Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Riverside County - For Obama in 2012, First Democrat Ever to Win Twice

Riverside County voted for President Obama in 2012, according to results released by the county Registrar of Voters on Monday, November 19th.  Republican "Mitt" Romney had been leading in earlier reports.  Now the vast 7,208 square-mile county in California's "Inland Empire" will change colors on national political maps.

Mr. Obama won Riverside County by 4,232 ballots (315,553 Obama vs. 311,321 Romney; 49.32% vs. 48.66%), according to returns released on November 19th.  These figures likely will change as the registrar says that 33,000 provisional ballots remain to be processed.

Obama is the first Democratic presidential nominee to win Riverside County twice.  In 2008 he won the county by nearly 15,000 voters (325,017 Obama vs. 310,041 McCain, 50.3% vs. 47.9%).

Aside from Obama, none of the Democrats who has won re-election has won Riverside County more that once. Democrat Bill Clinton won Riverside County in 1992 (Clinton 38.7% vs. Bush 37.1% vs. Perot 23.8%), but lost it in 1996 (Clinton 43.1% vs. Dole 45.6% vs. Perot 9.1%).

Franklin Roosevelt won Riverside County just once in his four presidential elections.  F.D.R. narrowly won Riverside County in 1936 (17,011 Roosevelt vs. 16,624 Landon), becoming the first Democratic presidential nominee ever to win the county.  F.D.R. lost Riverside County in 1932, 1940 and 1944.

Riverside County once was so staunchly Republican that it was the only California county that voted against Franklin Roosevelt and for Republican President Herbert Hoover in 1932. (Hoover won Riverside County by 1,357 votes in 1932; 14,112 Hoover vs. 12,755 Roosevelt; 50.2% vs. 45.4%.)  Riverside was among the six California counties that voted for Republican Wendell Willkie and against a third term for Roosevelt in 1940 (along with Orange, Alpine, Santa Cruz, Sonoma and Lake counties). (Riverside County voted 21,779 Willkie vs. 20,003 Roosevelt; 51.4% vs. 47.2%).  In 1944, Riverside was among the eleven California counties that voted for New York Republican Gov. Thomas Dewey and rejected F.D.R.'s fourth term (Imperial, San Benito, Sutter, Mono and Inyo counties joined the six counties that voted Republican in 1940) (Riverside County favored Dewey by 3,729 votes; 23,168 Dewey vs. 19,439 Roosevelt; 53.9% vs. 45.3%).

Since Riverside County was created in 1893, it has voted in 29 presidential elections.  Democrats have won just five times: in 1936, 1964, 1992, 2008 and 2012, roughly once per generation.  Obama is responsible for 40% of all successful Democratic presidential campaigns in Riverside County's history.  Riverside County has voted Republican in 23 presidential elections since the county's creation.  The only time that it voted for a third-party candidate was when it favored ex-President Theodore Roosevelt in 1912, when he ran with California Gov. Hiram Johnson on the "Progressive" presidential ticket.

The demographics of Riverside County have changed considerably since it was a sparsely populated land of desert and citrus groves a century ago.  From 2000 to 2010, the Hispanic/Latino population increased 78%, from 560,000 in 2000 to nearly 1 million in 2010.  Whereas, Hispanics/Latinos comprised 36.2% of Riverside County population in 2000, their share increased to 45.5% in 2010.

Riverside County voted solidly Republican in the 2004 presidential election.  President George W. Bush defeated Democratic Sen. John Kerry by more than 93,000 votes and nearly 17 percentage points (322,473 Bush vs. 228,806 Kerry; 57.9% vs. 41.1%).

The 2012 election was good for Riverside County Democrats, as Jim Miller reported on the Riverside Press-Enterprise website on November 10th.  The county elected two Democrats to the U.S. House of Representatives by comfortable margins.  Democrat Dr. Raul Ruiz defeated Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R) in the 36th Congressional District (eastern Riverside County) (107,702 Ruiz vs. 96,562 Bono Mack; 52.7% vs. 47.3%).  [See the Riverside Press-Enterprise's analysis of the Ruiz-Bono Mack congressional race by Jim Miller.]  In the 41st Congressional District (Riverside-Moreno Valley area), Democrat Mark Takano won an open seat (97,215 Takano vs. 69,944 Tavaglione; 58.2% vs. 41.8%).

Not a single square mile of Riverside County has been represented by a Democratic congressman in the past 20 years (Rep. George Brown represented the Riverside city area in 1993).  The last time that Palm Springs, the Coachella Valley and eastern Riverside County were represented by a Democratic congressman was 42 years ago in 1971 (Rep. John V. Tunney).

In addition, western Riverside County elected a Democrat to the 31st Senate District, a new open seat that covers Riverside, Moreno Valley, Corona and Norco.  Democrat Richard Roth defeated Republican Jeff Miller (127,050 Roth vs. 105,376 Miller; 54.7% vs. 45.3%).  See Jim Miller's analysis on the Riverside Press-Enterprise website.

The city of San Jacinto in Riverside County has the best record of any California city in following the national outcome.  San Jacinto voted for the national electoral vote winner in every presidential election from 1964 to 2008.  No other California city can match that record of voting for the winner in all twelve of those presidential elections.  Once city-level data are released for the 2012 election, we will know if San Jacinto will extend its streak to thirteen in a row.

The city of Riverside also can claim to be among California's "presidential bellwether" cities.  Riverside, Adelanto in San Bernardino County and Imperial Beach in San Diego County, are the trio of California cities that voted for all national popular vote winners from 1964 to 2008.  Those three cities voted in 2000 for Al Gore, who won the national popular vote.  They also voted for the winners of all eleven other presidential elections during that time period.  If Riverside, Adelanto and Imperial Beach voted for President Obama in 2012, they will have extended their streak to thirteen.

In California gubernatorial elections since 1990, Cathedral City in Riverside County has the best record of any southern California city in following the statewide outcome, as discussed in this blog in 2010.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Obama in '12: Outperformed Bush ('04) & Reagan ('80) in National Popular Vote Share

President Barack Obama earned a higher percentage of the national popular vote in his 2012 re-election than did George W. Bush in his 2004 re-election.

As of December 30th, Obama had won 51.04% of the total national popular vote (65,892,518 Obama votes out of 129,099,912 total votes cast).

President Bush garnered 50.73% of the national popular vote in 2004 (62,040,610 votes out of 122,293,548 total votes cast).  As votes continued to be tallied in the weeks after Election Day, Obama surpassed Bush's figure on November 19th [when Obama had won 50.746% of the total national popular vote (63,798,599 Obama votes out of 125,721,735 total votes cast)].

On Tuesday, November 20th, Obama surpassed Ronald Reagan's 50.75% share of the national popular vote in 1980 (43,903,230 votes out of 86,509,678 total votes cast).

Since the Civil War (1861-65), just two other Democratic presidential nominees have won higher shares of national popular vote than President Obama did in 2008 and 2012:

(1) Franklin Roosevelt won between 53.39% and 60.80% of the popular vote in 1932, 1936, 1940 and 1944 and
(2) Lyndon Johnson won 61.05% in 1964.

Mr. Obama won 52.87% of the national popular vote in 2008.  His share of the popular vote declined when he was re-elected, a rarity for a re-elected president.  Obama's 69,498,516 votes in 2008 is the largest popular vote total in U.S. history.

Democrats Grover Cleveland (1884, 1892), Woodrow Wilson (1912, 1916), Harry Truman (1948), John F. Kennedy (1960) and Bill Clinton (1992, 1996) won the presidency but each failed to win a majority (50.0%) of the national popular vote.  Jimmy Carter (1976) won a majority of the popular vote.  Grover Cleveland (1888) and Al Gore (2000) won pluralities (not majorities) of the popular vote, but failed to win electoral vote majorities.  Samuel Tilden won a majority of the popular vote (50.92%) in 1876, yet lost the election in the Electoral College after controversial post-election legal and political wrangling that was enmeshed with Reconstruction issues.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Contrarian Counties: 10 Flipped from McCain in '08 to Obama in '12

Support for President Barack Obama generally declined across the country from 2008, when he won 52.93% of the national popular vote, to 2012, when he won 50.70%, according to the latest figures.  Mr. Obama lost the states of Indiana and North Carolina and the 2nd congressional district of Nebraska (Omaha area), where won electoral votes in 2008.

President Obama lost dozens of counties across the nation in 2012 that he won four years earlier.  In California, for example, three counties (Trinity, Butte and Nevada) voted for Obama in 2008 but "flipped" to Republican "Mitt" Romney in 2012.

However, ten "contrarian" counties across the nation countered the tide and "swung" from backing Republican presidential nominee John McCain in 2008 to supporting President Obama in 2012.   These counties are:

(1) Chaffee County, Colorado (Salida) [last voted for Democrat for president in 1964],
(2) Woodbury County, Iowa (Sioux City, western Iowa's metropolis),
(3) Franklin County, Kentucky (Frankfort, the state capital),
(4) Warren County, Mississippi (Vicksburg) [last voted for Democrat for president in 1960],
(5) Conecuh County, Alabama (Evergreen),
(6) Barbour County, Alabama (Clayton/Eufala),
(7) Early County, Georgia (Blakely),
(8) Darlington County, South Carolina (Florence metro area),
(9) Nash County, North Carolina (Rocky Mount metro area) [last voted for a Democrat for president in 1976] and
(10) Richmond County, New York (Staten Island borough of New York City).

Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections and its "McCain 2008/Obama 2012 counties" discussion forum were helpful in identifying these counties.

(1) Chaffee County, Colorado (2010 census population: 17,809) is in the Rocky Mountains at the junction of U.S. Highways 50 and 285 in central Colorado.  The Arkansas River runs through it.  Much of the population lives in the river valley towns of Salida (county seat) and Buena Vista.  National forest lands virtually surround the valley.  The 2011 population was 86.1% non-Hispanic whites.

Chaffee County supported Republican John McCain over Mr. Obama by a mere nine votes in 2008.  President Obama won Chaffee County by 18 votes in 2012 (4,967 Obama vs. 4,949 Romney).  The "early vote" was crucial to President Obama's victory there (382 Obama vs. 277 Romney) as Obama lost the large "absentee vote" by three ballots (3,992 Obama vs. 3,995 Romney) and also lost the Election Day vote by 86 ballots (593 Obama vs. 677 Romney).

President Obama won Colorado by 123,000 votes in 2012 compared to his 215,000 votes margin of victory four years earlier.  Chaffee County was the only Colorado county that "flipped" either way at the presidential level in 2012.  As recent as 2004, it had been a solidly Republican county, voting 55.6% for President George W. Bush.  The last time Chaffee County backed a Democrat for president was in 1964. Chaffee County shifted from being a minuscule drag on Obama in 2008 to giving him a tiny boost in 2012.

(2) Woodbury County, Iowa (2010 census population: 102,172) is best known for Sioux City, its county seat, the metropolis of western Iowa.  It is on the Missouri River, opposite from Nebraska.  Interstate 29 passes through it en route north-south from Kansas City to Minneapolis/St. Paul.  Its population peaked in the 1960 census when its famous stockyards still processed vast quantities of hogs and cattle.  (The final livestock auction in Sioux City was held in 2002, according to the Associated Press.)  The unionized meat packers once were a local political force.

Woodbury County narrowly favored Republican John McCain in 2008 (22,219 McCain vs. 21,983 Obama).  It "flipped" to President Obama in 2012 (21,841 Romney vs. 22,302 Obama).

In the past half-century, Woodbury County has voted Democratic for president just four times: for Lyndon Johnson in 1964, for Michael Dukakis in 1988, for Bill Clinton in 1996 and for Barack Obama in 2012.  It was the only county in far western Iowa (the row of three counties immediately east of the Missouri River) to vote for Obama in 2012.  It is located in the most politically conservative part of Iowa.

(3) Franklin County, Kentucky (2010 census population: 49,285) is the location of Frankfort, the state capital.  Interstate Highway 64 passes east-west through Franklin County.

Republican John McCain won Franklin County in 2008 by just 144 votes (McCain 11,911 vs. Obama 11,767).  In 2012, Mr. Obama "flipped" the county and won by 190 votes (11,345 Romney vs. 11,535 Obama).  Twelve years earlier, Democrat Al Gore also won Franklin County (10,853 Gore vs. 10,209 Bush).

Obama won eight Kentucky counties in 2008 and just four in 2012.  That was the smallest number of Kentucky counties won by a Democratic presidential nominee since the Republican party was founded in the 1850s. The five counties that Obama won in 2008 but lost in 2012 were Henderson, Hancock, Rowan, Menifee and Wolfe.

Elliott County is only eastern Kentucky county that voted for President Obama in 2012.  It is the last holdout of what used to be a large cluster of eastern Kentucky counties that were Democratic stalwarts in presidential elections. The Wikipedia page for Elliott County claims, "Elliott County has voted for the Democratic Party's nominee in every Presidential election since it incorporated in 1869. This is the longest ongoing streak of any county voting Democratic in the United States ... Elliott County was the second whitest county in the country, at 99.04%, to vote for Barack Obama in the 2008 Presidential election, the whitest being Mitchell County, Iowa."

Against the Nixon Republican landslide of 1972, when President Nixon won 63% of the Kentucky statewide vote, Democrat George McGovern won Elliott and six other eastern Kentucky counties.  Against the Reagan landslide of 1984, Democrat Walter Mondale won Elliott and eleven other eastern Kentucky counties.

Elliott County used to be a major coal mining county, but tonnage extracted has dropped significantly since the 1980s. The United Mine Workers union was a major political force locally when coal mining was in its heyday.  Elliott today is a "dry county;" the sale of alcoholic beverages is forbidden everywhere.

Until 2008, Kentucky had been considered a "bellwether" state in presidential elections in recent decades, akin to Tennessee and Missouri.  From 1964 to 2004, Kentucky voted for the national electoral vote winner in every election.  In Bill Clinton's final campaign day in November 1992, he held a rally in Paducah, Kentucky.  A special congressional election in 1993 in Kentucky was a harbinger of the "Republican Revolution" that took over both houses of Congress in the 1994 midterm election.

(4) Warren County, Mississippi (2010 population: 48,773) is the location of Vicksburg, long nicknamed the "Queen City of the Bluff."  It is perhaps the state of Mississippi's most famous city on the Mississippi River, known for an 1863 Civil War battle, its grand antebellum homes and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' research center.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Warren County's population was 49.4% non-Hispanic white in 2011.  Among the state of Mississippi's counties along the Mississippi River, Warren is second in terms of percentage of non-Hispanic whites (behind DeSoto County, in the state's far northwestern corner, which was 69.6% non-Hispanic white in 2011).  It is among the most white, least black counties along Mississippi's stretch of the Mississippi River.

Mississippi is among the four states where President Obama increased his share of the vote over 2008.  According to the latest returns from Mississippi, Mr. Obama won 43.55% of the statewide vote in 2012, compared with 43.00% four years earlier.  Obama won all of the same counties that he did in 2008, plus added Warren County.

Mr. Obama lost Warren County to McCain in 2008 by 663 votes (10,489 Obama vs. 11,152 McCain), but won it in 2012 by 509 votes (9,899 Obama vs. 9,390 Romney).  Obama is the first Democrat to win Warren County in 52 years, since passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965.  The last Democratic presidential nominee to win Warren County was John F. Kennedy in 1960; he lost the state to "Unpledged Electors," who ended up casting the state's electoral votes for Virginia U.S. Senator Harry F. Byrd.  Warren County voted for Republican Barry Goldwater in 1964 and for independent presidential candidate Governor George Wallace of Alabama in 1968.  Not even Democrat Jimmy Carter, who won Mississippi in 1976 and came close to winning again in 1980, won Warren County.  Democrat Bill Clinton won all Mississippi counties along the Mississippi River except DeSoto and Warren counties, in both 1992 and 1996.

Obama's win of Warren County in 2012 (Obama 51.0% vs. 48.4% Romney) was a major contrast from eight years earlier when Republican George W. Bush decisively won there (Kerry 41.8% vs. Bush 57.7%).

(5) Conecuh County, Alabama (2010 population: 13,228) is one of two Alabama counties that swung from McCain in 2008 to Obama in 2012.  Conecuh County is in south central Alabama, on Interstate 65 midway between Montgomery and Mobile.  Its county seat and only major town is Evergreen.  Its population in 2011 was 50.8% non-Hispanic white and 46.7% black.  Conecuh County's population peaked at 25,489 in 1940 and has been nearly halved since.  With the decline of the local cotton industry, many of its blacks left to seek employment in western and northern states in the "Second Great Migration."

Conecuh County supported McCain in 2008 by a mere 41 votes (3,470 McCain vs. 3,429 Obama).  In 2012, Obama won by 117 votes (3,434 Romney vs. 3,551 Obama).  Conecuh County voted for Jimmy Carter in 1976 and 1980, for Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996 and for Al Gore in 2000 (2,699 Bush vs. 2,783 Gore).

(6) Barbour County, Alabama (2010 population: 27,457) is the second of two Alabama counties that McCain won in 2008 that Obama "flipped" in 2012.  It is located in southeastern Alabama on the Chattahoochee River/Walter F. George Reservoir opposite from Georgia.  Its largest towns are Eufala and Clayton.  No interstate highway passes through or near Barbour County.  In 2011, its population was 46.9% black and 46.7% non-Hispanic white.

A major incident in post-Civil War Reconstruction, the "Election Riot of 1874," where the "White League" killed several black Republicans and chased Republican voters away from the polls on election day, occurred in Barbour County.

Barbour County supported McCain by a 167-vote margin in 2008 (5,697 McCain vs. 5,866 Obama).  In 2012, the county gave a 334-vote margin to Obama (5,539 Romney vs. 5,873 Obama).  Barbour County previously voted Democratic for Jimmy Carter in 1976 and 1980, for Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996 and for Al Gore in 2000 (5,188 Gore vs. 5,096 Bush).

(7) Early County, Georgia (2010 population: 11,008) is located along the Chattahoocee River in southwestern Georgia, southeast of Barbour County, Alabama.  The county seat is Blakely. It is about 70 miles southwest of Plains, Georgia, President Jimmy Carter's hometown.  In 2011, it was 49.3% black and 47.7% non-Hispanic white.

Early County voted for McCain by a 108-vote margin in 2008 (2,711 McCain vs. 2,603 Obama).  In 2012, Obama won the county by 208 ballots (2,557 Romney vs. 2,765 Obama).  Jimmy Carter won Early County in 1976 and 1980 and Bill Clinton won it in 1992 and 1996.  It voted strongly for Republican George W. Bush in 2004 (59%).

(8) Darlington County, South Carolina (2010 population: 68,681) is in the northeastern part of South Carolina. It is a portion of the Florence, S.C. Metropolitan Statistical Area.  Interstate Highways I-20 and I-95 pass through the county.  Its county seat and main city is Darlington.  In 2011, its population was 55.4% non-Hispanic white and 41.6% black.

Darlington County favored McCain by just 39 votes in 2008 (14,544 McCain vs. 14,505 Obama).  In 2012, Obama won by a mere 23 votes (15,434 Romney vs. 15,457 Obama).  John F. Kennedy won Darlington County in 1960, Jimmy Carter won it in 1976 and 1980 and Bill Clinton won it in 1992 and 1996.

(9) Nash County, North Carolina (2010 population: 95,840) is part of the Rocky Mount Metropolitan Statistical Area.  Its county seat is the town of Nashville. Its population was 53.5% non-Hispanic white and 37.9% black in 2011.

Nash County favored McCain over Obama in 2008 by 629 ballots (23,728 McCain vs. 23,099 Obama).  In 2012, it voted for Obama by 471 votes (23,842 Romney vs. 24,313 Obama).

This was a big change from 2004; George W. Bush defeated the Kerry/Edwards ticket by a wide, 16.5 percentage point margin in Nash County (21,902 Bush vs. 15,693 Kerry, 58.1% vs. 41.7%).  In 2000, Bush defeated Gore by 18 percentage points in this county (17,995 Bush vs. 12,376 Gore, 59.0% vs. 40.6%).  (If North Carolina U.S. Senator John Edwards' selection as Democratic running mate was supposed to give John Kerry any great advantage in North Carolina in 2004, that did not happen in Nash County.)  Before 2012, the last time that Nash County favored a Democrat for president was in 1976 (Jimmy Carter).

(10) Richmond County, New York (2010 population: 468,730) is the Borough of Staten Island of New York City.  Before 2012, Richmond County last voted for a Democrat for president in 2000 (51.9% Gore vs. 45.0% Bush).

Staten Island backed McCain in 2008 by 6,751 votes (86,062 McCain vs. 79,311 Obama).  In 2012, it swung to Obama, giving him a 1,104-vote margin over Romney (66,420 Romney vs. 67,524 Obama).  Turnout was significantly lower in 2012 than in 2008, likely because most Staten Island residents were preoccupied with flooding, power outages and other issues related to "Superstorm Sandy."

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Obama's Election in Alaska: Highest Percentage for Democrat for President Since 1968

Alaska voted more "pro-Obama" in the 2012 presidential election than in 2008, one of four states where President Barack Obama garnered a higher percentage than four years ago.  This happened despite the fact that President Obama received 954 fewer votes in Alaska in 2012 than in 2008. Turnout of registered voters decreased significantly in Alaska in 2012.

According to the final official results from the State of Alaska Division of Elections, President Obama won 40.81 percent, 2.92 percentage points higher than in 2008 (37.89 percent).  In forty-four states and the District of Columbia, Obama's share declined from 2008.  Only in Alaska, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey and New York did Obama's percentage rise in 2012 compared to 2008.  Obama's increase was largest in Alaska.

Until 2012, the last time that a Democratic presidential nominee exceeded 40 percent in Alaska was 44 years ago.  In 1968, Democratic Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey won 42.65 percent.  In the ten succeeding presidential elections (1972 to 2008), the Democratic presidential nominees won between 26.41 percent (President Jimmy Carter in 1980) and 37.89 percent (Sen. Barack Obama in 2008). 

To an Alaska outsider, it seem surprising that the best year for a Democratic presidential nominee during that 40-year period was in 2008, the year when Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was on an opposing presidential ticket.  The poor performances of Democrats Al Gore in 2000 (27.67%, a 31 percentage point loss) and John Kerry and 2004 (35.52%, a 25 percentage point loss) suggested that Alaska was destined to become akin to Idaho or Wyoming, a stalwart Republican state in presidential elections.  Alaska is one of the nine states that has not been won by a Democratic presidential nominee since 1964 (along with Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma).  One would have thought that an Alaska governor's presence on the Republican ticket would have increased the Republican advantage in 2008, but that was not so.

Mr. Obama reduced the lag behind Republicans in Alaska from 20 percentage points in 2008 to 14 percentage points in 2012.  While Alaska is unlikely to become a "swing/battleground state" again any time soon (as it was in the 1960s), the "Last Frontier" cannot be characterized politically as "North Idaho."

One explanation for President Carter's poor performance in Alaska in 1980 is that Alaskans intensely disliked the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation bill that was then moving through Congress. President Carter signed it in a lame-duck session that December.  It designated several new national parks in Alaska.  President Carter enjoyed Alaska's recreational opportunities as president; he stopped there for a fishing expedition at Clarence Lake with Secretary of State Edmund Muskie while returning from a memorial service for Prime Minister Masayoshi Ohira in Japan.  (President Carter recounted that experience at Mr. Muskie's funeral in 1996.)

The 2010 Census counted 710,000 residents of Alaska (ranked 48th among U.S. states).  The non-Hispanic white population in 2011 was 63.7 percent (very similar to the national figure of 63.4 percent).  The Native American/Alaska Native population is 14.9 percent, the highest of any state.  If changing demographics explain the rise in the Democratic vote for president in Alaska in 2008 and 2012, that demographic factor is not readily apparent.

Kyle Hopkins at the Anchorage Daily News reports that turnout was relatively low in the 2012 presidential election.  Turnout in Alaska was 59.57% in the November 2012 election, down significantly from the 66.03% turnout in the November 2008 election.  Whereas 326,197 valid ballots were cast for president in Alaska in 2008, just 300,495 valid ballots for president were tallied in 2012.  (The number of registered voters increased slightly from 495,731 in 2008 to 506,432 in 2012.)

Obama/Biden received 123,594 votes in 2008 compared to 122,640 votes in 2012.  Obama garnered 954 fewer votes than he did four years earlier yet his percentage of the total vote rose largely because the decline was much larger over four years for the Republican ticket.  McCain/Palin won 193,841 votes in 2008; Romney/Ryan won 164,676 ballots in 2012, a 29,165 vote decline.

The Libertarian Party is the only national political party that gained votes in the Alaska presidential election compared to 2008.  The Gary Johnson/James Gray ticket won 7,392 votes in Alaska in 2012, a steep rise from the 1,589 votes that the Barr/Root Libertarian ticket won there won in 2008.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

2012 Election: Obama's Coattails in California Congressional Races

President Obama had long “coattails” in California in the 2012 presidential election.  If current trends in the state’s 53 congressional races hold, California will send 38 Democrats and 15 Republicans to the U.S. House of Representatives when the 113th Congress convenes next January.  This will be a net gain of four seats for the Democrats in the California House delegation.

Nearly 72 percent of California U.S. House members will be Democrats in the 113th Congress – the highest percentage in more than 70 years.  The most recent Congress that had a higher percentage of Democrats in the California delegation was the 75th Congress (1937-39).  Back then California had just twenty House members, composed of fifteen Democrats, one Progressive and four Republicans.  Democrats comprised 75 percent of that delegation (80 percent if the Progressive is included as he caucused with the Democrats).  Those congressmen were elected with the Franklin Roosevelt/New Deal re-election landslide of 1936, when F.D.R. won all 58 California counties.

Since the Civil War (1861-65), just three Congresses have had higher shares of Democrats in the California House delegation than in the upcoming 113th Congress: (1) 44th Congress (1875-77), 75% Democratic; (2) 48th Congress (1883-85), 100% Democratic; (3) 75th Congress (1937-39), 75 or 80% Democratic.

The Democrats’ net gain of four House seats in California is a big change from 2008 when none of the Golden State’s 53 congressional districts turned over from one political party to another.  Except in 1940 and 2008, at least one California Democrat has won a Republican-held House seat in every presidential election won by a Democrat since 1892.  Click here for CalPolitiCal’s analysis of the 2008 congressional elections in California.

California House districts in the 2000’s were pro-incumbent party gerrymanders, purposely designed to entrench each party’s members.  The only House seat to switch parties in the entire decade was the old 11th Congressional District, where Democrat Jerry McNerney (D-Pleasanton) defeated seven-term Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Tracy).  That was a Republican-leaning district; it narrowly re-elected Rep. McNerney in 2010 despite backing Republicans Meg Whitman for governor and Carly Fiorina for U.S. Senate.  The competitive districts in 2012 exist because California voters created the Citizens Redistricting Commission via Proposition 11 in 2008 and Proposition 20 in 2010.  (The California Democratic Party and the California Republican Party strongly opposed Propositions 11 and 20.)

The 38 Democrats of the California House delegation will set another record next January.  They will comprise the largest partisan delegation of any state in any Congress in American history.  This breaks the record set by the Pennsylvania House delegation in the 69th Congress (1925-27), composed of 36 Republicans elected by Keystone State voters in the Calvin Coolidge landslide of 1924.  [Pennsylvania again had 36 Republican House members during a portion of the 71st Congress (1929-31), from June 4, 1929 until March 4, 1931.]

It is impossible for any other state to break California’s record at the present time.  The 36 House members elected by Texas comprise the second-largest House delegation.  Even if all Texas congressional districts elected a Republican (or, perhaps impossibly, a Democrat), the 36 Democrats or Republicans would still fall two short of California’s record.  Just two U.S. states have had more than 36 members in their House delegations – California from 1963 to present and New York from 1903 to 1983.

The largest partisan delegation that New York elected to the U.S. House was the 33 Republicans elected to the 67th Congress (1921-23) (followed by 32 Jacksonians in 1832 and 32 Whigs elected in 1848), according to Professor Kenneth Martis' Historical Atlas of United States Congressional Districts.  Although the Empire State had up to 45 House members, neither the Republicans nor Democrats dominated the congressional delegation because of Democratic strength in New York City and Republican voting proclivities Upstate.  The California House Democrats matched New York's record in 2002, when the Golden State elected 33 House Democrats.   Now, in 2012, Pennsylvania's record has fallen.

Assuming that Democrats win 200 seats in the House and 38 Democrats are elected from California in 2012, then the California Democrats will comprise nearly one in every five House Democrats (19 percent).  Assuming that Republicans win 235 House seats, then the fifteen House Republicans will comprise a mere six percent of the entire House Republican Conference.

The last time that California House Republicans were fewer than fifteen was in the 95th Congress (1977-79).  There were a mere fourteen Republicans in the 43-member California House delegation.  

When the 113th Congress convenes in January 2013, the Texas (24 out of 36) and Florida (17 out of 27) delegations will contain more House Republicans than California (15 out of 53).  Other states with 10 or more House Republicans will include Pennsylvania (13 out of 18) and Ohio (12 out of 16).  Those four states (Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio) elected a total of 66 Republicans and 31 Democrats in November 2012.

From 2007 to 2013, the California House delegation consisted of 34 Democrats and 19 Republicans.  Redistricting following the 2010 Census of Population has shifted congressional district boundaries, beginning with the 2012 congressional election.  If current election returns hold, five seats in California effectively will have changed from one party to another; a Republican will have won a Democratic seat and five Democrats will have won Republican seats. 

The "turnovers" (seats shifting from one party to another) are as follows:

21st Congressional District:  Assemblyman David Valadao (R) has won a San Joaquin Valley seat now held more-or-less by Congressman Jim Costa (D).  Costa ran for re-election in a district that includes territory held by retiring Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Atwater, Merced County).  Rep.-elect Valadao (R) effectively is taking the seat of Rep. Cardoza (D).  (Voter registration as of Oct. 22nd: 47% Dem., 33% Rep., 16% Decline-to-State.)

7th Congressional District:  Democrat Ami Bera is leading in the suburban Sacramento County House seat, defeating longtime Republican Rep. Dan Lungren. (Voter registration as of Oct. 22nd: 39% Dem., 38% Rep., 19% Decline-to-State.)

26th Congressional District: Democrat Julia Brownley has won the Ventura County-based House seat that has been occupied by Simi Valley Republican Elton Gallegly since 1987.  Ms. Brownley defeated Republican state Sen. Tony Strickland, a protege of conservative Rep. Tom McClintock.  She is the first Democrat to represent the bulk of Ventura County since Rep. George Outland (D-Santa Barbara) held the Central Coast congressional seat from 1943-47.  (Voter registration as of Oct. 22nd: 40% Dem., 35% Rep., 20% Decline-to-State.)

Ventura is a quintessential presidential bellwether county, siding with the national electoral vote winner in 23 of the past 24 elections. The exception was 1976, when Ventura County favored President Gerald Ford over Gov. Jimmy Carter.

All 808 miles of U.S. 101 highway in California, from the Oregon border to downtown Los Angeles, will represented by a Democratic member of Congress next January, as a consequence of Ms. Brownley's victory.  (U.S. 101 now traverses fourteen congressional districts.)  The last time that the entire California coast from Oregon to Los Angeles elected Democrats to Congress was 130 years ago in 1882/3 when U.S. 101 was a dirt road called "El Camino Real" and automobiles did not exist.

In contrast, forty years ago, a drive the length of U.S. 101 in California was overwhelmingly in Republican congressional districts.  In 1972, a drive up U.S. 101 from its southern terminus near downtown Los Angeles to Oregon crossed Democratic congressional districts just within the city of Los Angeles, in the Morgan Hill, San Jose and Santa Clara section of Santa Clara County and in eastern San Francisco.  All of Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, San Benito, San Mateo, Marin, Sonoma, Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties were represented by Republican House members.  Once a motorist on U.S. 101 left the Hollywood hills [26th District, seat held by Rep. Tom Rees (D-Los Angeles)], the next Democratic congressional district was crossed nearly 350 miles north in Morgan Hill [9th District, seat held by Rep. Don Edwards (D-San Jose)], a few miles south of San Jose.  Another 350 miles on U.S. 101, from central San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge, through the "Redwood Empire," to the Oregon border also was through Republican congressional districts in 1972.

36th Congressional District: Democrat Raul Ruiz is leading over Republican Rep. Mary Bono Mack in the eastern Riverside County House seat.  Mrs. Bono Mack is most famous as the widow of singer/Rep. Sonny Bono.  She won her late husband’s House seat in 1998 after Mr. Bono died in a skiing accident. (Voter registration as of Oct. 22nd: 39% Dem., 39% Rep., 17% Decline-to-State.)

The last House Democrat who represented eastern Riverside County (Palm Springs out to Indio and Blythe) was Rep. John V. Tunney (D-Riverside), who represented the entire county from 1965 until his election to the U.S. Senate in 1970.  Rep. Alfred McCandless (R-Bermuda Dunes) held the Riverside County-centered congressional district from 1983 to 1995.  In 1992, Rep. McCandless ran in the new eastern Riverside County district.  Reps. Sonny Bono and Mary Bono Mack followed him.  It was once very conservative territory; President Ronald Reagan won 65.1% of the vote in 1984 in Rep. McCandless's district.

41st Congressional District:  Democrat Mark Takano defeated Republican John Tavaglione in a new Riverside County House seat, centered on the cities of Riverside and Moreno Valley.  This is Mr. Takano’s third attempt to run for Congress in this area; apparently the “third time is a charm” for him.  (Voter registration as of Oct. 22nd: 42% Dem., 37% Rep., 16% Decline-to-State.)

When a new House seat was carved out of western Riverside County in 1992, Mr. Takano came close to winning.  The winner of that contest was Republican Ken Calvert.  Takano challenged Rep. Calvert in 1994, but lost by a wide margin in the national Republican/Gov. Pete Wilson landslide.  In 2008, Democrat Bill Hedrick came surprisingly close to defeating Rep. Calvert, an outcome that virtually no national political observer foresaw. 

Growth in the Inland Empire has resulted in creation of the new 41st District; Rep. Calvert won re-election in 2012 in the 42nd District.  The new House seat in Riverside County is more-or-less the functional replacement (via the game of “redistricting musical chairs”) of the Los Angeles/San Bernardino County House seat now occupied by retiring Republican Rep. David Dreier (R-San Dimas).

The last House Democrat who represented the city of Riverside was Rep. George Brown (D-San Bernardino County), whose district included a small portion of Riverside County from 1973 to 1993.

52nd Congressional District:   Democrat Scott Peters narrowly won the San Diego County district where Rep. Brian Bilbray (R) stood for re-election.  This district covers northern San Diego, Poway, much of coastal San Diego, the bulk of the San Diego central business district and Coronado. (Voter registration as of Oct. 22nd: 33% Dem., 34% Rep., 28% Decline-to-State.)

Rep. Bilbray previously represented a different San Diego County district from 1995 to 2001; now-Rep. Susan Davis (D-San Diego) defeated Bilbray in that district in 2000.  This was Republican Rep. "Duke" Cunningham's district, more-or-less, until his resignation from Congress in 2005 after he pled guilty to numerous federal criminal charges.  Mr. Bilbray won Cunningham's vacant seat; Democrat Francine Busby attempted to oust him in 2006 and 2010.

The five Republican-to-Democrat turnovers are offset by the single Republican-to-Democrat turnover, resulting in a net gain of four Democratic House seats in California in 2012.