One of the Democratic Party’s biggest priorities after this election is to redraw congressional lines in states where Republicans have created boundaries to their political advantage. The effort shouldn’t be a surprise, even as the party overstates the number of seats that could change hands by changes in political geography. But it’s a telling peek at how the Democrats would rather make systemic changes so they can maintain their liberal ideology than nudge the party to the middle so it can compete in dozens of GOP-leaning seats.
The Democrats’ disadvantage in the House isn’t primarily a result of redistricting. It’s because nonwhite and liberal voters tend to cluster in dense urban areas, diluting their political impact. Republicans currently hold 246 seats in the House, the highest level of representation since the Hoover administration. Even if Democrats sweep into power in order to redraw state maps after the 2020 elections, they’ll make only a small dent in the GOP’s fundamental advantages. (And that’s not even taking into account that Democrats already have drawn congressional district lines in a partisan manner in Illinois and Maryland.)
As the Democratic Party under President Obama has veered to the left, its appeal has been muted outside liberal urban areas. On top of that, the party is increasingly dependent on voters who don’t regularly show up in non-presidential-election years. Redistricting would have done very little to salvage Democratic seats in the last two landslide midterm elections. And even in an election in which Donald Trump has poisoned the GOP brand, the party has remained remarkably resilient in the battle for Congress. Democrats hold just a 4-point generic ballot advantage, according to RealClearPolitics averages, and are predicted to win only 5 to 20 House seats, according to The Cook Political Report.
The Democrats’ base-first strategy in presidential races has been a surefire loser in the battle for the House, where the balance of power is still determined by persuadable moderate voters in swing districts. It’s why Rahm Emanuel correctly understood that the party needed to recruit candidates with more-conservative views on immigration and abortion to win control of Congress in 2006. Without this ideological diversity in its recruiting, Democrats would have struggled to capture their first beachhead of control in George W. Bush’s fading presidency.
In a telling Washington Post profile on the campaign trail with Joe Biden, Paul Kane writes that the vice president fears “Democrats are turning into a party controlled by intellectual elites who don’t know how to relate to people like those from his hometown.” This is not a problem that will be fixed by gerrymandering.
If she’s elected, Hillary Clinton’s biggest test will be choosing whether to follow Obama’s emphasis on the party base or try to recalibrate Democratic messaging to woo more culturally conservative voters. It’s a dilemma she’ll be confronting regularly: Her path to winning congressional majorities runs through red states and districts even as the energy of her party is drifting further to the left.
1. Democrats may not be spending much money in the Florida Senate race, but they’re not ruling out a surprise upset of Sen. Marco Rubio. Their thinking: If Trump continues to struggle and traditional GOP voters don’t turn out, Democrats may not need to keep pace financially to win. Obama’s acidic attacks against Rubio in Miami on Thursday were designed to undermine his backing among Cuban-American voters who loathe the GOP presidential nominee but support their senator. If they stay home, that could make the difference in a close race.
Several new public polls show that Rubio is leading Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy by fairly slim margins. As National Journal reported, private Republican polling conducted earlier this week showed Rubio leading by only 3 points.
2. Overlooked polling nugget: In two new national polls, both released before the third debate, Clinton’s favorability ratings have reached respectable levels. Bloomberg’s latest survey showed that 47 percent of registered voters view her favorably, with 52 percent holding a negative opinion. That -5 spread is about as good as it’s been for Clinton since the beginning of the year. The Fox News poll found similar results, with Clinton’s favorability reaching 45 percent, while 53 percent held unfavorable views.
That normally wouldn’t be considered good news, but when Trump’s net favorability ratings in the same polls are -19 (Fox) and -25 (Bloomberg), it demonstrates why this election is all but over.
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