November 5, 2010


Heartland Headache: Democrats have to be more competitive in states that don’t touch an ocean if they want to bounce back. (Ronald Brownstein, November 4, 2010, National Journal)

The bigger problem is that in many states between the coasts, the Democrats’ coalition isn’t big enough on its own to provide a majority; to win, Democrats must run competitively among the rest of the white electorate, the college-educated white men, and noncollege white men and women. And on Tuesday, too few Democrats could meet that test. According to exit polls, Republican Senate candidates this week won at least 58 percent of noncollege whites in Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Republicans won all of those contests.

The House results paint a similar picture. Earlier this year (2/6/10, p. 20), National Journal divided House districts into quadrants based on whether the share of whites in them with college degrees exceeded the national average of 30.4 percent and whether the minority share of the population exceeded 30 percent, the figure a previous NJ analysis had found politically revealing. Even amid Tuesday’s gale, Democrats have lost only four of the 83 House seats they now hold that are high in both diversity and white education levels (with two more races to be called). At the other end of the spectrum, Republicans have already captured 35 of the 66 Democratic seats that are low in both diversity and white education levels, with two more undecided. In all, 47 House Democratic losses so far have come in districts in which the level of white college attainment lags the national average; just 16 came in districts that exceed that average. Talk about blue-collar blues.

These demographic patterns carry powerful geographical implications. After Tuesday, Democrats, incredibly, hold a majority of the congressional delegation in only three states—Iowa, New Mexico, and Vermont—that don’t directly touch an ocean. Republicans similarly routed Democrats in gubernatorial races across the Midwest and the border states, from Ohio and Tennessee to Wisconsin and Iowa.

So Democrats emerge from this week confronting a huge demographic hole: their meager performance among all white voters except women with college degrees (who tend to be both more socially liberal and more receptive to activist government).

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Posted by Orrin Judd at November 5, 2010 5:52 AM
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