September 9, 2010

WE'RE BAD...WE'RE NATIONWIDE:

The Republicans’ 50-State, 428-District Strategy (NATE SILVER, 9/08/10, NY Times)

This year, however, it is Republicans who have the broader playing field. According to research by Derek Willis of The New York Times, the Republicans will nominate candidates in 428 Congressional districts this year, leaving only seven races — all in overwhelmingly Democratic areas, like the South Side of Chicago — uncontested. This contrasts sharply with 2006, when Republicans left the Democrats unchallenged in 45 districts, or 2008, when they failed to nominate a candidate in 42 races.

The Democrats, for their part, are not doing badly: They will have a candidate on the ballot in 412 districts – all but 23 — which is better than their recent historical average. Still, this is a step down from 2008, when they left just 14 seats uncontested.

Shifts in the number of seats that each party is contesting can sometimes be a leading indicator for political waves. In 2006, for example, the year that Mr. Dean’s strategy came into fruition and the Democrats made significant electoral gains, Republicans went from leaving 29 Democrats unchallenged to 45. In 1994, by contrast, Democrats went from leaving 14 races uncontested to 36, before the party faced an infamous 54-seat reversal in the elections that November.

The relationship is probably more correlative than causal: It can be hard to persuade viable candidates to run for Congress unless they are convinced that they have at least some chance of winning, and in 2010 — a year that is shaping up to be both anti-Democrat and anti-incumbent — those currents would tend to favor Republicans.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 9, 2010 12:00 AM
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