Learning from 1994 (Part I)

The ghost of 1994 has kept hanging over the House Democrats’ heads almost this entire Congress. That’s more the product of conventional wisdom feeding upon itself and turning into a self-fulfilling prophecy than anything else, but there are legitimate warning signs on the road ahead: not just the natural pendulum-swinging that occurs during almost every midterm against the party that controls all levels of power, but also clues like the Republicans moving into the lead in many generic congressional ballots and polls showing Republicans competitive in individual House races (although many of those polls are either internals or from dubious pollsters).

On the other hand, there are plenty of reasons to expect that, while the Democrats may lose seats, there won’t be a 1994-level wipeout. There aren’t as many retirements as in 1994 (where the Dems had 28 open seats), and certainly not as many retirements in unpleasantly red seats (17 of those 1994 retirements were in GOP-leaning seats according to the Cook Political Report’s Partisan Voting Index – compared with only 8 facing us in 2010). There are still lots of polls, of the non-Rasmussen variety, giving the Dems an edge in the generic ballot. The DCCC has a sizable financial advantage, and maybe most importantly, the DCCC and its individual members appear acutely aware of the potential danger, unlike in ’94, when they seemed to blithely sail into disaster.

This week we’re going to be doing a multi-part series looking at the House in 1994, trying to draw some parallels and applying those lessons to today. To make this investigation as accessible as possible, we’re going to frame it in terms of a number of myths about 1994, and see how much reality there is to them. For instance, were the members who lost done in by their “yes” votes on tough bills? And was the impact of the post-1992, post-Voting Rights Act redistricting a killer for moderate southern Dems suddenly cast into more difficult districts? Those are problems we’ll look at in the next few days. For today, we’ll start with:

Myth #1: Losses in 1994 were full of surprises: the old and the new, the vulnerable and the safe were swept away together by the tide.

No, not especially true. According to standard diagnostic tools (such as Cook PVI or the 1992 victory margins of individual House members), the vulnerable seats were lost; the not-so-vulnerable seats were retained. The House Vulnerability Index that I’ve applied in several posts to today’s electoral cycle, in fact, does a pretty remarkable job of predicting who would have lost in 1994. If you aren’t familiar with it, it simply combines PVI and previous victory margin into one handy value that rates a particular member’s vulnerability relative to other members of the same party. (For open seats, the HVI uses a victory margin of zero.) It doesn’t predict how likely a person is to lose – that depends heavily on the nature of the year – but it does predict likelihood of losing relative to other members of the party. (Cook hasn’t officially released PVIs for this era as far as I know, but I calculated them based on the 1988 and 1992 presidential election data for each district, according to post-1992 district lines.)

As it turns out, the HVI shows that, of the 25 most vulnerable seats in 1994, 23 were lost to the Republicans. Of seats 26 through 50, another 13 were lost. And of pre-1994 Democratic House members outside the top 100 in terms of vulnerability, there were only seven losses. In other words, the wave in 1994 was high enough that it claimed not only the open seats in red districts, but sloshed upward to claim a herd of freshmen in difficult districts and also veterans who’d had troubles in recent re-elections. (But what it didn’t do was claim more than a handful of those who seemed “invulnerable” either because of district lean or 1992 margin or both.)

District Rep. 1992
FL-01 Open (Hutto) 0 0 R+20 1 1
FL-15 Open (Bacchus) 0 0 R+14 5 5
SC-03 Open (Derrick) 0 0 R+13 8 8
AZ-01 Open (Coppersmith) 0 0 R+9 13 13
GA-08 Open (Rowland) 0 0 R+8 16 16
IN-02 Open (Sharp) 0 0 R+8 19 19
MS-01 Open (Whitten) 0 0 R+7 23 23
NC-02 Open (Valentine) 0 0 R+7 24 24
OK-04 Open (McCurdy) 0 0 R+7 28 28
NE-02 Hoagland 2.4% 15 R+8 15 30
TN-03 Open (Lloyd) 0 0 R+5 36 36
UT-02 Shepherd 3.7% 20 R+8 17 37
WA-04 Inslee 1.7% 12 R+7 30 42
PA-06 Holden 4.1% 23 R+7 22 45
GA-10 Johnson 7.6% 37 R+10 12 49
CA-19 Lehman 0.5% 2 R+4 48 50
NC-05 Open (Neal) 0 0 R+4 50 50
NY-01 Hochbrueckner 3.1% 17 R+6 34 51
NJ-02 Open (Hughes) 0 0 R+4 52 52
PA-13 Margolies-Mezvinsky 0.5% 3 R+4 51 54
OH-06 Strickland 1.4% 9 R+4 46 55
VA-11 Byrne 4.8% 24 R+5 38 62
MI-10 Bonior 8.9% 44 R+7 21 65
KS-02 Open (Slattery) 0 0 R+2 68 68
TN-04 Open (Cooper) 0 0 R+2 70 70
MI-08 Open (Carr) 0 0 R+1 74 74
VA-02 Pickett 12.1% 66 R+11 9 75
OH-02 Mann 2.5% 16 * R+2 61 77
IL-11 Open (Sangmeister) 0 0 R+1 78 78
KS-04 Glickman 9.6% 49 R+6 31 80
NC-03 Lancaster 11.2% 60 R+8 20 80
GA-07 Darden 14.6% 76 R+11 10 86
ME-01 Open (Andrews) 0 0 R+0 86 86
MN-07 Peterson 1.3% 6 R+1 80 86
MN-02 Minge 0.2% 1 R+0 87 88
CA-36 Harman 6.2% 31 R+3 59 90
MI-12 Levin 6.9% 34 R+3 57 91
MN-01 Open (Penny) 0 0 D+1 94 94
GA-09 Deal 18.4% 89 R+14 6 95
IN-08 McCloskey 7.2% 36 R+2 63 99
NJ-08 Klein 5.9% 29 R+1 72 101
OR-05 Open (Kopetski) 0 0 D+2 101 101
MT-AL Williams 3.5% 19 R+0 83 102
OH-18 Open (Applegate) 0 0 D+2 104 104
PA-15 McHale 5.6% 27 R+1 77 104
MO-09 Volkmer 2.3% 14 D+1 93 107
OH-19 Fingerhut 5.3% 25 R+0 82 107
TX-04 Hall 20.0% 96 R+11 11 107
AZ-06 English 11.6% 64 R+4 45 109
FL-05 Thurman 5.8% 28 R+1 81 109
ND-AL Pomeroy 17.4% 84 R+7 25 109
MD-05 Hoyer 9.1% 45 R+2 65 110
WA-02 Open (Swift) 0 0 D+2 110 110
UT-03 Orton 22.3% 109 R+18 2 111
ID-01 LaRocco 20.6% 98 R+9 14 112
NJ-06 Pallone 7.7% 38 R+1 73 111
OK-02 Open (Synar) 0 0 D+3 117 117
IN-03 Roemer 14.9% 78 R+5 40 118
IN-04 Long 24.1% 114 R+13 7 121
WI-01 Barca 0.6% * 4 D+3 118 122
NY-26 Hinchey 3.3% 18 D+2 105 123
TX-25 Open (Andrews) 0 0 D+3 126 126
KY-03 Open (Mazzoli) 0 0 D+3 127 127
FL-11 Gibbons 12.2% 67 R+2 62 129
MS-05 Taylor 27.8% 127 R+16 3 130
CA-03 Fazio 10.9% 59 R+1 75 134
CA-49 Schenk 8.5% 41 D+1 95 136
TN-06 Gordon 16.0% 81 R+3 56 137
NC-07 Rose 15.9% 80 R+3 58 138
TX-13 Sarpalius 20.7% 99 R+5 39 138
MI-13 Open (Ford) 0 0 D+4 139 139
AL-03 Browder 22.7% 113 R+7 27 140
CA-42 Brown 6.7% 32 D+2 108 140
SC-05 Spratt 22.5% 111 R+6 32 143
MI-01 Stupak 10.3% 55 D+0 89 144
NC-08 Hefner 21.1% 102 R+5 44 146
NY-18 Lowey 9.5% 48 D+1 99 147
OH-03 Hall 19.3% 92 R+3 55 147
WA-05 Foley 10.4% 56 D+1 92 148
CT-02 Gejdenson 1.6% 11 D+4 138 149
KY-06 Baesler 21.4% 105 R+4 47 152
MI-09 Kildee 8.9% 42 D+3 113 155
NH-02 Swett 26.0% 119 R+5 43 162
OR-01 Furse 4.1% 22 D+4 140 162
IL-03 Lipinski 27.0% 122 R+5 42 164
WA-09 Kreidler 8.9% 43 D+3 122 165
OH-13 Brown 18.1% 87 R+1 79 166
MO-06 Danner 10.9% 58 D+3 111 169
NY-05 Ackerman 6.1% 30 D+5 143 173
NY-28 Slaughter 10.4% 57 D+3 116 173
WA-01 Cantwell 12.9% 70 D+2 103 173
TX-16 Coleman 3.8% 21 D+6 155 176
CA-01 Hamburg 2.6% 16 D+7 164 180
TX-17 Stenholm 32.1% 147 R+6 33 180
NY-29 LaFalce 11.4% 62 D+3 123 185
TX-12 Geren 25.5% 118 R+2 67 185
MA-05 Meehan 14.7% 77 D+2 109 186
AL-05 Cramer 33.6% 152 R+6 35 187
PA-20 Open (Murphy) 0 0 D+11 192 192
VA-09 Boucher 26.2% 121 R+2 71 192

The two survivors in 1994 from the top 25 are David Bonior, a member of leadership, and Tim Holden, then a freshman. Both, however, are guys who fit their blue-collar districts well (with a mix of pro-labor and socially conservative stances), and who have since proved their campaign mettle repeatedly (with Bonior holding down his difficult district for many years, and with Holden surprising everyone by surviving the 2002 gerrymander that targeted him for extinction). Among the most predictable losses in 1994, open seats led the way. However, losses among the most vulnerable incumbents included both frosh in red districts (Karen Shepherd and Jay Inslee were the most vulnerable) and veterans with tenuous holds on difficult districts (starting with Peter Hoagland and George Hochbrueckner, who both narrowly escaped 1992).

(The two italicized races above required some manual adjustment. OH-01 initially seems safe because David Mann technically had no Republican opponent in 1992. However, he defeated Stephen Grote, a Republican who ran as an independent due to problems with his GOP nominating papers, by just 2.5%, so it seems appropriate to use that number instead. In WI-01, Peter Barca needs to be evaluated by his narrow 1993 special election victory, rather than Les Aspin’s convincing ’92 general election victory.)

The seven who lost despite being outside of the top 100 most vulnerable are an interesting mixed bag. The popular perception (perhaps helped along by the mainstream media, shocked to see their frequent cocktail party compatriots swept away) of the 1994 election is that many “old bulls” were swept out of power. In reality, only a few were: depending on who you count as an “old bull,” it’s more or less 4. They mostly fall in this 100+ area; in fact, the only legendary figure to lose who wasn’t in this range was then-Speaker of the House Tom Foley, who clocked in at #79. Most of the other vulnerable incumbents who lost weren’t legends but are little remembered today, perhaps except for for Dan Glickman (who went on to run the MPAA), Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky (famous mostly for being 94’s iconic loser), and Dick Swett (who just has a hilarious name).

Another perception is that there was a major house-cleaning of Reps caught up in the House banking scandal or sundry other corruption, but only one falls in this category: Dan Rostenkowski. “Old bulls” Judiciary chair Jack Brooks and Appropriations cardinal Neal Smith weren’t implicated in anything, but rather just seem to have been caught napping — as was the less-senior David Price, who returned to the House in 1996, where he remains today. (Most of the House banking scandal-related house-cleaning occurred in 1992, often in Democratic primaries rather than the general.)

Rank District Rep. 1992
102 KY-01 Barlow 21.3% 104 D+0 90 194
104 TX-09 Brooks 10.1% 52 D+5 142 194
107 NV-01 Bilbray 19.9% 95 D+1 100 195
113 WA-03 Unsoeld 11.9% 65 D+4 136 201
124 IL-05 Rostenkowski 18.2% 88 D+5 146 234
129 NC-04 Price 30.9% 142 D+1 96 238
135 IA-04 Smith 25.1% 115 D+4 135 250

The Vulnerability Index was even highly predictive of losses of Republican seats (and yes, there were some: a total of four, all open seats in Dem-leaning districts). Of the top 6 most vulnerable Republican-held seats, 4 were Democratic pickups. In any other year, several of these incumbents probably would have also been taken out.

District Rep. 1992
PA-18 Open (Santorum) 0 0 D+11 2 2
RI-01 Open (Machtley) 0 0 D+11 3 3
IA-02 Nussle 1.1% 3 D+6 8 11
IA-03 Lightfoot 1.9% 5 D+6 6 11
MN-06 Open (Grams) 0 0 D+2 14 14
ME-02 Open (Snowe) 0 0 D+1 15 15
NY-30 Quinn 5.4% 21 D+12 1 22
AR-04 Dickey 4.7% 19 D+6 7 26
MA-03 Blute 6.1% 25 D+5 9 34
CA-38 Horn 5.2% 20 D+1 18 38

So, what lessons might we infer from all this? First, we should probably expect to kiss a number of our open seats, especially ones in red districts, goodbye, as open seats are the first to fall. (In 1994, the GOP ran the table on all Dem-held open seats in GOP-leaning districts and even into most of swing territory; the reddest open seat Dems held in ’94 was the D+3 TX-25, retained by Ken Bentsen.) We shouldn’t be surprised to see some losses among the freshmen either, as they tend to wind up high up the Vulnerability Index (because freshmen usually win their prior elections – i.e., their first – by narrower margins than veterans win theirs). And finally, we can still hope to pick up a handful of the most vulnerable GOP-held seats regardless of the size of the GOP wave (you can probably name the same ones I’m thinking of: DE-AL, LA-02, and IL-10).

50 thoughts on “Learning from 1994 (Part I)”

  1. Is there a version of these lists for this Congress?  Where would Shea-Porter, Kagen, Grayson, and Periello be?

  2. This post answers so many questions I’ve had about ’94 and got my mind spinning about ’10 possibilities. One thing popping into my head – Will the Arkansas vacancies be a loss? My gut says no because I suspect Gingrich did a better job recruiting than Bohner in some key districts. I also don’t see the party unity in Republicans that was present in ’94 but I can only say that based upon written accounts such as Taylor Branch’s the Clinton Tapes. What do old timers (ahem David :) think?

    This post might be one of my favorites on SSP so far.

  3. This is very well done.  Indeed, it is better than one ever finds from the well-known political pundits.  Thanks.

    Of note, as we go toward the doom and gloom of November, people should keep in mind that the reson so many Dem seats are at risk is because we won so many seats in Republican-leaning districts in 06 and 08.  Indeed, look at the number of Dems in Congress now compared to the highest number of Republicans in Congress when they held the majority.  We could lose around 25 seats in November and still have a larger majority than the EVER had.  

    One aspect of the equation of seats at risk this fall that concerns me is that so many districts were drawn to favor the R’s after the last census.  That’s a major reason Hasert and DeLay kept power for so long.  All things equal, that should mean that an equal number of votes for the two parties gives the R’s the most wins.  Of course, districts have changed, but we were taken to the cleaners in the post-2000 redistricting in places like Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Florida, Ohio, and Texas.  Unfortunately, the state races this year will set up the next round.  

  4. This is exactly the kind of analysis that you wont find on Cook, Rothenberg or anywhere else and is why SSP is my favorite blog.

    Even for a political junkie like myself, there were some big suprises. Who knew Rick Santorum occupied a congressional seat that was that Democratic? (I had to look this up on Wikipedia – he ousted a congressman who apparently lived outside the district and had gone “Washington”).  

  5. there are always some surprises — and interestingly, in 1994 there was one surprise where a previously GOP-held seat (I think it was GOP for like 40 or 50 years up to that point) almost flipped to the Democrats: CA-22 (at the time it corresponded almost exactly to Santa Barbara & San Luis Obispo counties combined) … it was an open seat in 1994, as Michael Huffington was running for the Senate.  The Republican Andrea Seastrand beat Democrat Walter Capps by only 49.3 – 48.5 (margin of 1563 votes); so basically a Democrat almost won this very GOP (at the time) seat from the GOP in 1994 ! (Bob Dole carried that district by a hundred or maybe several hundred votes two years later, btw, but it has very quickly become more & more Democratic over the last 16 years) …

    maybe there will be similar scenarios in November ??  there are some “under the radar” seats like this that should be on our radar this year … CA-3 comes to mind, but there are others too.

  6. I think there very much were plenty of surprises, and your data actually verify that fact.

    Of course “surprise” is a relative term, relative mostly to how long before the election the expectations were set.  I suppose if you had access to everyone’s internal polling a couple weeks out, there would have been virtually no surprises.  But if you set expectations in, say, July, then you would have been shocked by just who lost.

    I don’t know how many “old bulls” have to lose to characterize the number as “many,” but I don’t think it needs to be a lot of ’em.  Off the top of my head, without looking at a list, I think of Neal Smith, Tom Foley the Speaker himself, Rostenkowski, and Jack Brooks……do there need to be anymore?  It’s virtually unheard of for that many senior powerful incumbents of the same party to lose on the same day.  So maybe “many” is a relative term, but that’s “many” to me!

    I do think, too, that it’s understood among campaign junkies and not mischaracterized by the political media that most of the losses came in open seats and through defeated incumbents in red or purple seats.  I don’t think there’s any myth propogating that we lost in liberal seats, or that a gazillion senior incumbents lost.

    The only other thing I’ll point out is that while we have fewer open seats and particularly vulnerable open seats this year than in 1994, we also have a slightly smaller majority than we had in 1994.  Of course, the counter-counterpoint is that the country is slightly (only slightly, but clearly slightly) to the left of where it was in 1994, because of demographic change.  But I think the difference in open seats is a big deal, it’s a lot easier to take an open seat than beat an incumbent.

    I’ll be very interested in the subsequent diaries on this topic, an excellent idea by the way and well-executed so far, notwithstanding my own critique of this first piece.

  7. I think that could well be the story here. 28 then and 16 now with only 8 in R+ seats. According to this Dems lost 17 R+ open seats in 1994. And they won 5 D+ open seats with the highest being D+7. There are only three seats in that band open this year. I think it will be ok unless disaster strikes in any of the specials before then.  

  8. That sat in Republican PVI seats? In other words were there any others beyond the 30+ listed here that survived in GOP territory?

  9. I’ve lived in NC-04 since 1989, and I vividly remember when I heard that Fred Heineman (who died last week) defeated David Price.  We were all in shock because Heineman wasn’t considered to be a strong candidate.  However, the Chapel Hill/Durham area of NC-04 was somewhat deflated from the failure to pass Universal Health Care, and as a result Price’s base was somewhat deflated.

    Price won round 2, and since then NC-04 has become much more Democratic.  

  10. so how many seats are we actually going to lose?:)

    my hypothesis has been that in ’94, we had a disgusted, disaffected base – partly from from Clinton appearing to fumble on issues like gays in the military, but mainly because democrats failed to deliver on health care.

    as a result, our people didn’t show up in even their normal off-year numbers.  perhaps this is a myth you will explore or maybe it’s not a myth.  in some ways my question is:  are there “enthusiasm numbers” from ’94 that we can compare?

    also, before we get too comfy with the lower number of vulnerable retirees, does everyone think we are done hearing about retirements this year?

  11. Just curious, how would you have ranked my home district, VT-AL, on the 1994 list? I remember that race pretty well because Bernie Sanders, then the incumbent congressman, won his third term by only 3%, 50% to 47%. I wonder what Vermont’s PVI was at that time.

    Of course, after ’94, Sanders started winning each and every race by at least 60% or more as Vermont became increasingly left-leaning.

  12. you tell me were Lee Hamilton stands on your 1994 list? Believe it or not he had a really tough re-election in 94. I really enjoyed reading this, good job.

  13. Just wondering, did you calculate the PVIs yourself using both the 1988 and 1992 presidential results by district? I remember reading that the Cook PVI was not created until after the 1996 elections, and I thought that the CQ Politics in America and Almanac of American Politics only showed results for the most recent election (in this case it would have been 1992). This is a fantastic article by the way, you really put a lot of work into it. I’m wondering if you could please most more PVIs or at least the PVIs for TX-19, NY-21, NC-01, TX-05, TX-24, and OK-06, those are on my mind at the moment. Thanks!

  14. As a Republican, his district’s PVI in 1994 was D+12, which is incredible considering that Louise Slaughter’s current heavily-Dem seat where Obama got 69% is only a bit more Democratic now at D+15.

  15. I’ve been working on that for a while; it was linked in the story but you can click here too. To answer your specific questions, Perriello has a value of 38 (10th most vulnerable overall, and 6th most vulnerable incumbent), Grayson has a value of 66 (22nd overall), Kagen is at 82 (36th overall), and Shea-Porter is at 90 (41st overall). So even Kagen and Shea-Porter would be exposed to a lot of risk in a 1994-sized event.

  16. Even as Dole won the district. It’s definitely a good example of why we need a good offense in places like CA-3 (or PA-15) this year. Even if it’s a bad year, strong challengers can run again in 2012, which will likely be better, and have a better chance.  

  17. how could a D+11 district produce a wingnut like Santorum turned out to be. I know it was probably a blue collar district but Santorum went above and beyond the line of wingnut nuttery when he was in the senate.

  18. in 1990 was incumbent Dem Doug Walgren, one of the biggest offenders in the House banking scandal. He had more than 800 bounced checks.

  19. frame 1994. I’ve always felt like there was this sense out there that, among media people who didn’t do the legwork, that 1994 did include mass carnage in liberal districts and among old-timers… but I don’t have specific examples in mind, and maybe that’s more by omission rather than being made explicit, that stories about 1994 don’t explicitly say that 1994 was mostly about open seats and incumbents in red districts and they leave the rest to your imagination, compounded by the wholesale-slaughter type language they usually couch it in.

    Anyway, as you point out, the “slaughter” barely made it into blue districts at all, which is definitely something I’d hoped to convey with this piece. The only loss, open or incumbent, in a district greater than D+5 (which is where I mentally draw the line on where swing districts stop and blue districts start) was Dan Hamburg (D+7 CA-01), and there it took a massive combination of a rematch with the GOP incumbent he narrowly beat in 1992 (Frank Riggs) and Hamburg being a total flake (he tried to run for the seat again as a Green later) to narrowly dislodge Hamburg in 1994. Even Rostenkowski’s district, IL-05, to my surprise was just a D+5 in 1994 (it’s up to D+19 now!).

  20. said, but also, I take aim at this statement:

    “only slightly, but clearly slightly”

    I’d say that’s radically off base as the country is significantly to the left. Bill Clinton depended on Ross Perot absorbing right-wing libertarian-types to win twice in the 1990s and his connection to the South, running mostly centrist to center right campaigns. In 2008 a liberal, northern Democrat won 53% of the vote. There’s been a radical shift to the left in New England down to Maryland, and on the Left Coast, while Indiana is experiencing a major shift as it’s younger voters have become very liberal and it’s older conservative voters slowly die off, and states like North Carolina and Virginia have been shifted by the influx of highly educated northerners who tend to lean Democratic, and strongly so.

    So not only as a whole has the country shifted significantly to the left, (I keep thinking of the high support for a universal healthcare plan), but looking at the electoral picture it has shifted leftward as well as it is now increasingly hard for a Republican to hold together an electoral majority as it is a Republican who has to sweep all swing states in order to win; the Democrats need to only sweep two or three, NM, IA, and NH are enough to fix the issue, and what has the be scary for Republicans is that NH and NM are increasingly solid for Democrats.

    My point is that there is a basic coalition of Democratic states that no Republican has cracked since 1988 and those alone amount to some 250 electoral votes.

  21. have much to do with history. (Although Betsy Furse came very close to losing in OR-01 in 1994… but that’s more because of her lameness than the nature of the district.) OR-01 we have at Likely D because Wu’s facing two different guys with lots of money, although in the end I expect he’ll be fine as he’s beaten more credible candidates than them. And in WA-02, John Koster’s a pretty credible opponent; he’s a Snohomish Co. Commissioner and ran a close race against Larsen in 2000 when it was an open seat. WA-01 isn’t on our list, nor do we expect to add it.

  22. There are only poor, 3rd Tier Candidates running against Grayson and Kagen, while Shea-Porter’s opponent has run an unexpectedly poor campaign thus far. I think that also should have a bearing on prediction models.

  23. AR-02 is 50/50, but AR-01 has no chance of being lost, even though it’s slightly more conservative.  

  24. Walter Capps won in ’96, but died halfway through his term. Lois won the special election to succeed him.  

  25. But then died of a heart attack just a few months into his term, and she ran for the seat and has easily held it ever since.  Taking nothing away from Lois Capps, it’s a shame about Walter, as he could have been a great Congressman.

  26. My view always has been, and has been supported by later data-driven studies, that without Perot on the ballot, Clinton would have beaten Bush 41 anyway in both popular vote and electoral college, so the difference in Clinton’s popular vote and Obama’s popular vote is inflated.  I’ve always guesstimated that in a 2-way, Clinton would have won in 1992 by a couple points, barely breaking 50.  He won 43-38-19 as it was, so a decisive 11-7-1 (the 1 being Perot voters who would have stayed home in a 2-way) break of Perot voters toward Bush would have left Clinton winning 50-49.  That’s just my guesstimate, but a reasonable one.

    The other thing I point to is that the racial voting patterns haven’t changed much.  Clinton in 1992 and 1996 performed only a few points worse than Obama among white voters.  And Obama benefitted among all groups from being, well, our era’s Bobby Kennedy, which Clinton was not even though he had more-than-average personal charisma.

    I think on balance the ideological shift has been small.  Obama has a personally strong appeal that no other Democrat today can match (who else in our party can win Indiana, North Carolina, Virginia, and Omaha on the same day?), and that somewhat inflated our 2008 performance.

  27. Oftentimes, races against an incumbent are all about the incumbent, and tend to be much more of an up-or-down vote on the incumbent than anything about the challenger.  I think a lot of the successful Republican challengers in ’94 could have been characterized as third-tier challengers prior to the election (Some Dude, if you will.)

  28. to find quantitative data on what makes a poor candidate. it’s why i really just trust this site when it comes to 2010 predictions, other organizations just don’t seem to acknowledge the x factors.

  29. That table is sortable, so you can click on “PVI Rating” and see that even the #4 most red district had a Rep. who wasn’t vulnerable at all. Sonny Montgomery, in R+15 MS-03, won in 1992 by 62%, so his HVI value is 235. (He won in 1994 by only 35%!)

    The 18th reddest PVI was Mike Parker next door in MS-04 (R+8). 26th is Norm Sisisky in R+7 VA-04, 29th is L.F. Payne in R+7 VA-05, 37th is the indestructible Chet Edwards, in then R+5 TX-11, 41st in Ike Skelton, in MO-04 which was also just R+5 then, and 49th is Lee Hamilton, in R+4 IN-09. All of them won by huge margins in 1992, and with the exception of Payne and Hamilton (who both won by about 5%), most won convincingly in 1994 too.

    And FL-02, AL-04, SD-AL, TX-14, TN-08, TX-01, LA-03, CA-18, and PA-11 all fall in the R+3 to Even range, and had big enough margins in 1992 that they aren’t on the list either. No losses there either (although Tauzin and Laughlin switched parties later). (And yes, try wrapping your head around the fact that AL-04 and TX-01 used to be swing districts just a couple decades ago.)

  30. The filing deadline has already passed in a lot of states, I think, and it’s actually relatively rare for somebody to pull an Evan Bayh (retiring just before the filing deadline.)  So there will probably be a handful more here and there, but for the most part we’re past the retirement stage.

  31. Had some numbers on how people were planning to use their vote. The comparison between now and then was an even split between showing support or opposition to Obama and by more than double digits showing opposition to Clinton.

  32. a while back I did a diary here re. a historical perspective on midterms and one of the things I found in my research from one source was that “most eligible voters did not participate in the 1994 election … only 17 of the 56 Republicans who won seats held by Democrats (in 1994) had higher vote totals than losing Republicans had won in those districts in 1992 suggest the impact of voter turnout”  


    so in other words, in 1994 turnout was bad — EVEN AMONG REPUBLICANS ! but apparently ATROCIOUSLY BAD among Democrats …

    lesson learned: the success of HC this year (as well as the overreach of the tea bagging fringe) can go a long way towards energizing our side; I really don’t think 2010 will be anything like 1994.

  33. That makes sense because I doubt he couldve held on for too long in a district that Dem.  Ugh, what a lucky bastard.  Glad he got his in 2006.

    I dont know where to look for this; anyone know his 1992 margins?  I wonder if it was close and if his incumbency just got him to hold on for a Senate run.

  34. in the case of TX-01, it wasn’t the right-wing oil town stronghold that it is today, but something much more like Ralph Hall’s current district minus the DFW exurbs.  That was back when rural east Texas was filled with yellow dog Democrats instead of right-wing Republicans.

  35. About the current majority being based on much more liberal ground. I make that close to 90 in total the number of Dems in R+ seats in 1994 and 50 or so survived. Today it is 69 Dems in GOP territory. A similar ratio holding on this year and the House is as safe as, well, houses.  

  36. Durham was split at the time between the awful-ugly NC-12 and the rest in NC-02 which formed a crescent around Wake County.  NC-04 included most of Orange and Wake and all of Chatham.  Had some parts of Durham been included, Price might have beat that yankee [:)] party-switching Heineman.  However, it’s important to remember that even NC-02 elected as Republican that year (also a one-termer) and Durham County elected two GOP commissioners (out of 5), so there’s no telling what would have happened.

    But like you – I’ve lived in NC-04 (now 13) most of my life.  I was just a kid then but I still held up signs for Price on Election Day.  I remember crying that night asking my dad why Price had to lose!  Oh what an awful night that was, haha.

  37. include Sanders with the Dems for purposes of this exercise, but he wouldn’t have been terribly vulnerable if I had, as Vermont was D+4 at that point (remember G.H.W. Bush managed to win it in 1988!), and in a head-to-head with his GOP opposition in 1992 he would’ve won by a 33% margin. (There was also a Democrat in that race too, who only got 22,000 votes; the GOPer got 87K and Bernie got 172K.) So, just eyeballing it, by treating him as a Dem he’d have a value of about 293, which wouldn’t have gotten him anywhere near the top 100 list.

  38. Thanks for clarifying that bit.  Part of Durham is in Orange County, and I actually worked near that area back then.  I forgot that Durham was mostly in NC-2 (which was also taken away by Funderburk, who held it 2 years until Etheridge defeated him).  I was at a party shortly at Duke University shortly after his defeat.  I was talking to a group of people, and I said “How the hell did Price lose to Fred?”, only to hear complete silence.  Price was right behind me, and he said “I’ve been asking the same question ever since”.  After that, I really liked Price.

  39. He did a town hall here at Duke on HCR, and he really knows his stuff. Much better than my home congresswomen, Biggert (ugh).  

  40. But in looking at the tables above, I was taken aback by the two districts in Maine. I didn’t realize that the 2nd district was slightly more Dem than the 1st in 1994! I always thought that the 1st was always strongly Dem because of Portland.

  41. If I had to make predictions using numbers AR-1 would be 50/50 and AR-2 would be 60/40

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