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We're Becoming More Partisan

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

I know you're rolling your eyes and thinking "Figure that out all by yourself, Einstein?"

Well, no. In fact there were at least two articles over the weekend that present a fascinating look at where we are headed in the American political system.


No fewer than 19 announced, presumed, and possible candidates for the Republican nomination for President made their way to New Hampshire over the weekend for a GOP-sponsored event.

As the Concord Monitor's Allie Morris (via Chip Griffin's "The Notch") wrote:

[Nearly 20] Republican Presidential candidates - declared or still weighing the decision - paraded across the stage in Nashua this weekend. It began as a wide field and now after the two-day affair it doesn't look much smaller.

As the political spring training season moves along, more candidates have hired more staff and are better prepared for these early, but important, appearances. Morris quoted one NH political science professor as saying:

"There were no mistake, no gaffes. Nobody has fallen out, in fact I think some of them will get a second look."

The bigger story than anyone tripping over an untied shoelace, is the long-term issue these candidates and their successors are going to have to deal with.

The National Journal's Charlie Cook cited a meta-poll from the Pew organization that analyzed the results of over 25,000 aggregated responses from 2014. According to the data when asked if the respondent considered themselves a Republican, a Democrat or an Independent (the choices were rotated) 33% identified themselves as Democrats and only 24% as Republicans.

But, that is down from surveys that were taken in the 90s and 2007 when Democrats held only a four percentage point edge, 33-29.


"What changed, of course," writes Cook, "was the growth of independents, who averaged 32 percent in the earlier period and 36 percent for the last seven years."

Even when "pushed" for an answer ("Do you lean more toward being a Democrat or Republican?") the gap only narrowed slightly to 47-40.

Further, among minorities, Democrats lead pretty much across the board. Among the fastest growing ethnic group in the United States, Asian-Americans, "Pew found the party had a 42-point edge."


So, bad news for those 19 contenders for the GOP nomination who showed up in NH over the weekend.

As we know there is no national election. Even the Presidency is decided by separate electoral college counts in the 50 states plus the District of Columbia.

Now comes the Washington Post's Dan Balz summarizing a study that "offers worrisome news about the implications for the Democratic Party's hopes of taking back control of Congress."

That study, by Alan Abramowitz and Steven Webster of Emory University, shows that "People don't like their own party any more or less than they used to, but they dislike the other party much more."

Why is this bad news for Congressional Democrats? Because people are tending to ignore the person whose name is on the ballot and are focusing, rather, on the party they represent. Republicans have a huge edge in Republican-leaning Congressional Districts - 240 to 195 according to the study.

Balz writes that in the past, incumbents "could count on their own attributes and skills to prevail in a district whose partisan leanings went against them. Today, with a sharp increase in straight ticket voting, that becomes more and more difficult."


The authors of the study say the same issues are in effect in U.S. Senate races. In 2014, for instance, 64 percent of states with Senate contests leaned toward the GOP. You may remember that last November the GOP picked up nine seats in the U.S. Senate.

Why don't those numbers translate to Presidential results? For one thing, in most states the Presidential election is winner-take-all. Also, every state gets the same number of Senators. So New York and California get four Senators between them (four percent of the U.S. Senate). North Dakota and Delaware get four senators, too,

But, California and New York get 84 electoral votes between them - about 16% of the total. North Dakota and Delaware only account for six electoral votes - about one percent.

Got it?

The best news about all this is: Just about the time when we think we've got this all figured out, they actually hold an election and we find out we were wrong.



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