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« Trivia Tidbit of the Day: Part 888 -- Job Creation In Texas & The Other 49 States. | WILLisms.com | Trivia Tidbit of the Day: Part 890 -- Did The Rangers World Series Flameout Hurt Republicans On Election Day? »

Trivia Tidbit of the Day: Part 889 -- Redistricting.

Predicted 40 Years In The Wilderness For Republicans Not Likely-

Hotline's headline almost says it all:

Devastation: GOP Picks Up 680 State Leg. Seats

Republicans picked up 680 seats in state legislatures, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures -- the most in the modern era. To put that number in perspective: In the 1994 GOP wave, Republicans picked up 472 seats. The previous record was in the post-Watergate election of 1974, when Democrats picked up 628 seats.

The GOP gained majorities in at least 14 state house chambers. They now have unified control -- meaning both chambers -- of 26 state legislatures.

That control is a particularly bad sign for Democrats as they go into the redistricting process. If the GOP is effective in gerrymandering districts in many of these states, it could eventually lead to the GOP actually expanding its majority in 2012.

Republicans now hold the redistricting "trifecta" -- both chambers of the state legislature and the governorship -- in 15 states. They also control the Nebraska governorship and the unicameral legislature, taking the number up to 16. And in North Carolina -- probably the state most gerrymandered to benefit Democrats -- Republicans hold both chambers of the state legislature and the Democratic governor does not have veto power over redistricting proposals.

Back in July, I noted here that redistricting was on the ballot in 2010, and linked to this chart from Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball:


My commmentary from July:

It's time for "the South" (Alabama, et al.) to cast off those Democrat legislators and put in some Republicans who will draw the Congressional districts properly. It's important for Texas to elect a big Republican majority, because Texas will gain 3 or 4 Congressional seats next year, and we all remember what the Democrats did last time redistricting came up. They fled the state.

Well, Alabama and North Carolina both elected Republican state legislatures for the first time basically ever, if you don't count Reconstruction in the mid-19th century. Texas went from a squishy Republican majority of 77 to 73, to a 99-51 margin, with the possibility of a 100-50 margin if Travis County Democrat Donna Howard's 15 vote lead fails to hold up when voting administrators on Monday count absentee ballots postmarked by November 2.

As of right now, here's the breakdown for redistricting:


Before Election 2010, Democrats were on pace for a very decent redistricting round. They were going to control the creation of 129 districts — only 7 fewer than they controlled after the 2000 election. Republicans, having won a few legislatures on the last decade, were on track to draw 108 seats on their own, about ten more than they controlled in 2000. Tuesday’s election changed all of that, creating a lopsided redistricting advantage for the GOP.

More important than the absolute numbers of seats is the fact that Democrats were on top in some pretty important states. Democrats can’t gain any seats by gerrymandering Massachusetts (they already hold all of them there), but a bit of re-mapping in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Wisconsin, New York, Iowa and New Mexico can dramatically alter the composition of the U.S. House.

Democrats held all those states, but lost them all on Tuesday. And Republicans gained full control in a few other big ones, like Ohio and Michigan.

The biggest news heading into the election from the national pundits was all about Christine O'Donnell and Harry Reid and the balance of power in Congress. The real story they missed was all of these state legislatures going Republican, especially in states that are gaining and losing Congressional seats.

In "the South," the Democrat ---> Republican realignment that started in the 1960s finally wrapped up on Tuesday, with the loss of "blue dog" Democrats like Rep. Spratt in South Carolina and Rep. Edwards in Texas. After Tuesday, there is almost no such thing as a white Southern Democrat. In Texas, the Democratic Party is now almost entirely urban or South Texan:


Interestingly, while really almost none of the urban Democrats are moderate, at least a few of the South Texas guys-- like Democrat Aaron Peña of Hidalgo County-- are pretty moderate and seem to "get" what just happened. Peña summed it up on his Twitter page pretty succinctly:

Texas Democrats now have lost all but one of their representatives in rural areas outside of South Texas.

In Texas, the left is nearly decimated after this election, and as PJTV's Bryan Preston explains, the remaining Democrats might want to reign in the far left forces at work in Texas if they want to regain credibility:

...under state party chairman Boyd Richie, the Texas Democrats had become little more than a “progressive” corpse, animated from afar by the Democratic National Committee, Organizing for America, and Matt Angle’s Shadow Party operation, otherwise known as the Lone Star Project. It was only in the latter that the Democrats here had any real energy, and even that energy was put to foul purposes. Angle’s operation isn’t a policy shop or idea factory, it’s just a Democrat ex machina, a means by which Democrats try to attain power by killing the careers of Republicans by whatever means are at hand. Its only function is destructive. It stands for and does nothing positive.

Indeed, the abundant gaggle of prolific liberal bloggers in Texas may actually be harming their own cause with their hyperbole and association with Daily Kos and other national blogs and causes that are woefully out of touch with Texas values.

There are a lot of post-election sour grapes on the left in Texas, as witnessed at the Texas Tribune's post-election debrief at the Texas Capitol on Thursday. The left's gameplan is already in place. Democrats are taking a very "you broke it, you bought it" approach. They are already gnashing their teeth about inevitable cuts in services to "the poor" or to rural areas, and salivating about running attack ads about how mean Republicans are to children and the elderly. They are talking about how white rural Texans voting for Republicans is voting against their self-interests, because rural services will be cut. They are talking about how Republicans cutting government at the state level will just mean that counties and cities will have to raise their taxes. They are already showing just how much they didn't learn from Tuesday, in other words.

Democrats-- who have not won a single statewide elected office in Texas since the early 1990s--- may very well be at rock bottom, which means they can only go up from here, but they will be in the wilderness for another generation if they continue thinking that whining about mean Republicans and their fiscally conservative approach is the path to victory.

That being said, there are warning signs out there. In some ways, Republicans winning so overwhelmingly on Tuesday means that Obama now has a pressure relief valve if things don't dramatically improve in our country over the next two years. Demographics in many ways still favor Democrats in the long run, as our country becomes less white, less Christian, and less small towny.

Tim Carney explains that Republicans actually made very few incursions outside of their comfort zone, and Tuesday's election did not represent broad gains for Republicans in swing districts and Democrat territory and was really more of a reversion to the mean:

Snap-backs - 35 Republicans won back 21 seats they had lost in 2008 and 14 they had lost in 2006.

Long-term Realignment – 17. These are districts, mostly Southern or rural, that were won by both Bush in 2004 and McCain in 2008.

Louisiana-3, South Dakota-At Large, Tennessee-4, Georgia-8, North Dakota-At Large, Arkansas-2, Mississippi-4, South Carolina-5, Virginia-9, Tennessee-6, Tennessee-8, Florida-2, Missouri-4, West Virginia-1, Arkansas-1, Texas-17, New York-13.

Swing Districts – 5. These are non-snap-back districts that have split their vote in the last two presidential elections.

Wash-3, Ohio-6, Mich-1, Texas-23, North Carolina-2.

Democratic Districts – 5. Obama and Kerry carried these districts, and Republicans did not hold them in 2006.

Pennsylvania-11, Illinois-17, Wisconsin-7, Georgia-2, Minnesota-8.

Henry Olsen, writing at Bloomberg.com, warns that Republicans rely heavily on white voters, which may be a fantastic short-term strategy, but demographics say otherwise over the long-term:

The rout should give Republicans hope. They look to have gained 60 to 65 House seats, the most by one party in an election since 1948. If they reach the top of that range, Republicans will have 244 seats, the most they have held since 1947 and their second-highest total since the Great Depression.

The party didn’t win this election because of any enthusiasm gap between their backers and Democratic supporters, as had been long predicted. In 2008, 38 percent of voters were Democrats, 36 percent Republicans and 26 percent independents. This year, each party held 36 percent of the electorate and independents comprised 28 percent, according to preliminary exit poll data.

The election results were instead due to a massive swing among independents, particularly those in rural and exurban counties. Exit polls showed that independents favored Republicans by 16 points, a turnabout from 2008 when they favored Democrats by about the same margin.


The Latino share of the electorate reached 8 percent, a record high for a mid-term election, while black turnout dropped from its high of 13 percent in 2008 to its historic 10 percent level this year. If Latinos continue to grow as a group, and blacks turn out in droves again to re-elect Obama, the Republican nominee in 2012 will be hard-pressed to win without retaining the record share of white working-class voters the party garnered this week.

It was a fantastic election for Republicans, but I still get the sense that our nation is in a state of flux, and it may be yet another couple of elections before we settle in again for a longer period of stability in our politics. Right now, it's up for grabs.

Elected Republicans, it's on you guys now. Get it right this time.


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Posted by Will Franklin · 4 November 2010 02:35 PM