Democrats Challenging Republicans Incumbents In Some Districts

Between a bad economy (even if caused by Republican policies) and needing to defend many former Republican-controlled districts, it is inevitable that the Democrats will lose some seats this year. The problem is worsened in an off-year election when younger, more liberal voters are historically less likely to vote. Just based upon these trends it was easy to predict short term gains for Republicans in 2010, while long term demographic trends favor the Democrats. In some areas these demographic trends are already being seen and might help reduce GOP gains in 2010.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that Democrats are targeting seventeen districts now held by Republicans but where there is a chance to win. These are districts which have younger voters, a larger number of immigrants, and districts which voted for Obama in 2008.

At the core of the Democrats’ strategy is demographics. The 17 districts are largely places that have been transformed by infusions of young people and immigrants, changing their character and – Democrats hope – making them ripe for a switch from red to blue on the congressional map. In this way, California’s Third District is a window into one of the rare places where Democrats are not on the defensive, but instead are seeking to turn the antiestablishment mood of this election cycle to their advantage.

While Republicans across the country are targeting Democrats for supporting an unloved legislative agenda that has failed to prompt strong economic growth, Democrats like Bera are trying to turn that message on its head. They paint Republican incumbents as agents of Washington gridlock for their near-lock-step opposition to President Obama’s initiatives. In areas trending less conservative, the message could resonate.

Many pundits are arguing that Republicans have the momentum this year which will help them to victory in races which otherwise might be competitive. They claim this could be a wave election where the close seats all go in one direction. While too early to say if this is true, this belief is largely based on the flawed and inconsistent generic Congressional ballots. To assume that Republican incumbents cannot be beaten because of this misses four key points:

  1. Democrats have been improving on the generic ballot in several recent polls
  2. Even polls that show a majority plan to vote Democratic, dislike of Republicans is high, suggesting that at least some Republican incumbents are still vulnerable if the Democrats put up a good candidate to oppose them
  3. Republican leads in the generic ballot were based upon large leads in southern and mountain west states with Democrats leading in the rest of the country
  4. There are still several weeks to go and the election is far from over