About counting chickens | Arkansas Blog

Friday, October 13, 2006

About counting chickens

Posted By on Fri, Oct 13, 2006 at 8:20 AM

Paul Krugman expresses what I've been feeling -- a touch of pessimism about the mid-term election -- despite all the reasons for a strong Democratic vote -- on account of the Republican firewall, dealt with so well in Tom Hamburger's new book, "One Party Country."

Let’s talk about Congressional arithmetic.

Unless the Bush administration is keeping Osama bin Laden in a freezer somewhere, a majority of Americans will vote Democratic this year. If Congressional seats were allocated in proportion to popular votes, a Democratic House would be a done deal. But they aren’t, and the way our electoral system works, combined with the way ethnic groups are distributed, still gives the Republicans some hope of holding on.

The key point is that African-Americans, who overwhelmingly vote Democratic, are highly concentrated in a few districts. This means that in close elections many Democratic votes are, as political analysts say, wasted — they simply add to huge majorities in a small number of districts, while the more widely spread Republican vote allows the G.O.P. to win by narrower margins in a larger number of districts.

My back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that because of this “geographic gerrymander,” even a substantial turnaround in total Congressional votes — say, from the three-percentage-point Republican lead in 2004 to a five-point Democratic lead this year — would leave the House narrowly in Republican hands. It looks as if the Democrats need as much as a seven-point lead in the overall vote to take control.

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