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Back to Basics II: The Tide

- November 4, 2010

To follow up on John’s earlier “post”:https://themonkeycage.org/2010/11/back_to_basics_districts_and_d.html, which emphasized the variation among districts, I thought I would emphasize their common fate. While the outcomes certainly varied from place to place, Republicans did better just about everywhere. The New York Times has a great “map”:http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/11/03/us/politics/election-results-house-shift.html?ref=politics that makes this point well, but it doesn’t show how the shift varied according the performance in 2008. To wit, the graph below:

Tide 2010.png

The line shows even performance: any point above the line is a district where the Democrats did better than 2008; any point below is where they did worse. As the NY Times map suggests, almost all the points are below the line. But the line bows just a touch in the middle, reinforcing that Democrats in competitive seats tended to do even worse.

How does this compare to the tides of the last two years? Here is the same graph for 2008:

Tide 2008.png

And here is the graph for 2006:

Tide 2006.png

A couple thoughts. First, neither of the good Democratic years looks quite as uniform as this year. However, the graph in 2006 looks more like the one from 2010, only in reverse: almost all the points are _above_ the line. The graph from 2008 suggests a little more that most districts didn’t change much. It was only the ones in the middle that saw big gains for Democrats.

What’s going on here? If I were to guess, it’s that unified control offers one clear side to blame–the president’s party–so voters everywhere are on the same page. In 2008, not only was control divided, but it there was a campaign between _two_ visible points of view, one held by McCain, and the other by Obama. Nonetheless, it was the Republicans who were punished in those competitive districts, so the party of the president still “mattered”:https://themonkeycage.org/2010/10/why_divided_government_is_bad_.html.