Conservative Democrats: Myths and Facts

I've looked at tthe voting records in Congress (taken from Progressive Punch), the voting nature of the congressional district (from the 2008 race tracker wiki) and the results of the 2006 congressional elections for the fifty most conservative Democratic House members.  The results revealed a number of facts about this group as well as a number of myths.  So, here we go.

Fact.  Conservative Democrats represent Republican leaning districts (at least on the national level).  An amazing 24 of the 25 most conservative House members represented districts carried by George W. Bush in 2004, with the lone exception being John Murtha's district (carried by Kerry, 51.4% to 48.5%).

Myth.  Democrats from these districts are in a precarious electoral position.  Only three of the top 25 districts and six of the top 50 were tight elections in 2006.  That would be GA-8 (Jim Marshall with 50.5%), GA-12 (John Barrow with 50.3%), IA-3 (Leonard Boswell with 51.8%), IN-9 (Baron Hill with 50.01% vs. 41% for the Republican), IL-8 (Melissa Bean with 51.18%), and TX-22 (Nick Lampson with 51.79%).  Boswell has health problems and is hardly dynamic on the stump and Lampson and Bean barely make the list at 47 and 48.

Fact.  Most conservative Democrats are southerners.  A solid 18 of the 25 most conservative Democrats are from the south and two others (Dan Boren of Oklahoma and Ike Skelton of Missouri) are from adjoining states.  Among the top ten, Collin Peterson of Minnesota really stands out.  The next 25, however, contains only 11 southerners.

Myth.  Blue Dog Leadership represents the most conservative element of the Democrats.  The top fifty is loaded with quiet, unassuming Democrats who represent their districts quite well.  Only Jane Harman (number 41 on the list) is among the usual suspects found on the talk show circuit.  Harman represents what is easily the most liberal of the fifty districts on the list with Kerry pulling in 59.015 to Bush's 39.63%.  Can you spell primary?

Fact.  Democrats are less cohesive than Republicans.  Well, actually, Democrats do a better job of representing their districts than do Republicans.  The most liberal Republican in the House is Chris Shays of Connecticut.  Twenty one Democrats are more conservative than Shays is liberal.  In fact, only two Republicans stray as far on the liberal side as any of the 50 Democrats do on the conservative side.

Myth.  We are better off without the conservatives.  The average voting score for the top 25 was 64.42 on Progrssive Punch.  These individuals would likely be replaced by Republicans with an average or worse voting score.  That's about 5.8 or less (the number is the percentage of all votes that are rated as progressive).  We are gaining more than half a vote here.

Fact.  The DCCC has funded these conservative Democrats very well.  Not only have all the at risk candidates received lots of money but a number of candidates who are relatively safe bets were also funded.  Despite Republican pipe dreams, Stephanie Herseth, John Spratt, earl Pomeroy, and John Salazar are pretty safe at this point.  Salazar may not jave looked so safe early in the last cycle.  Ben Chandler had only a libertarian opponent and Jim Costa was unopposed.

Myth.  Most of these House members deserve a primary challenge.  Actually, I could make a clear and compelling case for only three of the fifty.  That would be Jane Harman, Leonard Boswell (IA-3) and Gene Green (TX-29).  Certainly quite a few of the members on the list could be pushed leftward abit at little or no peril to themselves.  Among the 25 most conservative Democrats, three were unopposed and the remaining 22 averaged 64.83% of the vote in 2006.  Among the prominent "pushees" would be Collin Peterson and Ike Skelton.  I can also make a case for members running in districts where Bush received under 55% of the vote as incumbent Congress members usually run at least 5 to 10 points ahead of their Presidential candidate.  This would include John Tanner (TN-8), Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Marion Berry (AR-1), Jim Cooper (TN-5), Mike Ross (AR-4) and Sanford Bishop.  Jerry Costello and Adam Smith are on the cusp of the primary challenge route.  Many candidates deserving a primary are big talkers who undermine the Democratic position in the media and are also below average on voting with the leadership.

Fact.  Personal attraction plays an important part in these candidates' elections.  Gene Taylor in 2006 reeled in 79.8% of the vote in a district where John Kerry pulled in 31.07%.  That spread indicates that nearly half of the voters in his district voted for both Bush and Taylor.Others with spreads over 20% include Dan Boren, Collin Peterson, Ike Skelton, Mike McIntyre, Allen Boyd, John Tanner, Jim Matheson, Henry Cuellar, Lincoln Davis, Tim Holden, Chet Edwards, Bart Gordon, Marion Berry, Jim Cooper, Mike Ross, Jerry Costello, Stephanie Herseth, Jim Costa, Michael Doyle, Silvestre Reyes, Ben Chandler, Dennis Moore, Bob Etheridge, Nick Rahall, Paul Kanjorski, and Bart Stupak. That's 27 of the fifty names on the list.

Fact.  Many of the most conservative Democrats are team players and have given George W. Bush and his administration a hard time.  Gene Taylor and Charlie Melancon have lambasted the Bushies for failing to properly handle Katrina.  John Murtha has led on Iraq and the failings of the Bush military stragery.  John Spratt is a member iof the Democratic leadership.  Go get them.

Myth.  The new members of the House are overwhelmingly conservative Democrats.  Ironically, quite a few members have joined the Blue Dogs put have voted pretty well so far.  None of the 25 most conservative members was first elected in 2006.  That's right, none.  Baron Hill (number 30) was voted out in 2004 but won the rubber match in 2006.  The other eight Blue Dog freshmen don't break this list.    

Tags: Blue Dogs, Democrats, Elections, House (all tags)



Re: Conservative Democrats: Myths and Facts

Baron Hill was also the second-best funded (via DCCC, that is) candidate of 2006, barely coming in behind Duckworth.  And considering that the PVI of his district is R+7, I can see why it took so much cash.

I'm currently running the numbers from all the "Red to Blue" races and coming up with some interesting observations (one of which seems to be that DCCC shouldn't pick which open seat contests to involve itself in until late spring at the earliest--of the 4 waves of the "red to blue" program, nobody in waves 1 or 4 won an open seat, but 2/3rds of the 2nd wave and ALL of the 3rd wave won their open seat contests in November).  As soon as I get this damn paper finalized I'll send you a copy.

by Jay R 2007-04-14 10:32AM | 0 recs
Re: Conservative Democrats: Myths and Facts

Thank you for this diary.

Some people from more progressive areas forget that a "50% progressive" conservative Democrat is still ten times better than a "5% progressive" Republican.

In South Carolina, we feel fortunate if "10% progressive" Republicans get elected instead of the truly backwards ones. A Democrat, even a conservative one, is a lot better than that.

by wayward 2007-04-14 01:29PM | 0 recs
Re: Conservative Democrats: Myths and Facts

Interesting and good diary.  Information that should be kept in mind when discussing "conservative" Democrats.

by pioneer111 2007-04-14 06:05PM | 0 recs


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