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Tilting at Windmills

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October 16, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

MORE ON DEMOCRATS AND REDISTRICTING....In a recent column, Paul Krugman suggested that the structure of House districts is fundamentally rigged in favor of Republicans:

The key point is that African-Americans, who overwhelmingly vote Democratic, are highly concentrated in a few districts. This means that in close elections many Democratic votes are, as political analysts say, wasted they simply add to huge majorities in a small number of districts, while the more widely spread Republican vote allows the G.O.P. to win by narrower margins in a larger number of districts.

My back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that because of this ''geographic gerrymander,'' even a substantial turnaround in total Congressional votes say, from the three-percentage-point Republican lead in 2004 to a five-point Democratic lead this year would leave the House narrowly in Republican hands. It looks as if the Democrats need as much as a seven-point lead in the overall vote to take control.

Is this true? Krugman is referring to "majority-minority" House districts, in which minority voters are packed heavily into single districts in order to encourage the election of minority candidates. These districts were originally created as a result of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and their numbers were later enlarged thanks to the charmingly named "Project Ratfuck," a Republican program designed to help groups like the NAACP create greater numbers of majority-minority districts after the 1990 census. (See Rachel Morris's "The Race to Gerrymander" for the details.)

Did it work? The number of majority-minority districts increased from 27 to 56 after the 1990 round of redistricting, and in 1994 Republicans won a landslide victory in the midterm election. Case closed?

Not really. It's true that Republicans won 53% of House seats in the 1994 election, but they also won 53% of the two-party vote that year. And it's not just 1994. Delia Grigg and Jonathan Katz of Caltech, using data from congressional elections in every state from 1972-2000, have concluded that majority-minority redistricting has had at most a tiny effect in favor of Republicans and most likely no effect at all. Project Ratfuck may have been meant to help the Republican cause, but in practice it had very little impact. (Although it did help a lot more minority candidates get elected.)

The table below lays out more evidence. It shows the percentage of the two-party vote and the percentage of congressional seats won by Democrats in every election since 1992. In 1992 they won more seats than they should have, and in every election since then (with a modest exception in 1996) they've won nearly as many seats as the popular vote suggests they should. Dems do seem to have a structural disadvantage, but it's closer to 1% than 7%.

This doesn't prove anything conclusively in fact, the 1996 exception is a data point in favor Krugman's thesis but the overall evidence, combined with the Grigg/Katz results, suggests that majority-minority redistricting hasn't seriously affected the ability of Democrats to win congressional seats. If Dems win 53% of the two-party vote this November, I'll bet they win close to 53% of the seats too.

NOTE: I'm mostly posting this in hopes that someone who knows a lot about this stuff will see it and chime in. I'd be interested to hear some expert opinion about whether there's more to this than meets the eye.

Kevin Drum 6:43 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (96)

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Comments

I'm confused; what's the difference between Column 1 and Column 5? Both are expressed in percentages.

Posted by: David on October 16, 2006 at 6:51 PM | PERMALINK

I recall reading that Bush carried 260 CDs- in a 50-50 nation that smells like gerrymanding.

Posted by: raoul on October 16, 2006 at 6:54 PM | PERMALINK

I'd be interested to hear some expert opinion

Don't worry! Al and AH just got back from Signatures. The wisdom should be on its way any second now.

Posted by: enozinho (wetorture.com) on October 16, 2006 at 6:55 PM | PERMALINK

David: The first column is the % of vote received by Dem candidates. The fifth column is the % of the two-party vote received by Dem candidates.

Sorry that wasn't clearer.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on October 16, 2006 at 6:58 PM | PERMALINK

I'd be interested in how much effort is put on GOTV efforts in, say, Alcee Hastings' district compared to Clay Shaw's district next door. A color blind society would be as interested in motivating the black community's percentage of vote as the condo commandos do on the beachfront.

Posted by: minion of rove on October 16, 2006 at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK

I can only speak from my experience, but I grew up in Birmingham, where the area was split, basically on geographic lines, between two districts both represented by moderate Democratic congressmen. After the redistricting, we were represented by a liberal African-American Democrat and a right-wing Republican, though we got off easy and the right-wing Republican in question could be a lot worse and probably will be when Spencer Bachus retires.

Posted by: Mac on October 16, 2006 at 7:03 PM | PERMALINK

Sounds to me like the Democrats are moving into the same rarified and elaborate rationalizations for losing elections as for talking down economic statistics.

Posted by: mgm on October 16, 2006 at 7:08 PM | PERMALINK

Look at districts with Diebold.

Posted by: Al's Mommy on October 16, 2006 at 7:08 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, Kevin.

Could it be that the liberal caucus is starting to crack up? Could it be that looney lib Ken Drum is openly disagreeing with the shrill god of liberalism: Paul Krugman?

Now I've seen everything!

Posted by: egbert on October 16, 2006 at 7:10 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, that's right. Diebold's another classic excuse. For sure Democrats would get 95 percent of the vote in every election if only Republicans weren't cheating all the time.

Posted by: mgm on October 16, 2006 at 7:11 PM | PERMALINK

Not this year chipper and never again will R's have a Majority.When the Dems win in November they will hold Majority untill guess what the next round of (What we like to call Gerrymandering)Never Never will the Neocons pull this Country into the Shit pile you like to call red America.

Posted by: Thomas2 on October 16, 2006 at 7:19 PM | PERMALINK

The pathetic thing, of course, is that little Thomas1 will do almost anything to get the attention he craves. He was here several nights ago daring people to wager him on the outcome of the elections and when several people took him up on it, he pussed out. Now I see he's added several other stipulations. Get out of your Mom's basement son. Meet some girls. Really. It'll be good for you.

Posted by: Pat on October 16, 2006 at 7:26 PM | PERMALINK

It occurs to me, Kevin, that your analysis may be a bit simplistic. I don't know if this is true or not, but it seems pretty likely to me that the makeup of the district affects the likelihood of turnout. So the most polarized districts have the lowest turnout, while the most competitive have the highest. Moreover, turnout among supporters of obvious losers is lower than turnout among supporters of obvious winners, but I think this is probably true only to a point.

In other words, people who are going to win with just under 60% probably get huge turnout, pushing the number a little higher, but people winning with 70% probably don't get that boost. There are LOTS of Republican 60% districts and LOTS of Democratic 70% districts. Add that to the fact that the competitive districts will have an overstated influence (compared to population) on the final vote tally, and I think it's very possible that the vote totals are far more skewed toward reflecting the seating totals than they should be.

Posted by: jhupp on October 16, 2006 at 7:28 PM | PERMALINK

I'm quite sure you would pay when you lose.What a Bush

Posted by: Thomas2 on October 16, 2006 at 7:29 PM | PERMALINK

Presuambly Operation Ratfuck was simply to move from a pro-Democrat gerrymandered situation (e.g., 1992) to a relatively neutral situation.

Kevin should look at the results from the 80s and see if the Democrats had a greater percentage of House seats than they received of the 2-party votes. I'll guarantee they did.

Posted by: Al on October 16, 2006 at 7:30 PM | PERMALINK

OT...58 killed in Iraq through Oct. 15.I guess wishing just isn't getting the job done except maybe the other side's Wish Fairy is stronger than our Wish Fairy!Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm?

Posted by: R.L. on October 16, 2006 at 7:34 PM | PERMALINK

I'm 67 years old and do not live in a basement. No one has agreed to my bet -- the closest was the Americanist who tried to CHANGE my bet -- for the record, the wager is open until 12:00 midnight Pacific Time, November 6, 2006.

Posted by: Thomas1 on October 16, 2006 at 7:30 PM | PERMALINK

Yawn.

Posted by: Pat on October 16, 2006 at 7:35 PM | PERMALINK

A district system will always tend to magnify the popular vote majority into an even larger seat majority. Republicans get more than 0% of the votes for Congress in Massachusetts; Democrats get more than 20% in Kansas. If districts were drawn randomly, roughly fitting a bell curve in partisan performance, you would expect disproportionate results when you move left or right of the center. Mathematically the majority's advantage should exist whether the margin is narrow or large.

Posted by: CA Pol Junkie on October 16, 2006 at 7:36 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps you've both missed all of Kevin's threads lately,
Posted by: Thomas1 on October 16, 2006 at 7:23 PM | PERMALINK

. . . and apparently, you haven't missed a single one.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on October 16, 2006 at 7:39 PM | PERMALINK

My next question is "How did you get so stupid in only 67 years?"

Posted by: R.L. on October 16, 2006 at 7:40 PM | PERMALINK

Pat:

Stop misrepresenting my posts then.

Posted by: Thomas1 on October 16, 2006 at 7:38 PM | PERMALINK

Okay little Tommy. Feel better now? We are all paying attnention to you! So clever!! Mummy would be sooo proud.

Posted by: Pat on October 16, 2006 at 7:40 PM | PERMALINK

I am not an "expert". Krugman is not a rocket scientist that walks and chews gum simultaneously, and is obviously wrong in the context of my 'real' world. So let my apply a tad of Common Sense. But my inherent bias is that I am a Chicano from the Sonoran Desert residing here in Arizona.

Consequently, Arizona has 8 Congressional Districts,and the Legislature does not do the gerrymandering of boundaries. This is accomplished by a Commission.

Of these 8 Districts, two are held by Democrats. Grijalva from Tucson and South to the Mexico Border. Pastor is from Phoenix and he goes West to the California Border and South to the Mexico border, as well.

In District 1 which is the Northeast Quadrant of Arizona and meets up with the New Mexico border
and takes in the Dineh or the Navajo Nation. Consequently, District 1 is somewhat Democratic but only to the extent that Republican Renzi was elected with very strong support from the Conservative Democrats, or what is known nationally as the Blue Dog Democrats. And therein is the fallacy of Krugman's thesis.

Now in the Congressional District (currently Renzi's), the candidate can be a conservative Democrat and will always lose. The candidate can be a moderate Democrat and will always lose. Why? Because of competing self-interests. And that is Democracy at its best. Of course, the Republicans are at their best when using "wedge" issues and that is their mileau due to the rural nature of District 1.

And to further clarify the use of these "wedgies", is the issue of immigration. When Proposition 200 passed, it was supported by approximately 75% of Arizonans. Thus, who were these approximate 25% in opposition? Seventy-five percent of Chicanos and 10% of Progressive Anglos, and taken together, made up this 25%.

So, as it pertains to Krugman's thesis, it will be issues that the 'racial and ethnics' are passionate about, and not the skin color. As such, Grijalva and Pastor do not ask Chicanos to vote for them because they too are Chicanos,but they will ask for a Chicano(a) for their support due to the particular issue that is deemed important to the Chicano.

Perhaps, Krugman thinks along the lines of Identity Politics regarding his Thesis, and proceeds to lose it when it's not about the hard fought battles contained in the issues, whether it's economic or social.

And perhaps, if I applied the same Krugman "snarky" test onto Krugman. If so, I would view the "conservative" Anglo Democrats as the "sell-outs" to those of us Chicanos who continue to support the Democratic Party against all odds and to include the disloyal Democrats among us. And yet, these "sell-outs" who feel that the Republicans have more to offer in the way of any pertinent Anglo economic salvation, can pretty much kiss my keister any time they want. So now, you can see how easy it is to apply the Krugman "snarky" test to those of us who know better. And Krugman is wrong, even though I have admired his tenacity for these past few years.

And regardless of easily dismissing this column due to his wrong-headedness, I will continue to read and mostly agree with his columns in the NYT.

In summary, the Republicans have a 150,000 voter registration edge over Democrats, and having two secure Democratic seats is far better than what the Redistricting Commission initially suggested, which was one. Therefore, the Republicans would have had an easy run of table by pumping all their resources into the remaining Democratic district to support a DINO or Democrat in name only.

Posted by: Jaango on October 16, 2006 at 7:43 PM | PERMALINK

actually, we talked about this today in a class taught by samuel issacharoff (a leading expert). according to him, the # of districts where a 2.% swing would change the result is way down, and the same goes through the "safest" 30 seats for the repubs. he thinks it's possible that a 6.1% swing may be necessary for the Dems to get 15 seats. note that's only happened 2x since WWII. and that a 5% swing could leave us w/ a party controlling the house with less than 50% of the vote nationwide, which has never happened since WWII.

fwiw, he identified the problem as bipartisan gerrymandering - both parties are satisfied w/ entrenchment when it protects their incumbents.

backing this up is data that the second election after the latest redistricting was actually less competitive than the one before redistricting.

and if you care, his proposal is to have cts presume that any districting will b e unconstitutional unless done by a non-partisan body. unfortunately, no one on the supreme court seems to agree.

Posted by: matty on October 16, 2006 at 7:43 PM | PERMALINK

Pat:

I don't worry what anyone here thinks.

Posted by: Thomas1 on October 16, 2006 at 7:41 PM | PERMALINK

What a BRAVE little Tommy! Keep posting suhc clever clever comments! Everyone is hanging on my clever boy's EVERY word!!

Posted by: Pat on October 16, 2006 at 7:44 PM | PERMALINK

Does this adjust for the differences in population between districts? They are not as dramatic as in the Senate, but they can still make a difference. Given that sparsely populated states tend to be red, that would make the proportion of Rep seats higher than the overall vote totals would suggest.

Posted by: skeptic on October 16, 2006 at 7:46 PM | PERMALINK

It would be much more accurate to say that the main problem is gerrymandering by whichever party happens to control the government of a particular state. Note that the GOP made a smash comeback in the House after the 1991 wave of redistricting, at a time when they controlled more governnorships than they had in 1981.

However, while the balance in the number of seats held by each party since 1990 has actually been pretty close to a fair ratio, this won't necessarily hold up. Take a look at the vote margins for the 2004 House election ( http://www.cqpress.com/docs/2004Elections/2004_Elections_VEC.htm ), and note that the Dems would have had to beat the GOP by a margin of over 7% in the total national House vote just to get ANY majority -- however thin -- in the House! The Wonderful New Age of Computerized Gerrymandering -- which didn't really hit its stride until the 2001 redistricting -- will now provide whichever party controls a majority of state governorships with an even bigger unfair edge than they had before. (Of course, since Tom Delay broke the long-held Gerrymandering Truce between censuses by redistricting Texas again in mid-decade, one can now expect both parties to start re-gerrymandering states in their favor the moment they retake control of the state government.)

Posted by: BruceMoomaw on October 16, 2006 at 7:50 PM | PERMALINK

A clear case of disenfranchisement is the District of Columbia. The population is close to 600K people, who have no voting representation in Congress. It is a majority African-American population and overwhelmingly Democratic.

Efforts to make DC a state aren't going to go anywhere in the current climate. It would give 2 Senators to the Dems and 1 or maybe 2 Representatives.

Here's a suggestion: Move DC back into Maryland except for the specifically Federal areas (Mall, monuments, White House, Congress, etc.). That would add 1 or 2 Representatives to that state's total. It gives the people representation, it tilts an already blue state blue-er, it gives it a bit more heft, but it doesn't add any Senators. The Republicans might go for it, eventually.

Posted by: larry birnbaum on October 16, 2006 at 7:52 PM | PERMALINK

One of the reasons when they have a say in the issue why Democrats go along with large minority districts is that it guarantees minorities in the House at a % relatively close (or at least not horribly underrepresented) in the House. On the other hand, the Senate has one black member at the moment. Why? Because no states are majority or even substantially black.

When the Democrats take over the House in January, several black will be committee chairman, and in one change of power, Nancy Pelosi will be the most important elected woman in US history, and Charles Rangel, as Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means, will be the most important black elected official in US history.

Posted by: hopeless pedant on October 16, 2006 at 7:53 PM | PERMALINK

here's a link to some more in-depth treatment, though i'm not sure whether it's the final version:
http://www.law.nyu.edu/clep/f06naglerarticle.pdf

Posted by: matty on October 16, 2006 at 7:53 PM | PERMALINK

Tommy, give it a rest. The adults are talking. Seriously my friend, if you really are 67 years old, posting repeatedly here like a little attention craved parrot at all hours of the day, that is the saddest shit I've ever heard. Tommy, how many more years have you realistically got? At 67 you could go literally at any time. And you are spending the few precious minutes you have left posting Dittohead talking points and trying to hijack all the posts in a sick desire to have people interact with you. You are one sad little man.

Posted by: Pat on October 16, 2006 at 8:03 PM | PERMALINK

If all Democrats are as dumb as this Thomas fellow is, I can see why they keep losing elections.

Posted by: K on October 16, 2006 at 8:10 PM | PERMALINK

Thomas1. Like a fart, that won't go away.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on October 16, 2006 at 8:10 PM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: mmf铃声 on October 16, 2006 at 8:15 PM | PERMALINK

This thread is toast Kevin. Why don't you write about that thing I sent you this morning? :)

Posted by: enozinho (wetorture.com) on October 16, 2006 at 8:17 PM | PERMALINK

There is no fundamentally "fair" way to draw political districts. Concentrating inner cities in compact districts can lead to the split referenced in Birmingham above. But carving up a city to spread its votes into neighboring rural districts can be grossly unfair to said city, splitting its residents and leaving it without any clear representative.

Posted by: trotsky on October 16, 2006 at 8:21 PM | PERMALINK

Could'nt jerrymandering backfire. i.e. would'nt a large enough swing flip a disproportionate number of seats?

My feeling is that November 7 will either be a flop or a smashing success for the democrats. I don't forsee a narrow victory.

As for the Diebold factor, did Mitofsky and Edison(?) ever release the raw data from the exit polls?

Posted by: ppk on October 16, 2006 at 8:30 PM | PERMALINK

I have to admit that while I suspect it is true I also think it is proper. That is to say the way the House is designed (as opposed to the senate) should favor a party that attracts a widely spread demographic. The Senate meanwhile will generally favor the clustered cities.

Checks and balances.

Posted by: Tlaloc on October 16, 2006 at 8:38 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

This analysis is too simplistic to prove the point you want to make. Create a table that bins the districts by election into very competitive districts (+/-5%), typical districts (+/- 5-15%) and uncompetitive districts (+/- >15%) for both republican and democratic seats. If the dems seats are now substantially more gerrymandered, you would expect a higher percentage of dems to be in uncompetitive districts, while the repubs would have an increasing number of very competitive or typical districts.

The data you have here isn't showing the trend in the distribution, which is what you need to use to provide evidence for or against the hypothesis.

Posted by: D_Rumsfeld on October 16, 2006 at 8:41 PM | PERMALINK

One thing you missed is that Republican turnout is generally quite a bit higher than Democratic. The most democratic voters, poor blacks and hispanics have by far the worst voting rate while Republican voters are disproportionately well off and white and well voters. Generally this falls in the tough noogies category, sorry Dems if you want to elect your candidates, get off your sorry asses and register and turn out your voters. But in this case it means that the gerrymander works. Republicans are getting about as many seats as their share of the popular vote, but districts are not apportioned on the number of voters but rather the number of citizens. As a result the total number of votes cast in a typical Democratic district is less than the number cast in a Republican district, which means that generally Republicans need more votes to win the same number of districts (or equivalently that Republicans get proportionately larger margins when support is balanced).

Posted by: economaniac on October 16, 2006 at 8:47 PM | PERMALINK

I think the Dems have an 90% chance of winning the House, a 25% chance of winning the Senate - that means they have a 22.5% chance of winning both.

There's your answer, Tommy1. So I don't care to wager that they will win both. Now go away.

Posted by: hopeless pedant on October 16, 2006 at 8:53 PM | PERMALINK

American conservatives have a fundamental disdain for free and fair elections. William Rehnquist spent time in his youth trying to block black people from being allowed to vote. Antonin Scalia famously wrote that, "No American has a right to have their vote counted" in the hideously obtuse Bush v. Gore legal abomination.

Conservatives prefer rigged elections and they like it when few people show up at the polls. Then, the knuckle-dragging conservative "pro-choicers" get a disproportionately large say in the way the country is governed.

Keep in mind that in any midterm election like this year, less than 40% of eligible voting age adults show up at the polls. So, even if a mentally defective retard like Rick Santorum wins by 51%, that means that about 20% of adults in America are saying this turd should decide the future of this great country. How pathetic is that???

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on October 16, 2006 at 9:07 PM | PERMALINK

Redistricting may be a wash nationally, but it has had a huge impact in Michigan. In 2004, with all 15 seats having incumbents running, the Dems got 49.49 percent of the 2-party vote, and the Repubs got 50.5. However, that translates to 9 Republican seats and 6 Democratic seats. Gerrymandering works.

Posted by: MarvToler on October 16, 2006 at 9:08 PM | PERMALINK

Whether or not gerrymandering or race based redistricting is the cause of the Republican advantage is irrelevent to the question of whether that advantage exists. In 2004, Bush won in 59% of the nation's house districts in spite of only getting 51% of the vote, which would seem to suggest an advantage close to what Krugman came up with. So why has voting seen a much smaller Republican advantage? It turns out a lot of voters are willing to give a chance to Congressman from the other party, or much more so than they do for presidents. There are a number of reasons for this, partly because the parties shift leftward or rightward locally to fit the district, partly because with local politics things like name recognition matter more, and issues and party IDs less.

What you have to keep in mind is that partisanship has been rising and ticketsplitting dropping, which has worked to the Republican's benefit. If you harden a 50/50 split in the country, but with everyone always voting for the same party, Republicans would get the 59% of House seats where Bush won, and a filibuster-proof Senate majority. In fact, Republican gains in the Senate can be entirely attributed to rising partisanship -- their gains have been in solid red states in elections where the majority of voters nationwide have voted for Democratic senators.

Your table shows a Republican seat advantage of 2% in 2004. However, the 8% difference is important in another way -- far more of the Dems have to win among conservatives than Republicans have to win among liberals, so the overall ideology of Congress is skewed to be more conservative than the country as a whole. This is even more true in the Senate -- keep in mind Bush won 60% of the states in the 2000 election, when he lost the popular vote.

That said, I don't know that any of this applies to the current political climate, as this is no longer a 50/50 nation. It really looks like a lot of people who have voted for Bush will be voting Democrat.

Posted by: Eric L on October 16, 2006 at 9:14 PM | PERMALINK

I heard on the news that Rove and Bush are quite relaxed about the upcoming election, being confident that the Repubs will keep both houses.
Anybody know why?

Posted by: nepeta on October 16, 2006 at 9:45 PM | PERMALINK

California - had Dems been able to redistict the way the GOP did in Texas - could have managed to swing up to 10 more seats the party's way.

The problem is that in this state reapportioning has to get 2/3s approval from both houses, so basically the incumbents from both parties make sure they are mostly safe.

I believe the closest race in our 52(?)districts in 2004 was 54-46. With a few GOP seats in contention this time, we likely see some closer.

Posted by: hopeless pedant on October 16, 2006 at 9:46 PM | PERMALINK

I heard on the news that Rove and Bush are quite relaxed about the upcoming election, being confident that the Repubs will keep both houses.
Anybody know why?
Posted by: nepeta on October 16, 2006 at 9:45 PM | PERMALINK

They know that their $20 plus a Snickers bar will keep Thomas1 online, busy demoralizing Democrats with "wanna bet?" challenges so they won't vote.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on October 16, 2006 at 10:08 PM | PERMALINK

What Eric L said.

What Krugman actually described was a "levee" -- there are not a lot of seats, which are affected by a small swing in voter sentiment.

And, what Eric L said.

The political Parties are actually weird coalitions of State or local Parties, the two Congressional caucuses of each Party, and a national Presidential Party. While the system for electing a President tends to suppress third-Party movements, in the legislature, the same single district, first past the post system tends to encourage third and fourth parties. In the British Parliament, those third and fourth Parties have names, but in the U.S. Congress they are disguised, to protect the Presidential Parties.

The Parties on the State and local level can shift their positions freely to overcome ideological gerrymanders. Democrats in a conservative State are conservatives. Duh. And, once in Congress, there can actually be substantial advantages to being say a conservative Democrat dealing with a Republican President or a moderate Republican dealing with a Democratic President.

Posted by: Bruce Wilder on October 16, 2006 at 10:18 PM | PERMALINK

These statistics don't prove a thing. The whole
point of the gerrymandering is to protect the
Republican majority against small vote swings.
And the figures show it has held up fine against
a Dem vote share as high as 50.2%. What happens
with a Dem vote share of 52%, 53%, 54%, 55% ?
Up to some point the levee holds, and then suddenly
a wide swathe of narrowly-Republican districts
get swamped. What happens in the narrow vote-share
range 47-50.2% tells us *nothing* about what happens
beyond that range.

Posted by: Richard Cownie on October 16, 2006 at 10:24 PM | PERMALINK

Really, answering Kevin's question requires at mimimum a detailed analysis of the exact party breakdown in every district across America. Failing that, you just don't know by what percentage districts might be tilted one way or another. For all we know, at this time 90% of districts in America could be so gerrymandered that they are 75% tilted in favor of a particular party, and only the remaining 10% more competitive than that.

Somebody, somewhere, surely has the relevant data.

But not, I gather, anyone who has posted here yet.

Posted by: frankly0 on October 16, 2006 at 10:24 PM | PERMALINK

All this talk of redistricting "packing" and "Cracking" reminds me that, as the old saying goes, "politics ain't beanbag." And speaking of political hardball, Mike Rogers, the gay activist who outed Rep. Ed Schrock, forcing his resignation from Congress, announced today on his website that tomorrow he will be publicly outing a gay Republican incumbent United States Senator. I certainly look forward to seeing Al and Thomas1 spin that one!!!

Posted by: Steve on October 16, 2006 at 10:27 PM | PERMALINK

Probably you could get a first order approximation to an answer to Kevin's question just be putting together a breakdown of each district in America along party lines into a spreadsheet, and then just running it through a few hypothetical scenarios of vote shifts.

But you need the data.

Posted by: frankly0 on October 16, 2006 at 10:29 PM | PERMALINK
Care to wager Thomas1 7:10 PM
Still defending child predators and their enablers?
Care to wager Thomas1 at 7:55 PM
Some pathetic little attention whore needs to grow up.

One man, one vote, not in this country.

Posted by: Mike on October 16, 2006 at 10:43 PM | PERMALINK

Thomas1 writes:

Care to wager that the Democrats do NOT win both Houses of Congress?'

No. A few posters had previously boasted that no one here dared take them up on the bet that A) Republicans retains control of both the House and Senate (A Hawk), or B) Reps retains and/or gains numbers in both House and Senate (Rogers). It appears both were acts of bravado, and nothing more. The premise was "we Republicans are utterly confident that we'll destroy the Democrats and not only retain control, but gain seats." That clearly didn't stand to reason, given the events of the past few months. No one here has blustered about Democrats taking control of both the House and Senate, so I'm not sure why you've moved the goalpost and are putting that challenge up.

Posted by: Andy on October 16, 2006 at 10:56 PM | PERMALINK

The founders of this country wanted the lower house to register the mood swings of the public - thats why its called the House of Representatives. The professional political class in this country, of both parties, have worked strenuously to subvert that principle, and the so called Voting Rights Act is only one tool in their toolbox. Passing incoherent laws that require extensive constituent service to administer is another, because Congressmen would much rather be ombudsmen than decision-makers.

If Arnold's plan had been supported by people like Kevin last year, or if we had a nationwide system as is done in Iowa, we'd have a lot fewer clowns like Cynthia McKinnie [or Ron Paul, if you prefer] and a lot more concensus builders. I think it would be good for the country even if the numbers Kevin has put up are accurate.

Posted by: minion of rove on October 16, 2006 at 10:59 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know about the effect of majority-minority districts nationwide, but in Arizona it permits the most radical rightwing Republicans to control the legislature. Being Hispanic is highly correlated with being a registered Democrat, and housing patterns make it easy to create contiguous districts containing large majorities of Hispanic Democrats. As a result Hispanics can elect 1 Democrat to the House of Representatives, and a couple to the legislature.

Of the remaining districts, a large majority are safe Republican seats. The lack of effective competition means that the small core of Republican party faithful can dominate the nomination process and give us rightwing candidates who get elected to the legislature.

This is a State where party registration is split about 43% Rep, 37% Dem, and 20% Ind. You would think it would be very competitive. In votes for statewide office or on ballot propositions, it will vote for moderate Democrats and moderately progressive measures. But our legislature is about 60% Republican and its leadership is hardcore right wing.

We even have a State commission on redistricting that was given the mandate to create competitive legislative districts. After the 2000 Census redistricting, I heard its chairman say that doing so was actually impossible under current law. Arizona is under a federal desegregation order because of the years in which it attempted to dilute Hispanic votes in districts that were majority Anglo. The penalty for this is that Arizona must create majority-minority districts whenever possible. Once you do what the federal courts have required, there aren't enough Democrats left over to make the remaining districts competitive.

The Republicans have spent the last 25 years figuring out how to win elections locally and nationally and have used every trick and strategem that would help them. I suspect that the voters will punish them in November, but the Democrats had better find out how to win elections on their own, and fast, or their command of power in Washington will be short lived.

We need structural change in our voting laws to restore effective competition in politics. That will bring the debate back toward the middle, and THAT will be very good for America.

Posted by: RWC on October 16, 2006 at 11:02 PM | PERMALINK

I think Krugman is right about the high # of majority-minority seats hurting Dem numbers in the House - but not exactly in the way he's talking about it. It's not because it necessarily (and heavily) favors Republicans - it's because it makes Democratic-friendly gerrymanders extremely difficult, much more so than Republican-friendly gerrymanders. And those used to really help increase the number of Dem seats.

James Campbell had a book out in the 1990's on the Democrat's "unfair" advantage in House races, how for years and years they got more seats than votes. That came to a halt in 1994. As the thread notes now the seat distribution looks a lot like the nation-wide percentages. That wasn't the case pre-1994 (going back long before 1992). And it could be that the creation of these districts Krugman talks about played a role in ending the seats/votes disparity.

Posted by: Armand on October 16, 2006 at 11:14 PM | PERMALINK

I think there is something to both arguments.

Let's look at Krugman's assertion that gerrymandering super-majorities and "rat-fucking" the will of the people equals a radical agenda perpetrated by a sliver-like minority of puppet-masters. Divide that by the number of trolls on this thread, then multiply that by the crass opportunism of the GOP lobbyists (infinity) and you see that both Krugman and Drum are correct to say GOP=death of representative government.

QED.

Posted by: Sparko on October 16, 2006 at 11:16 PM | PERMALINK

Who takes Krugman seriously anymore?

Posted by: Down goes Frazier on October 16, 2006 at 11:35 PM | PERMALINK

Democrats Win Senate Popular Vote
by Chris Bowers, Wed Nov 10, 2004 at 04:38:21 PM EST
As difficult as it may be to believe, in the one-hundred Senate elections that have involved the one-hundred Senators who will serve next year, Democrats actually received more votes than Republicans:
Total Two-Party Votes: 189,334,976 (unofficial)
Democratic Candidates: 94,965,901 (50.16% of the two-party vote)
Republican Candidates: 94,369,075 (49.84% of the two-party vote)
So, Democrats won the Senate popular vote, but are facing a 55-45 minority

more conSensus builders.minion of rove at 10:59 PM

Since the No Child Left Behind act, the Republicans have shown zero interest in consensus. In fact, according to GOP strategist, Norquist, bipartinship is just another word for date rape

Posted by: Mike on October 17, 2006 at 12:02 AM | PERMALINK

Mike:

One man, one vote, not in this country.

Would have been funny as hell if you had succeeded in abolishing the Electoral College after 2000. At least we wouldn't be listening to bitter Democrats bitching about Ohio right now.

Who are you kidding? If Kerry had carried Ohio, with Bush still three million votes ahead, you would have said the Electoral College was the greatest thing ever invented in the history of this country.

Flexible principles, and all that.

Posted by: monkeybone on October 17, 2006 at 12:24 AM | PERMALINK

Supremely ig-nurnt question -- but I don't get TimesReject, so I can't read Krugman.

What is meant precisely by majority-minority districts?

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on October 17, 2006 at 12:30 AM | PERMALINK

I heard on the news that Rove and Bush are quite relaxed about the upcoming election, being confident that the Repubs will keep both houses.
Anybody know why?

Somebody's wrapped up in their self-delusions here. On November 7th, we find out who.

Remember, all polls are made up of people who don't tell pollsters to get bent when they answer the phone.

Posted by: cartwheel on October 17, 2006 at 12:31 AM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: gsd on October 17, 2006 at 12:46 AM | PERMALINK

A majority-minority district is one where the majority of the registered voters fall into a minority category.

Posted by: Global Citizen on October 17, 2006 at 12:56 AM | PERMALINK

Who takes Krugman seriously anymore?

Serious people, i.e. not you.

Posted by: brooksfoe on October 17, 2006 at 1:00 AM | PERMALINK

Thomas1,
Are you talking about the war that was going to last 6 months tops, and cost no more than 7 billion? The fact is that Our Fellow Countrymen are still dying for no effin reason. If Hussein was still in charge, would your freedom be compromised in any way, shape, or form? The Army is so desperate it will certainly take a very confused 67 year old mommys boy! Once Again... Iraq had nothing to do with September 11, 2001. Also, according to our own intelligence agencies, there had been no state-sponsored terrorism in Iraq since about 1990. We now have a certified nutbag openly threatening us with nuclear weapons and our flunky is fast asleep. Wake up America!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Ralphy D on October 17, 2006 at 1:20 AM | PERMALINK

Globe:

Oh, duh. Talk about a category mistake :)

Thanks,

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on October 17, 2006 at 1:29 AM | PERMALINK

At least North Korea with nukes is a "threat" to the U.S. -- we can agree on that?

Funny, but you sound almost relieved.

Must be nice to have your fear confirmed as rational.

Posted by: floopmeister on October 17, 2006 at 2:09 AM | PERMALINK

The GOP did in fact steal the presidency, twice, and the GOP is in fact right now actively working to steal the 2006 Elections. A "do everything" Republican assault on democracy used intimidation, fraud, vote theft, computer rigging, machine distribution manipulation, a fake Homeland security alert, trashing of provisional ballots, denial of a recount and dozens more "dirty tricks" to produce a 118,775 "official" margin for Bush that was an utter fiction.

Exit polls in nine swing states showed Kerry a clear winner as late as 12:21 am on election night. Nationwide exit polls showed him with a 1.5 million vote margin in the popular vote. But somehow, against all statistical probability, Bush wound up with a popular vote victory of nearly 3.5 million.

And somehow, against all statistical probability, he carried Ohio and three other states (Iowa, Nevada and New Mexico) where he had been the clear loser in the exit polls. Ohio alone was sufficient to give him a second term, just as Florida had been in 2000.

Such an outcome is beyond implausible - unless you saw how the Rove-Blackwell machine stole the vote. The tactics the GOP perfected in Ohio 2004 are now being used in 2006 and honed for re-use in 2008.

Neither the Republican-Owned Mainstream Media or the core of the Democratic Party has been willing to face the reality that unless our entire election system immediately gets a total top-to-bottom revamp by an informed public willing to deal with the systematic poisoning of American democracy, there will be no honest elections in the US in 2006 or in 2008.

Posted by: HAND COUNTED PAPER BALLOTS on October 17, 2006 at 2:55 AM | PERMALINK

If anyone wants to put their money where their mouth is, ignore the paid troll's attempt to steal your money and instead buy a contract on the Iowa Electrinic Markets

The market is currently predicting a 67% chance that the GOP will lose the House, a 35% chance that the GOP will lose the Senate, and a 33% chance that the GOP will loss both houses.

Posted by: Disputo on October 17, 2006 at 5:26 AM | PERMALINK

It sounds like Krugman is preparing excuses for Democrats if they fall short of taking one or both houses of Congress. Sort of like hedging your bet, he is making excuses like: the election was stolen cause of the lawyers, voting machines, voter intimidation, GERRYMANDERING, the moon was blue.

Posted by: Berlins on October 17, 2006 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

You can't assume that total turnout is independant of the presence/absence/nature of gerrymandering. Majority-minotity districts increase voter apathy in November general elections. There often is no local contest so minority dems don't bother to show up.

If we had mixed districts (i.e. with elections pinning Al Sharpton vs. David Duke with polling that was 50/50) democratic turnout in high minority areas would rise significantly.

Posted by: B on October 17, 2006 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK
In a recent column, Paul Krugman suggested that the structure of House districts is fundamentally rigged in favor of Republicans

And let's not forget that the Senate is constitutionally rigged in favor of Republicans. Think of it: the entire (left-of-center) 36 million population of California only gets two senators, while the rural Republican Dakotas get four senator. California gets one senator per 18 million people, while South Dakota gets a senator for every 400,000 people. Wyoming gets a senator for every 250,000 people!

Populous states with large (generally Democratic-leaning) urban centers get the short end of the stick when it comes to representation in the Senate.

Posted by: Will on October 17, 2006 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry if someone already posted this but using Kevin's numbers, I calculated the expected Dem House seats as Dem Vote % times 435 (total House seats) to get expected Dem Seats and here are the actual - expected numbers: 1992 - plus 29; 1994 - plus 2; 1996 - minus 12; 1998 - minus 4; 2000 - minus 5; 2002 - minus 3; 2004 - minus 10.

I think this is a more informative stat in this case.

Posted by: Matt Lantz on October 17, 2006 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

Looking at the 1994 column, there is the lowest percentage for Democrats and a surge for Republicans. As this was an off year election, one would expect a lower turnout. However, the NRA brought their people out in droves to turn out anyone who had voted for the Brady Bill in 93.

One hears time and again about Reagan Democrats. What about NRA Democrats who switched their votes to the Republicans in 94?

It was not about corruption nor was it about The Contract For America in 94. It was about the Brady Bill.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on October 17, 2006 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

Charlie: Plenty of people in earlier threads -- especially shortstop and craigie -- have been gloating about the Democrats taking the House AND Senate.

What crap. I never said anything of the sort, and highly doubt craigie did either. You don't lie any more effectively than your commander in chief does, and you sound even more desperate than he, if that were possible.

Posted by: shortstop on October 17, 2006 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

Seriously, Kevin, it's long past time you banned Charlie/Cheney/"Don P."/Thomas1. This clown really diminishes the value of these threads with his serial dishonesty.

Which, after all, is his purpose, isn't it?

Posted by: Gregory on October 17, 2006 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

Gerrymandering is quite real and does have an impact. Look at the Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvannia congressional districts. All three states are closely divided on the presidential level; two have Democratic governors, and Democrats won Penn and Mich in both 2000 and 2004.

Ohio is 11-7 GOP.
Michigan is 9-6 GOP.
Penn is 12-7 GOP. This was a particularly blatant redistricting effort.

This adds up nationwide. The problem for the GOP is that if you get too greedy - or demographics change - you can lose a ton of seats all at the same time. Here in Ohio, for example, Franklin county (Columbus) has gone from republican leaning (repub mayor in 94) to very strongly democratic. As a result, the gerrymander that split Columbus in two and added a bunch of rural voters is no longer giving either local GOP rep a strong safe margin.

If the Dems control redistricting in key 2010 states, the GOP will receive what they have given, and I'd look for a decade where the republicans have the same problems that the democrats had in this decade. Except that the GOP will have to deal with the ruinous Bush legacy...

Posted by: Marc on October 17, 2006 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry, Gregory. I know better than to take the bait. I just didn't want anyone who matters thinking that I'd said such a thing.

I gloat over Bush's palpable frustration, Rick Santorum's hysteria, Joe Lieberman's whining, Denny Hastert's dive-bombing career and the endless list of other Republican failures. I don't make and never have made confident predictions about what will happen Nov. 7.

Posted by: shortstop on October 17, 2006 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

There is an extremely good reason why no one is taking thomas' bet. The Iowa Electronic Markets are offering much better odds. Currently, those markets will pay 2 to 1 if the Democrats take both houses. And a wager there can be set up without having the hassle of dealing with Thomas' un-named escrow service.

Thomas' wager is being ignored because it is a sucker's bet.

Posted by: Raskolnikov on October 17, 2006 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

Isn't online gambling illegal in the U.S.?

Who's reporting Thomas1 the Bookie to the F.B.I.?

Posted by: frank on October 17, 2006 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

This looks like a CYA column in case the Dems fail to sieze the control of congress.

"See I reported concerning the Dems possible defeat, I am non-partisan."

Perfect example of self-interest which can found in written columns everywhere. It makes the appearance of left/right wing conspiracies seem to be a reality.

Posted by: Orwell on October 17, 2006 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

Please re-read the terms of my wager above.

Yeah, IOW, your wager is a strawman, Chuckles.

Posted by: frank on October 17, 2006 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

This clown really diminishes the value of these threads with his serial dishonesty.

Which, after all, is his purpose, isn't it?

Of course it is, which he will even admit to when pressured.

Posted by: Disputo on October 17, 2006 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

Shortstop,

In the future, when making predictions or merely commenting on the predictions of another, you MUST post with great or excessive, or even smugness or malicious satisfaction. Otherwise you would be merely commenting on your perceived hope in the predictions.

Damn it, lady, will you please rise to the level of GLOAT, so the little toy engine can, at least, be right about something.

Let us hear it for GLOAT!!!

Posted by: thethirdPaul on October 17, 2006 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

Charlie: shortstop:

So, who posted this to Cal Gal -- does it depend on what your definition of "confident" is?

Scotian, I saw Washington Week (love that show. Best of the MSM, reporter to reporter rather than talking heads), and also Brooks and Shields on Lehrer. Brooks predicted both House and Senate gone, and Shields predicted 30 House seats. So hope you're right.

I definitely think we are taking the House; probably the Senate too!

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2006_10/009772.php#981550

Why, you did, Charlie, using my handle in a laughable post-dated attempt to cover your ass after getting busted lying. When are you going to learn to correctly use a semicolon, by the way?

Posted by: shortstop on October 17, 2006 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

Gloat...gloat...gloat. The Democrats will win the House.

Gloat...gloat...gloat. The Democrats will win the House.

Gloat...gloat...gloat. The Democrats will win the House.

Gloat...gloat...gloat. The Democrats will win the House.

Gloat...gloat...gloat. The Democrats will win the House.

Nancy Pelosi will be the new Speaker.

Gloat...gloat...gloat. The Democrats will win the House.

Posted by: GOP defector on October 17, 2006 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

Gloat...gloat...gloat. The Democrats will win the House.

Gloat...gloat...gloat. The Democrats will win the House.

Gloat...gloat...gloat. The Democrats will win the House.

Let's hear it for the gloat!

Posted by: GOP defector on October 17, 2006 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

Next troll?

Gloat...gloat...gloat. The Democrats will win the House.

Posted by: GOP defector on October 17, 2006 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

Wind, I keep telling you, that "Charlie's real agenda" meltdown had to be an impostor. Charlie's a different kind of cra-zay.

Anyway, right now I'm distracted by having another kind of game played on me. Is it a full moon? Because people are acting kind of insane. And I've about reached my quota of it.

Posted by: shortstop on October 17, 2006 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't electronic gambling going to become illegal with the recent bill passings? Maybe I should do my civic duty and turn Thomas into the authorities! Ha! One less chaw chewing knuckle dragging troll.
Oh yeah, I forgot, I'm a troll.

...another visit from the peckermeaner

Posted by: peckermeaner on October 17, 2006 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

Charlie, you'll snap at any old bait. What a predictable tool you are.

Posted by: shortstop on October 17, 2006 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

No, shortstop is not. I am the peckermeaner. I just don't like giving out emails (sorry about the asdf). I troll in the shadows but am open to debating if done intelligently. Otherwise, I just irritate if the mood strikes me. However, do not fear me. I'm not an evil Rovian-clone troll like Thomas1.

Thomas1:

I didn't miss that part. My 'implied' point is that due to the machinations of the right wing, chaw chewing knuckle draggers, doing what you just did will in the future, be illegal in any state. So your offer could be, if timing were different, not only invalid but i_l_l_e_g_a_l. And who knows, given whomever might be in power at the time, you could be carted off as an enemy combatant, whose to say you weren't.

Next Thomas1!, stay tuned for the portion of our show where just thinking about gambling will be illegal once it's sneaked into some similarly unrealted bill like the gambling legistlation was. But first a word from our sponsor.

"...this has been another visit from the peckermeaner"

Posted by: peckermeaner on October 17, 2006 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK


I am truly disappointed in the participation and the value that is in this thread,with a few exceptions. To wit, the youthful exuberance for flame wars among the nonsensical, is a sight to behold.

Perhaps, in the future, this thuggish behavior can be reduced so the "adults" can have a more informative discussion without having to scroll over this nonsense emanating from usual sort of chumps.

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Posted by: discount pharmacy on October 19, 2006 at 7:19 AM | PERMALINK

From Hacker and Piersons recent book, Off Center:

If Bush had received the exact same vote share in 2004 that he received in 2000 (that is, 48 percent), he still would have managed to win in 239 of the nation's 435 House districtsor almost 55 percent. He actually won 255 districts in 2004, or almost 59 percent, while winning around 51 percent of the vote (slightly higher if the calculation excludes Ralph Nader's 1 percent). In other words, House districts are now drawn so that an evenly divided country can produce surprisingly lopsided GOP victories. Indeed, the Republicans gained seats in the House in 2004 only because of Tom DeLay's redistricting scheme in Texas.
While winning 51 percent of the vote, Bush won 59 percent of congressional districts. We dont know if that pattern will appear in Novembers House elections. But unless were happy being Avis, Democrats should continue to pursue this discussion.

Flexible principles, and all that. monkeybone at 12:24 AM
While you feel qualified to impute hypothetical motivations to me, you are mistaken in doing so. Posted by: Mike on October 19, 2006 at 6:39 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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