Under the Surface of the “Status Quo Election”

National Journal‘s Ron Brownstein and Scott Bland have an extensive analysis of the racial and ethnic polarization of the two party caucuses in the U.S. House. But there’s this tidbit that shows the dynamics going on under the surface in what most observers considered a “status quo election:”

In districts where the white share of the voting-age population exceeds the national average, Republicans in November captured nine Democratic-held seats and lost seven of their own, for a net gain of two. In seats where the minority share of the voting-age population exceeds the national average, Democrats gained 11 and lost just one, for a net gain of 10….

Among the Democratic losers in the heavily white districts were several of the last remaining Blue Dogs—moderate Democrats who represented predominantly white, often rural, seats. These included Democrats Mark Critz of Pennsylvania, Ben Chandler of Kentucky, and Leonard Boswell of Iowa, all of whom lost reelection bids; and Oklahoma’s Dan Boren, North Carolina’s Heath Shuler, and Arkansas’s Mike Ross, whose seats flipped to the GOP after they retired.

The Republican losers in the diverse districts prominently included three California incumbents defeated in redrawn seats with substantial Hispanic populations: Mary Bono Mack, Dan Lungren, and Brian Bilbray. Another loser was Rep. Francisco Canseco of Texas, who was ousted by Democrat Pete Gallego in a majority Hispanic district. At the Republican National Convention last summer, NRCC Executive Director Guy Harrison heaped scorn on the suggestion that Canseco could lose.

This continued racial/ethnic polarization should in theory provide a marginal boost to House Republicans in 2014, when a midterm electorate disproportionately including older white voters typically shows up, while helping Democrats in 2016 and (of course) in the longer run.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.