How Marginal are the Blue Dog Districts?

The reason often given for why the Democratic leadership is so reluctant to try to whip more aggressive Iraq war withdrawal legislation is a concern over hurting Democrats in "Marginal" districts. The logic is that a vote for such legislation could be used against a those representatives, resulting in lost seats, a lost majority, and another generation of meaningless debates over gay marriage and flag burning. While the majority of the American population wants to end the war, gerrymandering causes these"marginal" districts to be more conservative and less opposed to the war than the nation in general.

The natural assumption is that many of the 43 members of the Blue Dog Coalition would be from these "marginal" districts and constantly legislating in fear of whisker-close elections. However, most of these legislators had large margins of victory in 2006 (including three that ran unopposed) and many have been members of the house for significant periods of time (allowing them the almost insurmountable advantage of incumbency).

I am not familiar with the politics of any of these districts and do not know how important conservative positions on the war are to continuing electoral success in the district. It is certainly reasonable to assume that these congresspersons are popular in their districts (often overwhelmingly so) at least in part because of their conservative positions. Indeed, some of these members may, in fact, genuinely believe in the positions they espouse. However, we are also entitled to wonder what the results would be if a candidate with more progressive positions ran in these districts. And, at least, this information raises the question of just how "marginal" these districts really are.

  • 31 Reps (72% - including 3 unopposed) had margins of victory in double digits
  • 16 Reps (37% - with an asterisk *) were mentioned by Matt in anearlier article as refusing to vote for a supplemental appropriations bill with a fixed withdrawal date)
  • 15 Reps (35%) are from southern states (11 states of the CSA) - contrary to the myth that the Blue Dogs are a southern phenomenon
  • 14 Reps (33%) have been serving 10 years or more and NONE of them had close races in 2006
  • 8 of the 12 Reps (18%) with margins of victory under 10% opposed a fixed withdrawal date
  • 7 Reps (16% - with a $) were released to vote against the compromise supplemental appropriations bill (HR 1591)

Update [2007-3-27 22:51:32 by ProgressiveChristian]: The table has been sorted by margin of victory in 2006

Representative2006 ElectionYears in House (class)
* Bud Cramer (AL-05) Unopposed16 years (1991)
Allen Boyd (FL-2) Unopposed10 years (1997)
Jim Costa (CA-20) Unopposed (61,120)2 years (2005)
Ben Chandler (KY-6) Chandler (D) 156,738 (85%)
Ard (L) 26,656 (15%)
3 years (2004)
*$ Gene Taylor (MS-04) Taylor (D) 106,914 (80%)
McDonnell (R) 26,886 (20%)
18 years (1989)
Mike Ross (AR-4) Mike Ross (D) 128,236 (75%)
Joe Ross (R) 43,360 (25%)
6 years (2001)
John Tanner (TN-8) Tanner (D) 129,610 (73%)
Farmer (R) 47,492 (27%)
18 years (1989)
* Mike McIntyre (NC-07) McIntyre (D) 101,787 (73%)
Davis (R) 38,033 (27%)
10 years (1997)
*$ Dan Boren (OK-02) Boren (D) 122,347 (73%)
Miller (R) 45,861 (27%)
2 years (2005)
* Collin Peterson (MN-07) Peterson (DFL) 179,164 (70%)
Barrett (R) 74,557 (29%)
16 years (1991)
Marion Berry (AR-1) Berry (D) 127,577 (69%)
Stumbaugh (R) 56,611 (31%)
10 years (1997)
* Jim Cooper (TN-05) Cooper (D) 122,919 (69%)
Kovach (R) 49,702 (28%)
4 years (2003)
David Scott (GA-13) Scott (D) 103,019 (69%)
Honeycutt (R) 45,770 (31%)
4 years (2003)
Stephanie Herseth (SD-AL) Herseth (D) 230,473 (69%)
Whalen (R) 97,868 (29%)
3 years (2004)
Sanford Bishop (GA-2) Bishop (D) 88,662 (68%)
Hughes (R) 41,967 (32%)
12 years (1992)
Earl Pomeroy (ND-AL) Pomeroy (D) 142,121 (66%)
Mechtel (R) 74,364 (34%)
14 years (1993)
$ Mike Michaud (ME-2) Michaud (D) 179,732 (66%)
D'Amboise (R) 75,146 (34%)
4 years (2003)
$ Lincoln Davis (TN-4) Davis (D) 123,666 (66%)
Martin (R) 62,449 (34%)
4 years (2003)
Mike Thompson (CA-1) Thompson (D) 144,409 (66%)
Jones (R) 63,194 (29%)
8 years (1999)
Dennis Cardoza (CA-18) Cardoza (D) 71,182 (65%)
Kanno (R) 37,531 (35%)
4 years (2003)
Dennis Moore (KS-3) Dennis Moore (D) 153,105 (65%)
Chuck Ahner (R) 79,824 (34%)
8 years (1999)
Joe Baca (CA-43) Baca (D) 52,791 (64%)
Folkens (R) 29,069 (36%)
7 years (1999)
Adam Schiff (CA-29) Schiff (D) 91,014 (64%)
Bodell (R) 39,321 (28%)
Paparian (G) 8,197 (5.7%)
6 years (2001)
Tim Holden (PA-17) Holden (D) 137,253 (64%)
Wertz (R) 75,455 (36%)
14 years (1993)
Steve Israel (NY-2) Israel (D) 105,276 (64%)
Bugler (R) 44,212 (27%)
6 years (2001)
Jane Harmon (CA-36) Harman (D) 105,323 (63%)
Gibson (R) 53,068 (32%)
14 years (1993)
Loretta Sanchez(CA-47) Sanchez (D) 47,134 (62%)
Nguyen (R) 28,485 (38%)
10 years (1997)
Charlie Wilson (OH-6) Wilson (D) 135,628 (62%)
Blasdel (R) 82,848 (38%)
Freshman (2007)
* Brad Ellsworth (IN-08) Ellsworth (D) 131,019 (61%)
Hostettler (R) 83,704 (39%)
Freshman (2007)
* John Salazar (CO-03) Salazar (D) 129,833 (61%)
Tipton (R) 78,318 (37%)
2 years (2005)
$ Jim Matheson (UT-2) Matheson (D) 133,231 (59%)
Christensen (R) 84,234 (37%)
6 years (2001)
Charlie Malancon (LA-3) Malancon (D) 75,023 (55%)
Romero (R) 54,950 (40%)
2 years (2005)
Joe Donnelly (IN-2) Donnelley (D) 103,561 (54%)
Chocola (R) 88,300 (46%)
Freshman (2007)
* Heath Shuler (NC-11) Shuler (D) 124,972 (54%)
Taylor (R) 107,342 (46%)
Freshman (2007)
Leonard Boswell (IA-3) Boswell (D) 115,769 (52%)
Lamberti (R) 103,722 (46%)
10 years (1997)
* Michael Arcuri (NY-24) Arcuri (D) 109,686 (51%)
Meier (R) 91,504 (43%)
Freshman (2007)
* Melissa Bean (IL-08) Bean (D) 93,355 (51%)
McSweeny (R) 80720 (44%)
2 years (2005)
*$ Jim Marshall (GA-08) Marshall (D) 80,660 (50.5%)
Collins (R) 78,908 (49.5%)
4 years (2003)
Patrick Murphy (PA-8)
(Iraq war vet)
Murphy (D) 125,656 (50.3%)
Fitzpatrick (R) 124,138 (49.7%)
Freshman (2007)
*$ John Barrow (GA-12) Barrow (D) 71,651 (50.3%)
Burns Jr. (R) 70,787 (49.7%)
2 years (2005)
* Kirsten Gillibrand (NY-20) Gillibrand (D) 125,168 (50%)
Sweeney (R) 110,554 (44%)
Freshman (2007)
* Baron Hill (IN-09) Hill (D) 110,454 (50%)
Sodrel (R) 100,469 (46%)
8 years (1999)
* Tim Mahoney (FL-16) Mahoney (D) 115,832 (49.5%)
Negron (R) 111,415 (47.7%)
Freshman (2007)

Tags: 2006 election, Blue Dogs, Iraq supplemental (all tags)



Re: How Marginal are the Blue Dog Districts?

Very good diary!  Either these Congressmen are paranoid, or they have a very heartfelt belief that their actions regarding the war, or lack thereof, are justified.

by Tracey in Hells Kitchen 2007-03-27 11:24AM | 0 recs
Re: How Marginal are the Blue Dog Districts?

Holden's district is a lot iffier than it looks here. In 2002 his slightly Republican district was gerrymandered around a very Republican district with the intent of pushing him out, but instead the sitting GOP congressman (George Gekas) lost. Holden would have very tight races, but the Republicans in the district (and the state) have been incompetent.

First they nominated Penn State coach Joe Paterno's son for the name recognition. He had to hurriedly move into the congressional district for starters, had nearly no job experience or other credentials, and was a really poor campaigner. In 2006, the GOP candidate announced he was withdrawing from active campaigning due to ill health.

There's a lot of feuding within the Pennsylvania GOP at present; remember, Specter almost lost his primary in 2004. Then the party picked politically inexperienced football player Lynn Swann over a willing and popular former lt. gov. for its governor nominee, making a lot of insiders mad. And this is in a climate where dozens of state legislators (mostly Republican) were thrown out of office in 2005 over greed scandals. There are still active protest groups (mostly GOP) carrying their giant inflatable pink pig around the Capitol complex. County GOP committees in these parts are voting out their chairs and endorsing challengers to their sitting county commissioners. I read that even Jim Matthews (Chris's brother and the losing GOP lt. gov. candidate) narrowly won endorsement for county commissioner.

Which boils down to: It's OK to push Holden to the left now, but eventually the Republicans will get their act together, and his district is maybe 60% R.

by joyful alternative 2007-03-27 07:11PM | 0 recs
Re: How Marginal are the Blue Dog Districts?

It is a very Republican district, but I question your implication that Holden has largely won b/c of GOP incompetence.  After they screwed him with the redistricting -- and he still won -- I think the state party basically decided that its resources could be better used elsewhere.  Honestly, I question whether ANY republican can beat Holden at this point absent a huge GOP year.  

Tim definitely isn't my favorite Democrat, but there's no doubting that he's a heck of a politician.  I can't imagine any other Democrat holding that seat, but I think it's safe as long as he wants to stay in Congress.

by HSTruman 2007-03-28 04:58AM | 0 recs
Re: How Marginal are the Blue Dog Districts?

I was in Gekas's district prior to 2002 but was redistricted elsewhere, so I don't have any direct knowledge of Holden from a constituent or campaign viewpoint--but I have seen him make the political rounds in Dauphin County very efficiently.

I'll cede your superior knowledge that he'd be really hard to beat, but don't give the state GOP credit for deciding to use its assets elsewhere. It doesn't seem to have competently addressed any political situation for some years now.

Then again, I don't see any Republican candidates on the horizon who could challenge Holden. Piccola seems to desperately want to move up, but the state party wouldn't back him for gov or judge. I think he's like Casey in wanting to stay in the state, but maybe a GOP Schumer would make him an offer he can't refuse. (Or maybe the state party estimates him correctly, and he just gets good press from the Patriot-News; anyway, he's the only Republican in the district I've heard much of anything good about.)

So what is the R/D percentage in the district?

(Oh, and my family and friends--pre-Dean, I did nothing political beyond showing up on election day--considered Gekas a joke, somebody who played the piano in senior centers and lacked gravitas; did he run unopposed in previous years? I voted in that district in 1996, 1998, and 2000, but I don't remember.)

by joyful alternative 2007-03-28 06:55PM | 0 recs
Re: How Marginal are the Blue Dog Districts?

2006 provides a skewed metric.  By and large, the NRCC was dedicated to protecting its members, and it was a wave year where no sitting Democrat got defeated.  If the Democrats expect, reasonably, that in 2008 they'll be playing a fair amount of defense, the numbers from 2006 aren't going to be as useful as numbers which better represent what it might be like to have to play defense if the Republicans field and support decent challengers.  2004 numbers and PVI might be useful to provide a bit of perspective.

by notapipe 2007-03-28 12:30AM | 0 recs
Re: How Marginal are the Blue Dog Districts?

I agree that 2006 was probably somewhat anomalous and I probably should have included 2004 as well. My point is simply that I (and perhaps some other folks) had this image of the Blue Dogs as a bunch of Dixiecrats barely hanging on to their seats in spite of the "D" behind their names. But in glancing at some of the election results, I was surprised to find that stereotype was only partially correct. Many of those folks seem to have cruised to victory.

And what initially got me thinking about this was discussions with my anti-war friends about how the Blue Dogs were going against the will of the people as judged by national polls. I'm still inclined to agree with the idea that the Blue Dogs are responding to the will of their specific districts, which is different than the nation as a whole. But I also wonder whether the could afford to spend some of their political capital on more aggressive efforts to end the war. Would it simply shave some points off their margin of victory or would it result in a massive defeat? I'm just askin'.

by ProgressiveChristian 2007-03-28 06:00AM | 0 recs
Re: How Marginal are the Blue Dog Districts?

Well, most of the "conservative" (in fact - not so conservative in comparison with the past or really conservative Republicans) Democ rats win (and sometime - win big) despite their Democratic label, not because of it. Run "progressive' in Taylor, Cramer or Melancon districts - and you will lose sure and big. Of all districts in your table i see about 5 - ME-2, CA-1, CA-29. CA-36, NY-2 and, may be - TN-5, where more "progressive" candidate stands a chance. That's abiut all..

by smmsmm 2007-03-28 12:57AM | 0 recs
Re: How Marginal are the Blue Dog Districts?

Even if a stereotypical "Northern Liberal" would poll in single digits, I wonder if a populist in the Brian Schweitzer or Jim Tester mold would fare better. Someone with a message that government should stand up for the "common good" but otherwise leave us alone.

And on Iraq, some of the left/right dichotomy may be breaking down. So I wonder if they stayed the same on everything else but voted for a binding withdrawal plan, would that simply reduce their margin of victory or result in a crushing defeat? Might it increase the winning percentage for some?

This data can't answer those questions, but it does give me some grounds to ask.

by ProgressiveChristian 2007-03-28 06:12AM | 0 recs
Re: How Marginal are the Blue Dog Districts?

I live in TN-05 and it is hardly a Blue Dog district.  It's not quite as liberal as TN-09 -- which replaced a Blue Dog (Ford) with a progressive (Cohen), I'm happy to say -- but the district is reliably Democratic.  Most Southern districts represented by Democrats really fit the "blue dog" stereotype, voting Republican for President while electing a Dem Congressman.  But TN-05 reliably votes Democratic for President as well, usually with about 55-60% of the vote.

The district is essentially the city of Nashville, plus a few precincts from a couple of neighboring counties, but they're not nearly enough to outvote Nashville.  This district should elect a progressive -- but most Tennessee politicians are afraid to do that.

by Tom 2007-03-28 08:27AM | 0 recs
Re: How Marginal are the Blue Dog Districts?

Can we infer that if Cooper took a more aggressive stance on ending the war, he might not suffer in '08, and possibly even gain a few votes.

And if so, do you have any thoughts on what would change his mind?  A noticable increase in calls/e-mail from his constituents? Pressure from major donors? A potential primary challenger?

by ProgressiveChristian 2007-03-28 09:09AM | 0 recs
Re: How Marginal are the Blue Dog Districts?

Now that I look at the numbers, it's not THAT overwhelmingly Democratic -- 52% for Kerry, 57% for Gore (because, you know, he's from Nashville.)  But, yeah, it's hard to imagine the district electing a Republican.  It's just hard to come up with a Democrat who could beat Cooper in a primary.

by Tom 2007-03-28 02:39PM | 0 recs
Re: How Marginal are the Blue Dog Districts?

I don't think that any southern district that went for Kerry even by just 52% would be a terribly difficult district for a local democrat to win and hold.

by Quinton 2007-03-28 02:55PM | 0 recs
Re: How Marginal are the Blue Dog Districts?

Right... still, I would use caution, and most of the local officeholders are relatively conservative (as Dems go, anyway.)  Nashville is probably the most cosmopolitan city in Tennessee -- it did have the highest percentage voting against the gay marriage ban of any county in Tennessee (something like 32% -- it's Tennessee, after all.)

by Tom 2007-03-28 05:10PM | 0 recs

For IN-09:

Baron Hill is in his 7th year (99-04, 07-present).  Hill lost in 2004 to Sodrel in large part for voting against the federal marriage amendment and the flag-burning amendment.

I was suprised by Chris' post on Hill not wanting withdrawl language - he never communicated that to me or anyone else I knwo in the district that keep in contact with him or his staff.  He made the right vote last week.

This is an odd district.  Bloomington is a liberal oasis and Baron cleaned up (8,000 vote victory in Monroe Co. of 35,000 toal votes).  But he lost the rest of the district just barely.

Hopefully we win the govrnorship in 08, or there may be a redistricting that could tilt IN-09 to a larger Republican PVI.

by BWasikIUgrad 2007-03-28 07:12AM | 0 recs
Re: IN-09

So, from your sense of the district, does his vote last week hurt him? If he were more anti-war but continued to be whatever else conservative Hoosiers like, would he be toast in 2008?

by ProgressiveChristian 2007-03-28 07:38AM | 0 recs
Re: IN-09

I dont think it hurt him.  I think Baron is in great shape for 2008.  I think taking a more anti-war stand wont really hurt him in the rural areas among moderates/indies, but can help him expand tht margin even more some in Monroe.

I particularly think Barons position on energy and other pocketbook issues are the key to his popularity and re-eletion in 2008.  I think the voters of the district in 2006 gave a collective "we're sorry we doubted you" to Baron after his loss in 2004.

I see redistricting as his greatest threat in the near future.

by BWasikIUgrad 2007-03-28 08:59AM | 0 recs
Re: How Marginal are the Blue Dog Districts?

Well, I grew up in Jim Costa's district in central California, and he is pretty representative of his constituents.

And I worked in Mike Ross' district in Arkansas in 2004 as part of the coordinated campaign.  I can safely say that he is also representative of his constituents.

Maybe that's why they win so easily.

by v2aggie2 2007-03-28 07:53PM | 0 recs
Re: How Marginal are the Blue Dog Districts?

The re-elect numbers are deceiving.  Democratic performance data would be much more useful.

by Marylander 2007-03-28 08:09PM | 0 recs
Re: How Marginal are the Blue Dog Districts?

Good diary, but a more useful metric would be the partisan voting index (PVI).

by DRR7979 2007-03-28 10:01PM | 0 recs
Re: How Marginal are the Blue Dog Districts?

I used the election results because some of those lopsided victories really jumped out at me. The data does demonstrate that not all Blue Dogs are consistently fighting close election battles. While I agree that poll results can be deceiving and are not reliably predictive, they are somewhat more tangible and readily comprehensible than alot of other statistical reductions. And, ultimately, election results are the "bottom line" in politics.

It would be interesting to add PVI numbers to see how well they correlate. Do you know of any place I can get them without paying an arm and a leg?

by ProgressiveChristian 2007-03-29 04:30AM | 0 recs


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