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Looking Ahead to 2010 Elections, Part 4

In my previous post about the PVI data set, I looked at overall results for the entire House, with summary statistics for those “divided districts” that Barack Obama carried but were won by the Republican House candidate (i.e., Obama Republicans/OR), and vice versa (McCain Democrats/MD).

Let’s focus on the Democratic opportunities, such as they are, first. To do so, let’s go back to 2004 and see how the “Kerry Republicans” of 2004 fared in 2008. Again, 2004 was the post-1944 record low for divided districts at just 59. A mere 8 of these were Kerry Republicans. They are, in alphabetical order by state name:

  1. Chris Shays, CT-4
  2. Mike Castle, DE-at large
  3. Mark Kirk, IL-10
  4. Heather Wilson, NM-1
  5. Jim Walsh, NY-25
  6. Jim Gerlach, PA-6
  7. Charlie Dent, PA-15
  8. Dave Reichert, WA-8

Three of the five are already gone, replaced by Democrats: Shays (by Jim Himes); Wilson (by Martin Heinrich); and Walsh (by Dan Maffei). The other five include three that remain atop the list of elusive targets that have frustrated the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in recent cycles: Kirk, Gerlach and perhaps most especially Reichert. (For the record, the share of the 2008 vote for each of these five Republicans was: Castle, 61%; Kirk, 53%; Gerlach, 52%; Dent, 59%; and Reichert, 53%.)

Of course, there are a lot more Obama Republicans (34) than Kerry Republicans (8), and even when you subtract out the five above that survived both 2006 and 2008 despite the Democratic nominees carrying their districts, there are still 29 Obama Republicans left. As I mentioned in the previous post, 16 of these are in just three states: California, Obama’s Illinois and Michigan.

I’m gonna do an entire post on the California OR’s, so for now let’s look a bit closer at MI, given that the state’s 15-member delegation has just six Republicans and four of them are in “OR” districts–none of whom were also in KR districts. Along with district number and 2008 vote percentage, that quartet is:

  • Dave Camp, MI-4, 62%
  • Fred Upton, MI-6, 59%
  • Mike Rogers, MI-8, 58%; and
  • Thaddeus McCotter, MI-11, 51%.

What’s fascinating is that three of the four won comfortably, with about 60 percent of the vote; only McCotter appears to be in serious jeopardy. I suppose the obvious explanation for this is that the trio of safe incumbents are popular at home and were not blamed in 2008 by voters for the national economic crisis, while McCain and his proposals were viewed unsatisfactory. (The fundamentals of our economy were not strong, Senator.)

Because Democrats already hold nine of the delegation’s 15 seats, to get the 10th they will either have to knock out McCotter in 2010–or wait around for a post-gerrymandered set of districts in 2012. To do that, however, the Democrats will have to hold the governor’s office and flip the state senate, which Republicans control narrowly, 21 to 17. (The Democrats have a comfortable House margin in Lansing.)