One happy result of our crowdsourcing presidential results-by-congressional district project is that it pointed our way to a spreadsheet put together by Benjamin Johnstone-Anderson, not an SSPer that I know of, but clearly an elections geek of the highest order. This spreadsheet covers the entire state of Washington at the precinct level (not just in split counties), and it’s designed to give results not just by congressional district, but also by municipality and legislative district.
The nice thing about this kind of spreadsheet is that it lets us do the same sort of analysis at the state level that we at SSP are fond of doing at the national level. By calculating a half-assed sort of PVI (based only on 2008 numbers) and arranging LDs from most to least Democratic, we can form a picture of who the most vulnerable legislators of each party are, much more precisely than just by looking at county-level data. (In most states you can at least look at party registration numbers to measure districts, but there’s no registration by party in Washington.) This would be a fantastic resource to have for as many states as possible, and I’d like to encourage other SSPers to perform and post the same sort of analysis for their states (if the necessary information can be found).
|District||Where||2008 %||“PVI”||Sen.||Rep. 1||Rep.2|
|43||Univ. District||88.8/9.6||D+37||D (2010)||D||D|
|37||S. Seattle||86.1/12.6||D+34||D (2010)||D||D|
|46||N. Seattle||82.6/15.9||D+30||D (2010)||D||D|
|34||W. Seattle||77.6/20.8||D+25||D (2012)||D||D|
|33||Des Moines||63.6/34.7||D+11||D (2010)||D||D|
|41||Mercer I.||63.6/35.1||D+11||D (2012)||D||D|
|40||Mt. Vernon||62.9/35.3||D+10||D (2012)||D||D|
|30||Federal Way||59.0/39.4||D+6||D (2010)||D||R|
|23||Bainbridge I.||58.7/39.5||D+6||D (2012)||D||D|
|24||Port Angeles||56.0/41.8||D+4||D (2012)||D||D|
|10||Oak Harbor||51.7/46.5||R+1||D (2012)||R||R|
|26||Port Orchard||51.1/46.9||R+1||D (2010)||R||D|
|6||Country Homes||49.6/48.5||R+3||D (2010)||R||D|
|18||Battle Ground||46.6/51.6||R+6||R (2012)||R||R|
|4||Spokane Valley||42.3/55.1||R+10||R (2012)||R||R|
|16||Walla Walla||38.6/59.6||R+14||R (2012)||R||D|
Analysis over the flip…
We can see that only about one-third of these districts are what you’d think of as being competitive (let’s say a “PVI” between D+5 and R+5)… and there are almost no legislators of the wrong party in uncompetitive seats. There’s only one Republican representative in a seat better than D+5, and one Democratic representative in a seat worse than R+5. This points to a big built-in structural advantage for Democrats in Washington; there are 23 (out of 49) districts greater than D+5, so they barely need to rely on swing territory at all to maintain control of the legislature.
The good news is, as much as the Democrats are in a position of strength in the legislature (near the 2/3s mark in each chamber), there’s still room to expand and not much defense to play. There are 7 Republican senators (out of 49) and 14 Republican representatives (out of 98) in districts won by Obama, while there are no Democratic senators and 1 Democratic representative in districts won by McCain.
In fact, the one Democratic senator who lost in 2008, Marilyn Rasmussen in the 2nd LD, would have been the only Democratic senator in a McCain district had she not lost in an upset. The top-of-the-ticket data goes a long way to explaining her loss; the 2nd is an growing exurban area in rural Pierce County with a lot of growth, so there’s an influx of new voters unfamiliar with Rasmussen’s long tenure in the district and thus not likely to ticket-split. This is also the same part of WA-08 that, both times, basically gave Dave Reichert his victory margin over Darcy Burner, and it seems to be one of the only areas in the state that is going in the wrong direction.
Unfortunately, the Democrats missed the opportunity in 2008 to take out the two most vulnerable GOP senators according to this table, Cheryl Pflug in the 5th and Mike Carrell in the 28th; they’re safe till 2012. (They also lost what was considered to be the most hotly contested senate race, a little further down the table. Don Benton in the 17th survived by only a few hundred votes.)
The most theoretically vulnerable GOP senator up in 2010 is Dale Brandland in the Bellingham-based 42nd; however in practice, two other senators slightly lower on the list, Pam Roach in the 31st and Jim Honeyford in the 15th, are likelier to be vulnerable (Honeyford because he represents Washington’s second-least-white district, with fast-growing Latino and Native populations but a mostly Anglo electorate, meaning that victory is possible with a larger minority turnout… and Roach simply because her sheer Jean Schmidt-style odiousness makes her a perpetual target).
Democrats will also be defending two senate freshmen in 2010 in districts that have an R+ PVI (although that Obama won): Derek Kilmer in the 26th and Chris Marr in the 6th. These are the two districts where the GOP picked up Democratic-held open House seats, so these races will bear watching.
The above-mentioned 5th may also be the best place to pick off some GOP representatives: Jay Rodne and Glenn Anderson. (One rep, Skip Priest in the 30th in the blue-collar suburbs of Federal Way, clocks in higher, but he’s pretty well-entrenched and certainly the most moderate Republican left in the House.) I’m wondering why the 5th (the furthest-out reaches of the affluent Eastside suburbs plus rural eastern King County) has never been heavily targeted; without seeing 2004 data, my guess is that it’s never voted anywhere near this heavily Democratic before. Even the nearby 41st and 48th had a mostly Republican legislative bench until a few years ago and probably didn’t go for Gore or Kerry by 25-point margins; this just seems to be the last district on the Eastside to fall into the Democratic column. We just need to show up to compete, preferably with some good candidates (like a certain netroots heroine with kickass fundraising skills?).
In the 2008 election, the Dems lost one Senate seat to drop back to a 31-18 lead. In the House, the Dems flipped two seats and the GOP flipped three, so the composition moved to a 62-36 edge
and GOP each flipped two seats, for a wash, so the composition stayed at 63-35 edge. Dems need to gain 2 seats in the Senate and 4 3 in the House to make it over the magic 2/3s mark (although hopefully they won’t need to override Chris Gregoire on anything, but she won’t be around forever). Doable? Tough, but possibly so.