Donald Lambro

For example: "The number of districts carried by a presidential candidate of one party and a congressional candidate of the other has declined sharply (from 148 in 1988 to 59 in 2004)," he pointed out.

"Clever people," with the help of sophisticated computer programming, detailed census tracts and voter data, "as long as they kept the districts almost equal in population, can do almost anything," Ornstein told me.

"What you have is the vast majority of members, no matter how strong the wind is blowing, no matter how much the public desires change, they are immune from it," he said. "The framers of the Constitution expected that voters would choose their representatives, not that representatives would choose their voters."

But Congress is not always immune from a big political wave, as we have seen throughout modern American elections, especially in recent decades: the Reagan-led GOP resurgence in the Senate in 1980 and the Republican takeover of the House in 1994.

Moreover, even with the relatively small universe of 30 to 40 competitive House seats, that is more than enough to win the 15 needed to topple the Republicans from power on Nov. 7.

The perfectly proper political reality governing our congressional elections is that the two parties are pretty much at parity with one another, so control of a closely divided House can be moved from one party to the other with the shift of a relatively few number of seats. That's politics.

Right now, it appears the Democrats will likely take control of the House, unless there is a major shift in the mood of the electorate. And the GOP's hold on the Senate is looking shaky at best, too.

But this year's election does not necessarily suggest a long reign of power for the Democrats. Census analysts say the population shifts from the more liberal Northeast and Midwest to the more conservative South and West will continue into the next decade and beyond.

What this trend means is that Northern Democrats will lose House seats and Republicans will likely gain seats after the 2010 census. Nothing that will happen in this year's election is going to stop this mass migration in political power to the country's more GOP-friendly Sunbelt.


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.



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