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Better Know a District

Speaking of House seats … the math geek readers of Swing State Project have released their latest round of data on congressional districts, calculating the respective vote tallies for President Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain in almost every district in California, Ohio, Texas, and Pennsylvania. An analysis of which districts voted for George W. Bush in 2004 and Obama in 2008 is here, revealing the fun fact that Democratic Rep. John Murtha’s southwestern Pennsylvania district is the only one to have gone the other way—a narrow 2004 victory for Sen. John Kerry, a narrow 2008 victory for John McCain. (Murtha crushed his Republican opponent despite the shifting tide.)

A few trends:

**- The Hispanic vote. **It killed the GOP, not just in the southwestern states that turned blue, but in California and Texas. Eight California districts and two Texas districts swung from Bush to Obama, almost all of them because of the Hispanic trend against the Republicans. Only one district in Orange County voted for McCain: Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s (R) 46th District. And even there, the Republican vote fell from 57 percent in 2004 to 50 percent in 2008.

**- Appalachia. **We knew this already, but that’s where the GOP stood tall, and where McCain was saved from an even worse popular vote defeat. The Democratic vote crumbled in much of Tennessee, from 31 percent to 29 percent in the eastern 1st District, from 41 percent to 34 percent in the central 4th District, and from 47 percent to 43 percent in the western 8th District. The latter two are represented by Democrats. Obama was saved from a worse statewide defeat by faring better than Kerry did in the 5th District (Nashville) and the 8th District (Memphis).

- Texas. For much of this decade I heard Republicans salivate about the opportunities when the next round of redistricting comes following the 2010 census, and Texas gets three or four new House seats. It seems, though, that Texas Republicans peaked in 2004 and the state is going to become less like a GOP version of New York and more like, say, Minnesota — run but not totally dominated by one party.

Only two districts (the 23rd and 28th) flipped from red to blue, both of them Hispanic-dominated border districts, but Democrats basically became competitive everywhere except the panhandle and east Texas. The compact 3rd District, which covers Plano and north Dallas, went from 67-33 Republican to 57-42 Republican. The 10th District, which includes the rural and exurban expanse between Austin and Dallas, went from 62-38 to 55-44 Republican. The upscale 24th District, much of the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex, went from 65-35 to 55-44 Republican. The 26th District, another part of the DFW plex, went from 65-35 to 57-42 Republican. The 32rd District, the site of Rep. Martin Frost (D)’s 2004 defeat by Rep. Pete Sessions (R), has moved dramatically away from the GOP: the party carried 64 percent of the presidential vote in 2000, 60 percent in 2004, and 53 percent in 2008. Even as Democrats lost former Rep. Tom DeLay’s (R) old 22nd District, the presidential vote there improved from Kerry’s 36 percent in 2004 to 41 percent for Obama in 2008.

Would it be possible to draw up a Texas congressional map that shunts all non-white Democrats into their own districts and creates safe, 65/35 Republican/Democrat seats across the rest of the state? It’s gotten a lot harder. If, for example, the Democrats were to gain one house of the state legislature in 2010, it would be really hard to carve up the DFW metroplex so that it sends only one Democrat to Congress, as it does now.

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