An Absurdly Early Look at the 2012 House Races in Iowa

(From the diaries – promoted by DavidNYC)

The U.S. Census Bureau confirmed this week that Iowa will lose a Congressional district following the 2010 census unless we experience unprecedented (for Iowa) population growth in the next two years:

During the past eight years, Iowa has gained as many people – about 76,000 – as states like South Carolina and Virginia gained between 2007 and 2008 alone.

To retain the congressional seat, the state would have to gain nearly twice that number by 2010, according to projections by Election Data Services, a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm that analyzes the impact of demographics on politics.

So, Iowa will be left with four Congressional districts. No one knows what the new map will look like, but it’s likely that the 2012 race in the new third district will determine whether Iowa Democrats (who now hold a 3-2 edge in U.S. House seats) gain a 3-1 advantage or have to settle for a 2-2 split.  

Note: A non-partisan commission draws up the new Congressional map after each census in Iowa, so Democratic gerrymanders will not take place, even if Governor Chet Culver wins re-election in 2010 and Democrats hold their majorities in the state House and Senate.

However, if the Democrats maintain control of the legislature, they have the option of rejecting the first and/or second map produced by the non-partisan commission. Republicans in the Iowa legislature rejected the first map proposed after the last census.

Most of what’s now the fifth district, represented by Republican incumbent Steve “10 Worst” King, is likely to become the new fourth district. It makes no difference whether the new counties added to IA-04 come from the current third or fourth districts–that is going to be a safe Republican seat.

Given the voting trends in eastern Iowa, I assume the new first and second Congressional districts will still be relatively safe for Democrats. (Remember, fewer than 10 Republicans in the whole country represent districts with any kind of Democratic partisan lean.) Either Bruce Braley or Dave Loebsack may need to move if the new map throws Waterloo (Black Hawk County) in the same district as Mount Vernon (Linn County), but that should not present much of a problem.

The big question mark is what happens to IA-03. Polk County will remain the largest county in the district, but it won’t be as dominant in the new district as it is now. A majority of the votes in the current third district come from the county containing Des Moines and most of its suburbs.

In which direction will IA-03 expand? If the counties added to it come mostly from the southwest, Republicans will have a better chance of winning the district. One reason Greg Ganske beat longtime incumbent Neal Smith in the 1994 landslide was that Smith’s fourth district had lost Story and Jasper counties, and gained a lot of southwestern Iowa counties, following the 1990 census.

If IA-03 includes more counties from the southeast, Democrats would be better positioned to hold the seat, although it’s worth remembering that Ottumwa resident Mariannette Miller-Meeks carried seven southern counties in her unsuccessful challenge to Loebsack in IA-02 this year.

Speaking at an Iowa Politics forum in Des Moines last month, Miller-Meeks said she was leaving her ophthalmology practice at the end of 2008. She strongly suggested that she will run for office again. Whether that means another bid for Congress or a run for the state legislature was unclear.

Miller-Meeks has little chance of winning a district as strongly Democratic as IA-02, but I could easily see her taking on Leonard Boswell if Wapello County ends up in IA-03 after the next census. The Des Moines Register has endorsed Boswell’s challengers before and would back any credible Republican opponent against him.

The Republicans’ best chance in a third district stretching to the south, though, would be to run someone with strong Polk County connections to keep down the Democratic margins there. I don’t have any idea which Republicans have their eye on this race.

If IA-03 expands to the north, it’s good news and bad news for Democrats. Story County and Marshall County are reasonably strong territory for the party. On the down side, current fourth district incumbent Tom Latham lives in Story County. Latham is a mediocre Republican back-bencher; what else can you say about a seven-term incumbent whose big achievement on health care, according to his own campaign, was co-sponsoring a bill that never made it out of committee?

However, Latham has obviously used his position on the Appropriations Committee to build up a lot of goodwill in the district. He just won re-election by 21 points in a district Barack Obama carried by 8 percent, and he even carried Story County.

I don’t care to run Boswell or a non-incumbent Democrat (in the event of Boswell’s retirement) against Latham in a redrawn IA-03. I’m not saying Democrats couldn’t hold the seat in those circumstances, but I feel it would be a tough hold.

We would be better off electing a new, ambitious Democrat to Iowa’s third district in 2010, so we can run a rising star in the majority party against Latham, if it comes to that. Actually, we’d have been better off if Boswell had retired in 2008, allowing someone new to compete for this seat as a two-term Democratic incumbent in 2012. But what’s done is done.

Anyone think there’s a chance Boswell will reconsider his promise to run for re-election in 2010?

If Democrats still control the state legislature after 2010, should they reject the first new Congressional map suggested by the non-partisan commission if that map puts Story County in IA-03?

What kind of map would give Democrats the best chance of holding the third district?

I look forward to reading your absurdly early speculation about the 2012 races in the comments.

For those who are interested in the national implications of the post-census reapportionment, DavidNYC created a chart showing which states are likely to gain or lose Congressional districts.

Chris Bowers has already created a 2012 electoral college map, and even with one fewer electoral vote, Iowa will remain important to Obama’s re-election chances. You should click over and read the whole post yourself, but the good news is that Obama has a clear path to 270 electoral votes in 2012 even if he loses Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Indiana and North Carolina.

UPDATE: Iowa blogger John Deeth looked ahead to the 2012 Iowa races in this post last week. He concluded that in order to win three out of the four Congressional districts, Iowa Democrats will need to 1) beat Latham in 2010, and 2) get Boswell to retire in 2012. Click over to read how he reached that conclusion.  

GE calculations – xls format

I have followed the election 2008 statistics, including every single poll, since 2007.

Now that the final vote tallies are in, I have created an excel table for all 50 states, plus DC, plus numerous regional combinations, comparing 2008 to 2008. Everything is in this table, I call it therefore, the “everything table”.

the fourth table within the document is the most concise EVERYTHING table, with winning and losing percentages, the winning margin, comparision to the last 7 polls (averaged) on Nov. 3rd, compared to 2004, compared to the 60 year average (minus the year 2008). It is complete and currently sorted in order to winning margin for Obama from largest to smallest and then from McCain’s winning margin from smallest to largest (hourglass order), but I lack the knowlege to attach anchors to the top of each row to allow other users to re-sort the entire table alphanumberic, either ascending or descending, for percentages for either Obama or McCain, or for 2004, or for the end polling, etc. More than that, I am looking for a double set of anchors, so that the user can either sort with the two candidates mixed together, or sort with them separated, as I currently have.

The WIKIPEDIA SITE FOR THE GE 2008 also has a table, simply of the popular vote, but also with sorting anchors.

This is uncharted territory for me and I need help to get this done before putting out an enormous, extensive analysis of the GE 2008.

I have, thanks to advice from Dave, uploaded the table to google.

If anyone with experience with this kind of this could help, I would be appreciative. You can reach me at


I created the excel data with Open Office (the latest version), in german.

CO-Sen: Hickenlooper Interested in Salazar’s Seat

Denver Post:

Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper on Monday confirmed that he is interested in Colorado’s looming U.S. Senate vacancy.

In a brief interview, Hickenlooper touted his experience as a business owner and his time as mayor as pluses for Gov. Bill Ritter to consider when weighing whom he should appoint to replace Sen. Ken Salazar, who has been nominated for secretary of the Interior Department.

Ritter will appoint the person to serve out the remainder of Salazar’s term. An election would be held in 2010.

“I love my job,” Hickenlooper said. “I’m in that unique position in that I’ve got one of the best jobs that a person like me can have. But if you take someone like me who has spent most of his life in business and then at some point decides to give 10 to 15 years to public service, and you want to be useful, then you want to get the maximum benefit out of that public service.”

The mayor said he had one “formal discussion” with Ritter about the Senate appointment but declined to go into details.

This is a move I could get behind. Not only does the early polling look favorable for Hickenlooper, he got his start in the business world by opening a brew pub. Now there’s a guy I’d like to have a beer with!

RI-Gov: Statewide Recruitment Thread

Man, we’re really getting into the weeds here — but that’s what SSP is all about. Rhode Island’s Republican Governor, Don Carcieri (who nearly lost in 2006), will be term-limited out of office in 2011. Who should and will run for the Governor’s mansion in 2010? And are there any Republicans on the Rhode Island bench who stand a plausible chance of holding this office for the Reds?

Check out CQ’s 2008 Voting Scores

CQ has long tracked how often members of Congress vote with their parties (aka “party unity“), how often they vote with the president (“presidential support“), and how often they simply show up to vote (“voting participation“). These numbers shed a lot of light both on Congress as a whole and on individual members.

CQ has also launched a new flash-based tool which lets you view all this data interactively. Be sure to scroll all the way down for the chart which plots presidential supports vs. party unity – very cool. Hopefully CQ will go back and add historical data (they’ve been compiling these numbers since 1953). For now, you can find 2006 & 2007 party unity numbers here, and combined 2005-06 numbers here.

A few highlights:

  • Nick Lampson had the lowest party unity score (57%) and the highest presidential support score (39%), but it still didn’t keep him from getting turfed in his extremely red Texas district
  • Meanwhile, Nancy Boyda voted with the Dems 92% of the time – exactly average. That probably didn’t help her cause.
  • Good news on the filibuster front: Olympia Snowe voted with the Democrats 61% of the time and Susan Collins did so 54% of the time. Yes, they both voted Dem more often than they went Repub (though Collins’s score might have been inflated by the fact that she sought re-election this year).
  • Check out this chart (PDF), in particular the opposition column for the Senate. Most of the names on that list make sense, but one stands out: DE Sen. Tom Carper, who frequently has a poor party unity record. I’m sure I’m not the only person who expects more from a guy who represents a state which voted 62-37 for Obama.
  • Tops on the dis-unity list: Evan Bayh, considerably worse than even Ben Nelson. Sheesh. What a phony. After racking up unity scores of 90% in 2005 and 89% in 2006 when he was flirting with a presidential run, he’s since cratered to 65%. Seems to me like he’s the epitome of a “stands for anything, stands for nothing” politician.
  • Back on the House side of things, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was second only to the primaried-out Wayne Gilchrest among Republicans voting with Dems, which shows you that a credible challenge at the polls can also do good things on the Hill.
  • And not that anyone needed reminding, but David Broder and his fellow cult members are still living in fantasy land:

    The extent of the shift [toward greater partisanship] may be amplified by tighter floor control exercised by leaders of the majority party, said Jon R. Bond, a political scientist at Texas A&M University. “The majority party just won’t bring a vote up unless they know they are going to win,” he said. More telling, Bond said, the partisanship of today is a return to traditional American party politics, while the relative comity that existed from the 1950s to the 1980s was the exception.

    “Even after all these years of increases in party voting, it’s still not nearly as high as it was in the 19th century,” he said.

Anyhow, there’s a ton of great stuff here. Enjoy!

(Via Congress Matters)

New Re-Apportionment Study: NY to Lose Only One Seat

Election Data Services has updated its projections (PDF) for Congressional re-apportionment after the 2010 census, taking into account population changes over the past year. (You can find a summary of EDS’s 2007 findings here.) The news is good in particular for the state of New York.

This time, EDS offers five different models for projecting every state’s population two years hence. The column headers indicate the range of time used to come up with each projection.

State 2000-2008 2004-2008 2005-2008 2006-2008 2007-2008
Arizona 2 2 2 2 2
California 0 -1 -1 -1 0
Florida 2 2 1 1 1
Georgia 1 1 1 1 1
Illinois -1 -1 -1 -1 -1
Iowa -1 -1 -1 -1 -1
Louisiana -1 -1 -1 -1 -1
Massachusetts -1 -1 -1 -1 -1
Michigan -1 -1 -1 -1 -1
Minnesota -1 -1 -1 -1 -1
Missouri -1 -1 -1 -1 -1
Nevada 1 1 1 1 1
New Jersey -1 -1 -1 -1 -1
New York -1 -1 -1 -1 -1
North Carolina 0 0 1 1 0
Ohio -2 -2 -2 -2 -2
Oregon 0 1 1 1 1
Pennsylvania -1 -1 -1 -1 -1
South Carolina 1 1 1 1 1
Texas 4 4 4 4 4
Utah 1 1 1 1 1

As you can see, there isn’t a whole lot of difference between the models. Only four states aren’t uniform across the board: California, Florida, North Carolina, and Oregon. CA & OR apparently have seen a recent uptick in relative growth while FL and NC have experienced the opposite.

The bigger deal, though, are the changes compared to last year’s survey. The previous version of this study used three models rather than five, but all of them showed NY losing two seats. Now, all five EDS projections show NY losing just one seat. This might hardly seem like something to cheer about for a state which had 45 House seats just half a century ago, but I for one am glad.

So where does this seat probably come from? As it happens, it’s a state known for its sizable ex-New Yorker population. Three of the five current models (and all of them the shortest-term) show Florida dropping a seat while only one of three did in 2007. Meanwhile, Minnesota now looks pretty certain to lose a seat while South Carolina appears set to gain one.

Things could of course still change over the next two years. As EDS notes, the economic crisis has already reduced migration rates to their lowest level since the 1940s (when the government first started tracking this information). A worsening recession could cause even more people to stay put, changing these numbers yet again. We’ll just have to wait and see.