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In Defense of Michael Barone

DavidNYC kindly links one of my articles about the dozens of congressional districts that were carried by George W. Bush in 2004 and Barack H. Obama in 2008. Then he takes the opportunity to tar and feather conservative columnist and political guru Michael Barone, and a column he wrote in 2005 about how Bush’s carrying those districts meant he could grow the Republican majority. “Almost every sentence in the piece was either wrong when it was written or quickly became wrong soon after,” says David.

Let’s be fair to Barone. Some of his congressional district numbers were meaningless—Bush flipped some districts in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut entirely because of 9/11, and it was foolish to believe that, say, pro-choice voters in Long Island were going to keep voting Republican. Also, it was a bit much to imply (as Barone did here and pundits like Hugh Hewitt did elsewhere, at greater volume) that states like Ohio and Florida and Colorado should be sending two Republican senators to Washington just because they narrowly went red.

But Barone, like Bush, is a supporter of immigration and a supporter of comprehensive reform. Bush’s outreach to Hispanic voters was an incredible boon to the Republican party, and in 2005, there was reason to believe it would continue. For example, Bush narrowly carried California’s 47th Congressional District, which is 65 percent Hispanic. If the progress that Republicans made with Latino voters in 2000 and 2004 continued, the party would have been more competitive in the Southwest. Not many people (unless they closely study talk radio) saw the immense base backlash to immigration reform coming in 2006, or predicted that it would be successful in scuttling a bill. The result of that: a huge chunk of the Latino vote moving from Republicans to Democrats.

Barone’s theories—he has a new one today about upscale voters—depend on the GOP discovering a tolerance that doesn’t exist in some segments of its base. That’s why he was wrong in 2005.

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