Obama and the South
Are Democrats going to lose the House in 2010? Just to make things clear up front, I think it's dumb to even be asking this question so early in the election cycle. The answer depends on healthcare, it depends on the economy, it depends on Afghanistan and Iraq. Come back in April, when we have a better read on those things, and we can talk.
But Charlie Cook is talking now, and he thinks Democrats are in big trouble. Brendan Nyhan, hauling out some fancy poli sci analysis, isn't so sure Cook is right, and Cook responds:
Have you been in the South lately? The level of anti-Obama, anti-Democratic and anti-Congress venom is extraordinary, and with 59 Democrat-held seats in the region, 22 in or potentially in competitive districts, this is a very serious situation for Democrats. I have had several Democratic members from the region say the atmosphere is as bad or worse than it was in 1994.
This is no surprise. For the last forty years the South has been represented in the Oval Office one way or another. They've been represented when a Republican was president, because Republicans represent their values. (Or, at the very least, they talk a good game.) And they've been represented when a Democrat was in office, because the last three Democratic presidents have all been Southerners.
But Barack Obama? He's a northern Democrat. What's worse, he's not from Hope or Plains or Johnson City and he doesn't pretend to be. He's a biracial, urban, Harvard-educated northern Democrat. If there's anyone in the world more likely to scare the hell out of traditionally-minded Southerners, I'm not sure who it is. For the first time in decades, the South is completely out in the cold. Completely powerless.
So their conspiracy-laden backlash against Obama is no surprise, and it might well lead to a further loss of seats for Dems in the South. But will they lose all 22 of the competitive districts? I doubt it. And will they lose another 20-30 more outside the South? I doubt that too. If you live in Washington it's all too easy to get caught up in whatever whirlwind happens to be whirling at the moment, but this one won't last forever. If Democrats manage to avoid terminal stupidity over the next few months1, they'll take some hits in the midterms but come out still retaining a sizable majority. If Charlie or anyone else has some money they want put down on this, just let me know.
1Yes, yes, I know.