Last week, the American Community Survey of the U.S. Census Bureau released figures of growth patterns in the U.S. for the two years since the initial 2010 census was made public.
The Daily Kos subsequently composed a spread sheet by Congressional district, which reflected the population patterns, including growth and decline, by each demographic. Predictably, it reflected the continuing migration of Latinos, and in many districts, a diminishing of Caucasians. Which brings me to what I’d like to think do best. Election prognosticating.
Now, predicting future elections based on those trends may not totally be feasible, if only because no group votes uniformly. And while national Congressional performance figures are available, ascertaining the nuts and bolts by demographic is even tougher, if not impossible, by specific Congressional district.
But if we were to extrapolate Presidential numbers, we do know that while Obama won nine out of ten black voters, seven out of ten Hispanics, and 73% Asian/Americans, while taking just 39% of the white vote. Therefore, even with each Congressional district being truly different, it’s not hard to extrapolate who benefits from the latest growth. Also, the percentage of African-Americans who voted in the last election out polled whites for the first time in 2012. Add that to the indisputable fact that Latino’s are growing in nearly every Congressional district and Democrats have reason to be giddy about making marginal seats ripe for the taking over the next few cycles, while Republicans should, if not be swallowing, then at least going to the store and purchasing TUMS.
Which means that if the two year district-by-district trend that ended in 2012 continues through November of 2014, providing the point tilt, nearly all of the two year growth in Congressional districts that both parties will target over next two cycles give Democrats reason to be hopeful.
The one exception:North Carolina-7,where whites outpaced others. Mike McIntyre has certainly shown ability to survive, particularly in new, politically hostile Republican territory, and may do so again. But his 655 vote margin — the closest in any Congressional race last year, leaves literally no wiggle room.
On the other hand, the Charlotte anchored ninth district, which saw Republican Robert Pittenger take a surprisingly tepid six point win in winning his first term, may be moving in their direct. Of the 27,000 new people added, half were white. But Charlotte is increasingly progressive, which means even some Caucasians have to be, if not card carrying members of the Democratic Party, than certainly Democratic sympathizers. The toxic ratings of the GOP Legislature won’t help Pittenger either. If this pattern continue, a high turnout 2016 may sink him.
For Democrats, one district that stood out was the very marginal Nevada-3, and figures reveal that the very marginal Nevada-3 is becoming even more so. In 2012, freshman Republican Joe Heck won re-election by 7%, a margin that belied the fact that his Democratic foe ran what strategists of both parties consider to have been among the most incompetent in the nation added 34,000 between 2010 and 2012. Just 2,000 are Caucasian.
In Arizona, it’s a similar story. No one can credibly predict the outcome of an election in swing territory 13 months in advance (though I sure like to try), but growth in Arizona-9 suggests Kyrysten Sinema would have to run really bad race to lose re-election. Her district added just 26,000. Just 1,000 were white.
Sinema’s Democratic colleagues in Arizona are even more battle tested, and Republicans are lining up candidates to make sure they stay that way. But the numbers give the incumbents a little more to work with. Kirkpatrick’s district saw a jump of 12,000, but a drop of 5,000 Caucasians. Barber’s district did not have a white decline, but growth was dwarfed by African-Americans and Latinos.
Florida may be a microcosm of GOP woes, as every growth report from the “Sunshine State” brings more sunshine to the Democrats.
The party’s top target next year is Steve Southerland, a very conservative Republican whose district may in fact be a microcosm of the state. His district takes in much of Tallahassee, but also some rural counties in the Panhandle. McCain and Romney each took 52%. But Obama’s ability to keep pace with his ’08 showing as he lost ground elsewhere was key to his 1% win statewide. That looks likely to continue. Again, Caucasians lost ground slightly in Southerland’s district, even as 11,000 people moved in.
Florida-7, a longtime fertile Republican bastion where once indomitable John Mica has held his seat for 22 years (he switched districts post-remap), gained 25,000 people. 20,000 were minorities.
Republicans still hold an edge, but it’s pretty quickly dwindling. McCain won the district 50-49%, while Romney hit 52%. But the pendulum may be swinging the other way.
And the district of the most perennially mentioned retiree, Bill Young, grew by 5,000, yet lost 6,000 white voters, likely increasing the district’s battleground nature when he does decide to move on.
Figures from Florida-10 were more less ominous for the GOP, but still would appear to have moved the ball for the Democrats closer to the gold post. There, 25,000 new residents entered the borders, and barely 10,000 were Caucasian. The district is a prime candidate to undergo changes if, as expected, a Judge taking up remap challenges orders new boundaries.
Then, there’s California. As many as ten Congressman, five from each party may face hurdles over the next two cycles. All are vulnerable for different reasons — mainly that most are freshmen or sophomores, but all are all continuing growth patterns that should make Democrats euphoric.
Freshman Ami Bera in particular knocked off longtime Republican incumbent Dan Lungren last year, saw his district gain 17,000, with Asians being a substantial part. His colleague and fellow physician to the south, Raul Ruiz, whose win last year marked the first election by a Democrat since the district was created in 1982, had a 12,000 people increase, but a Caucasian decline of 3,000. Similarly, Julia Brownley had a 9,000 person increase, but a 3,000 Caucasian decline.
Finally, San Diego’s Scott Peter’s will face a very tough road to a second term last year. If Carl DeMaio had stayed in the Mayor’s race following Bob Filner’s resignation, Peters’ road will be easier. But DeMaio decided to stay in the Congressional race, meaning Peters will need all the help he can get. He’ll get a little. Caucasians dropped 17,000. But he’ll stick likely have the closest race of any Golden State freshman.
Republican still hold 15 seats in the “Golden State,” but things are anything but golden. Trends indicate that the number of safe seats in just the immediate future will mean very few safe districts — perhaps no more than eight. Republicans have all but written off saving Gary Miller, whose win last year resulted from a primary system fluke. But central Californians Jeff Denham and Dave Valadao, both of whom hold Democratic leaning seats, saw Caucasian dips and minorities rise.
Further south, “Buck” McKeon’s district is not “on-the-bubble,” yet, but increasingly closer. 15,000 people moved there but Caucasians slipped by 10,000. Do the math. A McKeon retirement in a mid-term would benefit the GOP, but that advantage is slipping. A Presidential year retirement may be the final nail in the coffin. And the largest Asian population increase was in Ed Royce’s district. He faced a tough challenge last year and held with 58%. But that doesn’t mean he’ll be able to repeat that in perpetuity.
The sole bit of good news for California Rs: the one person the Democrats would dearly love to get just isn’t going to happen. Darrell Issa’s district grew up, but white growth basically kept pace with that of minorities.
Another epitome of the Republican woes is Northern Virginia. The second district, where Republican Scott Rigell defeated an incumbent in ’10 by a big margin, barely leans Republican. Rigell was a semi-target in ’12 and will be at least that next year. He has enjoyed a summer of strong publicity and may be able to hold. But the growth patterns are not on his side. Among Caucasian’s actually dropped slightly(by 464),meaning the roughly 14,000 new residents may well have erased the extra McCain percentage point the GOP added to cushion him in redistricting.
Rigell’s colleague, Frank Wolf, got 2% more GOP. He won’t have much trouble holding the seat but at 74 and with 34 years under his belt, has long been a rumored retiree. And that’s a headache for Republicans, for of the 31,000 folks who moved in, only 11,000 were white and given the proximity to DC, it’s a fair bet that many of those lean Democratic. As an example of the precariousness, Romney carried both districts 50-49%.
A similar story may be playing out on the other side of the country. Washington-8 has evaded Democrats for years, in some cases, by the narrowest of margins. Redistricting gave Dave Reichert a cross-Cascade district that reduced Obama’s percentage from 57% to 51% (he won it 50-49% in ’12). But three things may work in Democrats favor. Reichert is a moderate but Democrats have long sought to tie him to the national party. But Reichert may not sit around waiting for give them the opportunity. Reichert has toyed openly with running statewide, and a Senate and Gubernatorial race in 2016 would give him an opportunity. 20,000 people migrated to the district in the last two years, but the Caucasian population dropped.
Illinois-13 is a seat that was a virtual draw last time – just 1,002 votes separated Republican Rodney Davis from Democrat David Gill, who pre-election, seemed poised to win the seat. That nearly mirrored Romney’s margin over Obama’s in the district, despite the fact that the “Land of Lincoln” (Springfield is its anchor) gave Obama 55% in 2008. But a third party candidate drew 6%, and while both camps agreed that he took from each candidate, he was thought to have hurt Gill more.
Next year, there might not be a third party candidates to siphon votes and Democrats have already landed a strong recruit. And with Davis raising $400,000 in the first quarter alone, will need every boost they can get. They appear to have received it slightly in the demographic switch. Illinois-13 not only lost population, but also 11,000 white voters. This is a university district so it’s not clear exactly what that means but the beneficiaries would appear to be the Democrats.
The figures almost mirror that for Davis’ freshman Democratic colleagues, in Illinois, Bill Enyart in Bellville-East St. Louis, and Brad Schneider, who wrested a Cook County seat from a Republican who is gunning for a rematch.
The other state that may give Democrats justifiable optimism for gains is New Jersey, where party insiders are still seething over a remap that cost them a Congressional seat. But the state is only becoming more “blue” at the national level and migration suggests that seat, New Jersey-5, as well as up to three others, may be fruitful by decade’s end.
Next door, Rodney Frelinghysen’s district lost 2,000 people, but 11,000 Caucasians. NJ-11 still leans R and it’s hard to see the Congressman losing in the next few cycles. But he did take his lowest percentage in his 20 year tenure last year and, it’s not hard to imagine him having a serious fight on his hands before decade’s end.
Despite Scott Garrett being forced to absorb pockets that increased Democratic strength 3%, the numbers remain tough sledding for virtually anyone. But the new area and Garrett’s ardent conservatism all but guarantees even a weak challenger holding him to 55%, as was the case last year.Enter the new numbers. The two year figures showed the 5th adding 10,000 new people, but losing 11,000 Caucasians.
And in South Jersey, the marginal white population dropped slightly in NJ-2 (LoBiondo), while minority growth exceeded that of Caucasians in the third (Runyan). Obama took 52% in both districts.
As for Texas, I recently did a lengthy piece on the changing dynamics in that state, so except to reiterate the fact that virtually all of the suburban Austin/Dallas-Fort Worth/Houston districts in the “Lone Star” State that gave Mitt Romney under 60% will likely be up for grabs by the end of this decade. The sole seat that will be seriously contested this cycle, Texas-23, is held by Democrat Pete Gallego. But the Latino growth doubled that of Caucasians 2-1. Now Gallego did not win by much and redistricting added low turnout Latino precincts. So while a close race may still be on the horizon, the new figures give Gallego slightly more breathing room.
Other changes in targeted districts were less pronounced. Colorado-6, where an epic battle will be brewing between Mike Coffman and Andy Romanoff, added 30,000 people. Minorities only slightly outweighed Caucasians (another district in Colorado Democrats had hopes of taking at some point, the 3rd — Tipton on the western slope, reflected next to no change).
Utah-4, where Democrat Jim Matheson stared down Mitt Romney’s coattails to win perhaps the most surprising victory for his party, saw the white/minority influx at a virtual draw. Matheson obviously has a loyal following of white voters to give him staying power tim after time, but the trends are not unwelcome by any means.
And Michigan-1, where Dan Benishek’s 1,900 vote win was the closest of any winning Republican incumbent, the white figures dropped 4,000 as the district’s overall population stayed the same. But there as like nearly everywhere, the net numbers were in favor of the Democrats. And that’s a tune that continues to be played all over the country.
The growth patterns in no way mean Democrats could sit back and measure drapes or that Republicans should start licking their wounds. One hurdle that constantly plagues Democrats is turnout, and in many cases, registering potential voters is a big challenge. Additionally, the influx of voters doesn’t mean everyone in the household is of voting eligibility, or even voting age.
Either way, however, the patterns are unmistakable; positive for Democrats. Which means that somewhere down the road, the current talk of Republicans being marginal may simply be the tip of the iceberg.