By Markos Moulitsas - 07/29/08 07:08 PM EDT
As Republicans scramble to stanch a November bloodletting at the congressional level, they’re casting a fearful eye at the electoral punch the Obama machine will bring to the fight.
Their fears focus less on whether Obama will win deep-red states and more on whether his ability to register millions of new voters — and turn out record numbers of African-Americans and younger voters — could close the gap so significantly that presumably safe Republican congressional incumbents will be wiped out as collateral damage.
“I think you’ll see House members who won their last race by 60 percent-65 percent lose because of the turnout model that Obama brings,” admitted Florida Rep. Adam Putnam, House Republican Conference chairman.
The danger is real. Already this year, increased African-American turnout helped Democrats win deep-red open seats in Louisiana and Mississippi. The more conservative of the two — Mississippi’s 1st congressional district — gave Bush a 62-37 victory in 2004. Over 100 congressional districts held by Republicans are less conservative than MS-01.
Recent national polling isn’t giving Republicans reason to breathe easy. A Research 2000 poll taken last week suggested strong and broad geographic strength for Obama, a boon for down-ticket Democrats everywhere.
In the Northeast, where a dying Republican Party faces complete annihilation, Obama predictably crushes John McCain, 59-32. Connecticut Rep. Christopher Shays is all that stands between wall-to-wall Democrats in New England’s House caucus. In New York, Republicans may well be left with just two of 29 seats come January. The Midwest, with its myriad battleground states, was always going to be hotly contested, so Obama brings few surprises to the table. Still, his 53-37 lead in the region will greatly aid Democrats up and down this fierce electoral battleground.
It’s the West and South, however, where Republicans find themselves uncharacteristically on the defensive. While Bush won the West 50-49 in 2004, Obama currently leads 52-37, affecting House and Senate races in just about every state in the region — not just blue and purple states like California and Washington, but the deepest-red ones as well. For example, Bush handily won Alaska (61-36), Idaho (69-30) and Wyoming (69-29) in 2004. Yet if recent polling is accurate and Obama loses those states by a mere five to 15 points, surprisingly competitive Democratic House challengers in those states (and others in the region) will have much smaller gaps to overcome.
The South, too, is no longer a Republican sanctuary. Bush’s 16-point victory in 2004 is now a narrow 48-43 McCain advantage. Like in the West, the narrower the gap at the top of the ticket, the better off are those lower down. And record black turnout might not just deliver a surprise or two for Obama, but also a handful of House and Senate seats as well in places like Oklahoma, the Carolinas, Georgia, Mississippi, Florida and Texas.
The GOP’s challenges are myriad — they’ve lost 1 million registered voters since 2004, while Democrats have gained 700,000. Younger voters are trending toward Obama 63-26, are poised to turn out in record numbers and voted 3-to-2 for Democratic House candidates in 2006. An increase in their numbers correlates with more pain for Republican House candidates. And newly engaged voters, regardless of age, are less apt to know who the incumbent is, negating the incumbency advantage.
As much as Republicans pretended, during the Democratic primary, to prefer Obama as their opponent, the fact is Hillary Clinton would’ve run a traditional campaign focused on traditional swing states. Obama poses a much deeper threat to the GOP’s future in every state of the union, from the bluest to the reddest.
Moulitsas is founder and publisher of Daily Kos (www.dailykos.com).