit­ing cul­tur­ally con­ser­vat­ive can­did­ates who won those white dis­tricts. But with Obama com­mit­ted to a more cul­tur­ally lib­er­al agenda on everything from gay mar­riage to gun con­trol, Demo­crats may find it more prof­it­able to fo­cus on cap­tur­ing more of the 22 Re­pub­lic­an-held dis­tricts in which minor­it­ies rep­res­ent at least 40 per­cent of the vot­ing-age pop­u­la­tion, or the 38 where minor­it­ies con­sti­tute between 30 and 40 per­cent.

For now, the DCCC is de­term­ined to split the dif­fer­ence. In the next midterm elec­tion, when minor­ity turnout tra­di­tion­ally de­clines, the com­mit­tee plans to fo­cus largely on the sort of heav­ily white seats that Emanuel tar­geted in 2006, of­fi­cials there say. In 2016, when the pres­id­en­tial race could again swell minor­ity turnout, it will in­tensi­fy its ef­forts in the di­verse Re­pub­lic­an-held dis­tricts.

Any “di­verse” path to­ward a Demo­crat­ic ma­jor­ity will re­quire the party to ex­pand on the three Re­pub­lic­an seats it cap­tured last Novem­ber in Cali­for­nia and the one it took in Texas. Demo­crats have great­er near-term op­por­tun­it­ies in Cali­for­nia (in­clud­ing the dis­tricts now held by Re­pub­lic­ans Gary Miller, Dav­id Valadao, and Jeff Den­ham), but Texas could prove even more crit­ic­al to their long-term hopes.

There, the Re­pub­lic­ans who con­trolled re­dis­trict­ing frag­men­ted the rap­idly grow­ing pop­u­la­tion of His­pan­ics and Afric­an-Amer­ic­ans across a large num­ber of dis­tricts, usu­ally leav­ing enough white voters for GOP can­did­ates to main­tain an ad­vant­age. As a res­ult, 19 Texas Re­pub­lic­ans in the House hold seats in which minor­it­ies rep­res­ent at least 29 per­cent of the vot­ing-age pop­u­la­tion. Few of those mem­bers look vul­ner­able today, but that could change as the minor­ity pop­u­la­tion’s growth con­tin­ues over the dec­ade — par­tic­u­larly if Demo­crats ser­i­ously in­vest in re­gis­ter­ing some of the state’s 2.2 mil­lion eli­gible but un­re­gistered His­pan­ics. “If your rule is to keep [the minor­ity pop­u­la­tion] in the mid-30s and spread it out over four or six dis­tricts, that’s not something you can sus­tain,” says Jac­ob Li­mon, the deputy ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or of the Texas Demo­crat­ic Party. “Even­tu­ally those start turn­ing in­to 40 per­cent-plus [minor­ity] dis­tricts “¦ and you’re build­ing a co­ali­tion that can win those dis­tricts.”

Ul­ti­mate Demo­crat­ic gains in ra­cially di­verse Texas dis­tricts would fit a lar­ger pat­tern. As few­er voters split their bal­lots in this highly po­lar­ized era, each party now primar­ily holds House dis­tricts pop­u­lated by the same sort of voters it at­tracts in the pres­id­en­tial con­test. For Re­pub­lic­ans, that means a caucus centered on whiter dis­tricts, many of them blue col­lar, and the vast ma­jor­ity cul­tur­ally con­ser­vat­ive. For Demo­crats, that trans­lates in­to re­li­ance on mostly di­verse dis­tricts, sup­ple­men­ted by so­cially lib­er­al white-col­lar sub­urb­an seats. Out­liers who defy these trends, such as Re­pub­lic­an former Rep. Chris­toph­er Shays of Con­necti­c­ut, or rur­al Demo­crat­ic former Reps. Ike Skelton of Mis­souri and John Spratt of South Car­o­lina, are dwind­ling on either side.

This tight­en­ing align­ment in na­tion­al and con­gres­sion­al elec­tions prom­ises more unity with­in each party on most is­sues. But it could make it even more daunt­ing to forge com­mon pur­pose between them.

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