"How did you go bankrupt?" Bill asked.
"Two ways," Mike said. "Gradually and then suddenly."
"What brought it on?"
"Friends," said Mike.
—Ernest Hemmingway, The Sun Also Rises
Yesterday I did a count that I occasionally did back when I was paying attention to political demographics and statistics, reading political periodicals and, after 1980, spending hours with C-SPAN on in the background. I divided the lower 48 states into four groups of twelve states which I'll refer to as northeast, south, midwest and west. For equalizing purposes (and other demographic reasons) West Virginia is in the northeast, Kentucky is in the south, Oklahoma is in the midwest and Texas is in the west.
This is close to what the Senate and House will look like by region next year:
northeast - Senate: 19 (D) and 5 (R) House: 70 (D) and 25 (R)
south - Senate: 19 (R) and 5 (D) House: 64 (R) and 46 (D)
midwest - Senate: 15 (D) and 9 (R) House: 51 (R) and 49 (D)
west - Senate: 14 (R) and 10 (D) House: 67 (D) and 60 (R)
Hawaii and Alaska will send two of each to the Senate and two Democrats and one Republican to the House.
When I was born back in 1958 the "Solid South" was, as it had been for generations, Democratic. The gradual shift from solid Democratic to fairly solid Republican had begun, but it was very gradual. The all at once didn't finally arrive until 1994 and even then it wasn't until 2002, for instance, that Georgia went reliably Republican. That shift was noticable even if you weren't paying much attention. But look at my count. The northeast will mirror the south in the Senate next year and provide something like 27 more votes for the majority party in the House and there is little to indicate that, given the 2006 results, that disparity won't grow in 2008. Areas which haven't been represented by a Democrat in the House since the Civil War are going to be represented by one next year and there are other areas of the same type in the northeast (and midwest) where Republicans managed to hold on this time, but their margins of victory are shrinking.
For a long time Illinois in the midwest was a battleground state in Presidential elections. No more and next reapportionment will the state legislature think on Texas? Until 1992, no Democrat had ever been elected President who didn't win Texas. Does a Democrat have a snowball's chance in Texas now? In 1988, Michael Dukakis made one last attempt and went with Lloyd Bentsen rather than John Glenn. In 1992, it was the Ohio delegation which Bill Clinton chose to do the honors and provide the votes that nominated him. No Republican has ever been elected without winning Ohio. This year the Republican Party took a big hit in Ohio. Will it recover in only two years? The Republican Party took a big hit in California in the mid-'90s. Will it recover in another ten? Attorney General-elect and former governor Jerry Brown may end up, when all the votes are counted, with as big a vote total as Arnold. He has less than 50,000 less right now. And Pennsylvania? Want to know when Rick Santorum's fate (despite his fundraising version of election history) was sealed? It was sealed in 2002 when Pennsylvania's Democratic voters nominated Ed Rendell, rather than the favored Robert Casey, Jr., as their candidate for Governor. That one primary election resulted in a near-complete reversal in the fortunes of the two parties in that state.
Demographics matter. Political skills matter. Timing matters. Fundraising? Oh, does it matter. And sometimes a candidate is just lucky (or unlucky.)
Fresh Air was right when he wrote that open seats and turnout matter in off-year elections. It's something I've known for a very long time, but I also know, through decades of poring over results (forget listening to and making predictions and reading post-mortems) that, in the end, the voter is alone in the voting booth and, while many things aren't probable, all things are possible. In that light my only regrets regarding the decisions made by the voters in 2006 are that Michael Steele and Harold Ford didn't win Senate seats. My biggest surprise is that a House seat in California will be held not by the party for which the district was apportioned. The Talent loss in Missouri is the biggest warning to Republicans. The Democrats didn't lose any—so far, but Steele should be a warning to them.
My hope is that the people we've elected find a way to leave Iraq in better shape than we found it in and that they find it soon.