The New Democratic Majority: It’s Realignment

The New Democratic Majority: It’s Realignment[1] July 13, 2013

by Steve Kamp


President Obama’s election in 2008 and reelection in 2012 was a realignment of the Electoral College through the stable and durable change in voting patterns that occurs every 28 – 40 years, and this one has created a Democratic Presidential era that could last as long as 72 years.  American voters gave a Democrat consecutive popular vote majorities for the first time since 1940-1944, the last two Franklin Roosevelt reelections (Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton were all elected with less than 50 percent)  -- and did so amid incumbent Democratic President economic circumstances that caused two economic determinist models to predict only 46 or 49 percent for Obama, an economic determinist electoral vote model to predict Romney with 330, and Michael Barone to intone Romney 315 because of “fundamentals.”       


The Electoral College fundamentals are now with the Democrats, whose coalition has evolved into the 1860-1928 Republican Northern Strategy. The 2008 and 2012 results were the seventh in a series of a realigning elections that have occurred in 1968 (Nixon), 1932 (FDR), 1896 (McKinley), 1860 (Lincoln), 1828 (Jackson) and 1800 (Jefferson). Each of these elections was characterized by one of the two parties ejecting the other from majority status and maintaining the White House for up to 24 consecutive years as the “sun” party, but with an eight- or twelve-year interregnum by the minority “moon” party that coincides with a weakening but not a disintegration of the majority party coalition. The majority party usually comes back for a last hurrah at the end of the cycle, and then gives way as the sun coalition shatters.  Each of these realigning elections has flipped White House control from one long-dominant party to another – the Federalists to the Democratic-Republicans in 1800, the John Quincy Adams Democratic-Republican faction to the Jacksonian Democrats in 1828, the Democrats to the new Republican Party in 1860, the Civil War Republicans to the Grover Cleveland Democrats to the McKinley Republicans in 1892-1896, the Hoover Republicans to the Franklin Roosevelt Democrats in 1932, and the Kennedy-Johnson Democrats to the Richard Nixon Republicans in 1968.  In 2008, America was due for another realigning election – the Republicans had held the White House 28 of the 40 years post-1968.  

            Realigning elections are America’s substitute for revolutions. They occur because demographic changes over a 28-40 year period create a coalition of voters in states that represent an Electoral College majority who find the ideology and priorities of the incumbent party exhausted and not representative of the forward-looking desires of the new majority.  Realigning elections and their aftermath are characterized by a sharp change in Electoral College voting patterns that becomes stable and durable.  Between 2004 and 2008, the rounded total vote rose from 122.295 to 131.463 million, and the national popular vote margin flipped from Republican 3.012 million to Democratic 9.549 million. Of the 12.561 million Democratic margin gain, 25 percent or 3.503 million came from movements in 26 large urban counties – flips from Bush to Obama in six counties and large Democratic margin gains in 20 others.  In the Electoral College, nine states with 102 current electoral votes moved from Republican to Democratic.  

In contrast, very little changed between 2008 and 2012.  The Romney campaign added only a national net 981,930 raw votes or 1.64115 percent to the McCain 2008 total, with 14.82 percent or 144,570 of this gain coming from Utah. In contrast, the Obama campaign, which in 2008 won the national popular vote by a margin of 9,549,105, in 2012 turned out 94.84576 percent of its’ 2008 vote, losing a net 3.582 million, but still winning the national popular vote by a margin of 4.985 million.  Of the 50 states, all but two cast the same partisan vote in 2008 and 2012, a correlation of 96 percent. In 2012, Republicans flipped only Indiana and North Carolina, two states Barack Obama did not need to win in 2008 but where he won with less than a majority. Democrats again won an Electoral College majority in the East, Great Lakes, Upper Farm Belt and Pacific. Of America’s 3,113 counties, only 182 changed their winners between 2008 and 2012: Barack Obama fell from 875 to 693, and the Republicans moved up from 2,238 to 2,420. However, in multiple large metropolitan counties, President Obama actually increased his margin in 2012, with the second-largest increase in America coming from Florida’s Miami-Dade, where the Obama margin moved up by 69,179 even as the county’s total vote increased by only 14,543 -- in the largest county in the largest Purple Playground state, where the statewide Obama margin was only 74,309.  The largest: Romney’s flip of Salt Lake County in Utah that added 77,960 in the Number One Romney 2012 state.

The Democrats have now achieved two consecutive 60-million-plus national popular vote numbers, whereas the Republicans have achieved only one (in 2004), and this Bush 2004 number of 62,040,610 is below not only Obama 2008, but also Obama 2012. At the state level, the Bush 2004 raw number exceeds the Obama 2012 raw number in only one Obama 2012 state: Ohio, by a paltry 32,059. 

In each of 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012, Democrats won 20 jurisdictions that have a combined 242 electoral votes – in the words of The National Journal’s Ron Brownstein, the Blue Wall states.  Democrats have also won another three states with a combined 15 that went Republican only once in this period: New Hampshire (where in 2000 Ralph Nader siphoned 3.90 percent) and the narrow Bush 2004 states of Iowa and New Mexico.  With these 257 firmly in hand, Democrats need only one or two of the seven Purple Playground states: Virginia (13), or Ohio (18), or Florida (29), or a combination of Nevada (6) and Colorado (9) or Indiana (11), or North Carolina (15).  Reason: the Red Fort states (my apologies to the Delhi landmark) carried continuously by the Grumpy Old Party between 1992 and 2012 are 21 with only 170 electoral votes: Alaska (3), four rural Rocky Mountain states (16), Arizona (11), the four Wheat Belt states (17), the four Border States of Oklahoma (7), Missouri (10), Kentucky (8) and West Virginia (5), and only eight of the former Confederate states (Texas at 38 plus seven others with 65).  Thus, to win in 2016 or 2020, Republicans need another 100 electoral votes: 28 from the two states the GOP flipped in 2012 (Indiana (11), North Carolina (15)), plus 60 from all three of Florida (29), Virginia (13), and Ohio (18), and another twelve electoral votes from a combination of Nevada (6), Colorado (9), or New Hampshire (4). This is a tall order for the GOP, the equivalent of the inside straight trap the President Reagan campaign sprung on Walter Mondale in 1984, when at the advice of former President Richard Nixon, it treated Ohio as a governor’s race -- exactly what the Obama campaign did in 2012, only on a larger scale, by adding Florida and Virginia.  Republicans must carry all of these three states plus one other to hit 270, whereas Democrats need to carry only one.

            A similar Northern Strategy Coalition dominated American politics from 1860 through 1928 – same states, similar program, but a different party: the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln, Reconstruction, the Homestead Act and the transcontinental railroad  -- that since 1988 has been dominated by the onetime Solid South of the Nineteenth Century Democratic Party.   The 2008 and 2012 results placed the two parties in entirely new roles: the Democrats are now the Eastern-Pacific majority party, with the largest state (California) more Democratic than any other state, none of which is larger, and larger than any jurisdiction that is more Democratic.  The Republicans are now the minority Southern/rural party, with the top GOP states Oklahoma, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, and Louisiana, and the largest double-digit GOP electoral vote states Georgia and Texas, after the Old Confederacy took over the Republican coalition in 1988, and a Northern-based Democratic Party majority emerged from the 1992, 1996 and 2000 elections after going into hibernation in 1968.  The Democratic majority first emerged with the President Johnson election in 1964, but its’ critical suburban component flipped back to the Republicans between 1966 and 1990.  The majority emerged again in 1992, 1996 and 2000, when Democratic percentages continuously rose in the North and Vice President Gore was kept out of the White House only by the Ralph Nader siphon in New Hampshire. It almost emerged yet again in 2004, when Senator John Kerry was kept out of the White House only by the Republican margin surge in rural western Ohio.  

The 1860, 1896, 1964, and 2008-2012 electoral maps are essentially re-fights of the Civil War, except that the party of Lincoln has become the party of the Confederacy, and the Democratic Party has evolved from the “White Man’s Party” of 1868 nominee Horatio Seymour and the 1960 Alabama Democratic elector slate ballot label (“White Supremacy”) to the post-1988 party mocked by Republican acolyte Sean Trende for its’ declining share of the white electorate. This Civil War reversed pattern began in the 1790’s emergence of the Federalists as the party of the nascent urban areas of the East, and the 1800 emergence of the Jeffersonian Democratic-Republican Party as the voice of the rural South and the trans-Appalachian states; it was Alexander Hamilton’s Report on Manufactures versus Thomas Jefferson’s belief in the superiority of the yeoman farmer.  After the Federalist Party died in the 1820’s, its adherents wound up in another northern urban-based party first known as the National Republicans and then the Whigs, which was the minority “moon” party in the “sun” of the Andrew Jackson Southern-rural Democratic coalition that dominated American politics between 1826 and 1856.

However, the Southern slaveocracy took over the Democratic Party, electing 49 of the 81 Democrats in the 33rd Congress (1853-1854) and supplying 88 of the 174 electoral votes for 1856 winner James Buchanan. In response, a new Northern-based Republican Party arose in 1854 as the Whigs lost interest in paying for the printing of ballots.  The Grand New Party of Californian John Fremont came within 35 electoral votes of winning the White House in 1856, and elected Illinoisan Abraham Lincoln in 1860 by adding Illinois, Indiana and Pennsylvania, thus winning the White House with a state collection similar to the Democratic state collections after 1996 -- every state from Maine through Minnesota except Indiana (which went Republican in both 1860 and 2012) and New Jersey (which went Democratic in 1860, 2008 and 2012).


The 2008, 2012 and 1860 Presidential Maps


2008 State Map
2012 State Map
1860 State Map



Republicans dominated the Electoral College from 1860 through 1928. The Democrats achieved one popular vote majority (1876), and did not win an Electoral College majority for twenty-four years (1884). Once Reconstruction ended, the Old Confederacy 11 states emerged in 1880 as the linchpin of the Democratic coalition. Republicans responded with a northern coalition from Maine through Minnesota to California that won the Electoral College in each of the 18 Presidential elections between 1860 and 1928 except 1884, 1892, 1912 and 1916.

The 1888, 2008 and 2012 Presidential Maps

1888 State Map

2012 State Map

2008 State Map



Democrat Grover Cleveland won the popular vote in 1888 and 1892.  However, the suddenly out of office Grover Opposition Party successfully blamed the Panic of 1893 on the Democrats, resulting in 1896, 1900, 1904 and 1908 Republican wins with 51-54 percent of the popular vote from a united North, as every pre-1896 competitive Northern state became a Republican overperformance zone, led by urban counties from Boston to San Francisco.

The 1896, 2008, and 2012 Presidential Maps

1896 State Map



2012 State Map

2008 State Map


In 1910, the Southern-based Democrats won back the House with a surge of newly Democratic seats in the North, a surge that also flipped the New York Legislature and sent future President Franklin Roosevelt to the New York State Senate.  However, many of these House wins were by plurality winners in five- or six-ticket races – 49 of 227 in 1910 and 123 of 293 in 1912 were elected with less than a majority. While the surge continued into 1912 – giving the Democrats 293 of 435 U.S. House seats -- it began to peter out in 1914 (when the Democrats lost a net 63 House seats), and in 1916, the Republicans pulled Democrats to 216 on Election Night, forcing them to hold the Speaker’s chair by support from three Progressives, a Prohibitionist, and a Socialist.  The Galloping Old Party re-flipped the House in 1918, and in 1920 achieved a record 302 seats.  In between, Woodrow Wilson won a plurality 1912 victory, thanks to the decision by the 1912 Republican Party (except in California and South Dakota) to shun Theodore Roosevelt.  In 1916, President Wilson was reelected despite losing the ticket’s two home states (New Jersey and Indiana) thanks to a 3,773 raw margin in California that provided the decisive 13 electoral votes. The 1916 Wilson reelection map is a mirror-image of the 1996 map, with the 1916 Republicans and 1996 Democrats dominating the East and Great Lakes states, and the 1916 Democrats and 1996 Republicans dominating the South and interior West.


The 1916 and 1996 Presidential Maps

1916 State Map
1996 State Map


The negative reaction to World War I and the Versailles Treaty reinstated the Galloping Old Party back in the White House in 1920, 1924 and 1928, again with a northern-based coalition.

The 1920-1924-1928 Presidential Map

Democratic 1920, 1924, 1928 – Ark., La., Alab., Miss., Ga., SC

Republican once 1920, 1924, 1928 (Texas, Florida, Virginia, N.C.)

Republican 1920, 1924, Democratic 1928 (Mass., R.I.)

Republican twice 1920, 1924, 1932 (Tennessee, Oklahoma, 1920 and 1928; Kentucky, 1924 and 1928)

Wisconsin – Republican 1920, 1928; Progressive 1924

Republican 1920, 1924, 1928 – all other states


1928 State Map

1924 State Map

1920 State Map



Below the radar of the Roaring Twenties Slumber Party, a potential Democratic majority was coming to fruition. The 1924 Robert LaFollette Progressive candidacy won Wisconsin and finished second in 11 states. The Democratic nomination of Catholic Al Smith in 1928 moved urban voters out of the Republican column.  The Great Depression by 1932 kept or moved every county Democratic. Democrats won back the House in 1930-1946 and the White House in 1932-1944 with a Southern-based coalition, whose 46-state breadth in 1936 masked the fact that the top 11 states in the Old Confederacy, led by South Carolina with 98.57% of an all-Caucasian electorate, and the McGovern state of Massachusetts far back at 51.22%.

1928 State Map

1936 State Map

1932 State Map



The 333-Democrat U.S. House elected in 1936 – the largest Democratic caucus in history – consisted of 100 Old Confederacy seats that Republicans rarely engaged, and 233 seats from the North. Republicans had only 89 seats – 2 in the South and 87 in the North. Between 1932 and 1950, not a single Southern House seat flipped, but beginning in 1938, Republicans made inroads into the Northern Democratic 233, reducing it to 161 in 1938, 119 in 1942, and 85 in 1946.  In 1948, Democrats won back the House in a spectacular fashion, increasing the Northern number from 85 to 160. The year 1948 also saw Harry Truman achieve a fifth consecutive Democratic White House win with 7 of 11 Old Confederacy states, more than any Democrat other than Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter would carry between 1956 and 2012.

The 1948 Presidential Map

Democratic 1944, 1948 (Texas, Ark., Tenn., Va., NC,  Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Okla., N.M., Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Washington, California, Missouri, West Virginia, Minnesota)

Democratic 1944, Dixiecrat 1948 (SC, Alab., La., Miss.)

Republican 1944, Democratic 1948 (Ohio, Colorado, Wyoming, Wis., Iowa) 

Democratic 1944, Republican 1948 (NH, Conn., NY, NJ, Penna., Delaware, Maryland, Mich., Oregon)

Republican 1944, 1948 – Maine, Vermont, Indiana, ND, SD, Nebraska, Kansas

1948 State Map

            The 1952 and 1956 Eisenhower landslides decimated the Democrats outside the Old Confederacy, but below the Eisenhower radar Democrats in 1953  began making inroads into longtime Republican U.S. House seats with progressive candidates, starting with the 1953 special election flip of the Wisconsin-9 Green Bay U.S. House district by Lester Johnson, who as Wisconsin Assembly Chief Clerk in 1935 and Jackson County District Attorney was a Progressive, but who became a Democrat in 1952; the current Barbara Lee Berkeley, California district, which elected its’ last Republican in 1956; as well as the Wisconsin Class I U.S. Senate seat, once held by Progressive Robert Lafollette, which flipped from disgraced Joe McCarthy to Democrat William Proxmire on August 28, 1958, and has been continuously Democratic ever since (Proxmire, Herb Kohl and Tammy Baldwin).  At the same time, Republicans were making inroads into the Old Confederacy through urban Outer South districts (such as the current Florida-13 in St. Petersburg, continuously Republican since 1954), but between 1952 and 1990, routinely failed to run House candidates in 20-40 Southern districts carried by Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan and Bush the Elder, which delayed the Republican House majority until 1994. 

In essence, the progressives from the old Republican Party of the 1904 Theodore Roosevelt urban GOP landslides – symbolized by FDR Interior Secretary Harold Ickes, Sr. and Eleanor Roosevelt – began to take over the Democratic Party in the fashion contemplated by FDR, Wendell Willkie and FDR advisor Samuel Rosenman in their 1944 correspondence about creating a liberal party from Northern Democratic and Republican constituencies, leaving the “reactionary Southerners” to a conservative party.   


The 1960 Presidential Map

Democratic 1956, 1960 – (Missouri, Alab., Georgia, S.C., N.C., Arkansas)  

Rep. 1956, Dem. 1960 – (Mass., RI, Conn., NY, Penna., Dela., Md., West Virginia, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Texas, Louisiana, NM, Nevada)


Democratic 1956, Unpledged 1960 -- Mississippi


Republican 1956, 1960 – (Tenn., Ky., Florida, Virginia, Indiana, Maine, Vermont, N.H., Wisconsin, Iowa, ND, SD, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, Washington, Oregon, California)


1960 State Map

After winning the 1960 photo finish election, the Kennedy-Johnson Administration began transforming the Democratic Party of the United States from a Southern-based coalition to a Northern one. Even though the infamous Sheriff Bull Connor was the Democratic National Committeeman from Alabama, JFK and LBJ eliminated Dixiecrat domination of the House Rules Committee, ended malapportionment, used federal troops to integrate the universities of Mississippi and Alabama, and desegregated interstate commerce.  In doing so, they engaged (and enraged) voters in Southern rural counties that gave landslide percentages to Adlai Stevenson in 1956 and JFK in 1960, but that would flip to Barry Goldwater in 1964, and today are super-landslide Republican or African-American Democratic counties.

The southern reaction to the Democrats was negative.  In 1962, Alabama came within 6,842 votes of electing a Republican Senator to the seat Democrat-turned-Republican Richard Shelby now holds. However, the Northern reaction was positive: in 1962, Vermont elected its first Democratic Governor, and New Hampshire elected its first Democratic Governor since 1922, and its first Democratic Senator ever to the Class II seat.  In 1964, the Goldwater Republicans swept the 1960 Kennedy target state of Mississippi along with the 1960 Democratic states of Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina, but the Democrats won everything outside the Deep South (and almost won Arizona), and ran their U.S. House seat number to a post-1936 record 295 – 205 in the North and 90 in the South.

The 1964 and 2008, and 2012 Presidential Maps 

1964 State Map
2008 State Map


2012 State Map

Beginning with the 1968 election, the new Emerging Republican Majority appeared, first based in suburbia, with the South added in 1972.  After the Watergate-enhanced Carter single term of a South/urban North Democratic majority, the Emerging Republican Majority roared back in 1980 with a western and suburban base, and a Dixie tail.  However, the Reagan and Bush the Elder policies slowly alienated the North, causing largely unnoticed Northern rural counties and one trendy California suburban county (Marin) to flip to Mondale in 1984.  In 1988, Bush the Elder won only by holding on to narrow “Lower North” majorities from New Jersey to California, as Dukakis easily won Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, the District of Columbia, the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles County, which voted for a Democratic national loser for the first time since 1868 or 1876. In 1988 all 11 Old Confederacy states gave Bush higher percentages than his national 53.37%, whereas in 1952-1956, the South was the Adlai Stevenson overperformance zone.

            The 1991 recession and Ross Perot 1992 cratered the Bush 1988 coalition into two parts: a Southern remnant, with Mississippi the Number One Bush 1992 state, and a Baltimore-Brazos-Bakersfield Diamond that essentially split between Ross Perot and Bill Clinton.  Bill Clinton became President as Ross Perot destroyed the 1952-1988 Republican suburban majorities, allowing Clinton to win with below-Dukakis percentages in most states.  Bill Clinton stayed President by converting into 1996 majorities the 1992 pluralities in the East, Great Lakes, upper Farm Belt and Pacific; the encore Perot run enabled him to win with pluralities Ohio and Florida despite the first Ralph Nader siphon.  Had small amounts of the second and biggest Ralph Nader siphon (2000) been stopped in either 2000 New Hampshire or Florida, Al Gore would have become President. In 2004, Kerry flipped New Hampshire, and would have gone to the White House with 120,000 additional or 60,000 flipped Ohio votes.  Between 2004 and 2008, an urban core county vote surge flipped Ohio and another eight states to the Democrats, who held all but two in 2012, as President Obama achieved majority percentages in all but Florida, and Republican Romney came no closer than the 0.88 margin in Florida. 

            These are not random scatterings of states.  Rather, the new Democratic cycle is the logical growth progression of metropolitan America and the movement of the Republican Progressives from the Republicans to the Democrats between 1910 and 2008, followed by the counter-movement of the Southern Jeffersonian electorate to the Republicans between 1948 and 2008.  We now have the metropolitan-based Democratic Party of the United States of the Twenty-first Century versus the Grumpy Old Party. 

Driving these electoral shifts is the continuing clash between forward-looking versus backward-looking values.  The Hamiltonians and Federalists correctly saw manufacturing as the future of the United States, and President John Quincy Adams in his first inaugural address (1825) called for a federal astronomical observatory, thus anticipating the Space Age by more than a century.  However, in the four-way 1824 Presidential race, Adams had received only 30.92 percent and electoral votes only in  New England, New York, Delaware, three in Maryland and two in Louisiana. Thus, in 1828, 1824 loser Andrew Jackson easily overcame Adams simply by adding the Southern William Crawford states. Nevertheless, the Whig argument for an “American system” of federally funded internal improvements and a manufacturing-protective tariff prevailed in New England, jumpstarted the Whig rise in the 1840’s, and by 1860 flipped Pennsylvania and the rest of the North into the Republican column, to the point that Pennsylvania actually went for Herbert Hoover in 1932, and its’ Republican Machine lost only three statewide contests between 1860 and 1932, in large part because their winners included progressives such as forest preserver Gifford Pinchot (who helped Theodore Roosevelt win Pennsylvania in 1912). The Republicans lost the urban North in 1932 after they refused to nominate Theodore Roosevelt in 1912 and nominated candidates whose solution to the Great Depression was (in the words of Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon) “liquidate everything.” They won it back with Eisenhower, Nixon and Reagan, but lost it on the watch of the first Bush, and abandoned it under the second.

            On the Senate front, unlike the Electoral College each state has the same two Senators, and the District of Columbia has none.  Thus, the 21 Red Fort states have 170/538 of the Electoral College, but 42/100 of the Senate – two above the cloture number of sixty.  Senators are elected in cycles of three classes -- in 2014, Class II, the most Southern-affected of the three classes – of the 22 Southern U.S. Senate seats, 10 are in Class II, and four are held by Democrats (Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, and Mark Warner of Virginia).  Class II also includes Alaska, three seats in the Border (West Virginia, Kentucky and Oklahoma), three in the Wheat Belt (Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota), and three in the Republican Rockies (Wyoming, Idaho and Montana). Four are held by Democrats – Jay Rockefeller of Virginia, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Max Baucus of Montana, and Mark Begich of Alaska. The only Class II Republican seat in an Obama state is the Maine Susan Collins seat. In contrast, in 2016 Class III, there are no Democratic seats in the South and only one in a Romney-carried state: Joe Manchin in West Virginia.  Thus, Democrats could come close to losing or actually lose Senate control in the 2014 Class II year, but in 2016 again hit the sixty seat number of 2009 -- because in 2016, seven Republican Senators will be seeking reelection in Obama-carried states after winning in 2010 with fewer raw votes than John Kerry achieved in their states in 2004: Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire, Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, Rob Portman in Ohio, Mark Kirk in Illinois, Ron Johnson in Wisconsin, Marco Rubio in Florida, and Charles Grassley in Iowa. 

            On the U.S. House front, the current Republican majority of 234 comes 98 from the Old Confederacy and 136 from the North. It includes 27 who come from three states carried by President Obama in 2012 but where Republicans won a majority of the state’s U.S. House seats despite losing the state U.S. House vote: Pennsylvania (13-5), Michigan (9-5), and Wisconsin (5-3).  Another 29 come from three states won by President Obama but where Republicans won a majority of the House vote:  Colorado (4-3), Florida (17-10), and Virginia (8-3). Three additional interesting states are New Jersey, where Republicans have 6 of the 12 seats despite President Obama’s 58.25% and the Democrats winning the statewide House vote; North Carolina, where Mitt Romney prevailed with 50.39%, Democrats won the House vote, but only 4 of the 13 U.S. House seats; and Arizona, the one state carried by Mitt Romney where the Republicans won the House vote but Democrats won the delegation 5-4, as the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission created three marginal Democratic seats, two safe Democratic seats and four safe Republican seats.  

Some long-Republican seats are beneficiaries of urban Democratic clustering: Washington-8 in suburban Seattle has been carried by Al Gore, John Kerry and Barack Obama, but has never elected a Democrat since it was created in 1981; it is adjacent to Washington-7 in downtown Seattle, which has elected only one general election Republican and one special election Republican since it was created in 1951.  In 2012, the combined Democratic-Republican vote ratio in districts 7 and 8 was Democratic 420,254, Republican 256,416, but 298,368 of the Democratic number was cast in district 7, and only 121,886 in district 8.  The district 8 Republican margin was 58,318, whereas the Democratic district 7 margin was 222,156.

            Democrats in 2006 flipped the House from 202-233 to 233-202 with a gain of 27 Republican seats held in 2008; in 2008 adding another 28, and in 2009 flipping two long-Republican upstate New York seats, including current district 21 centered on St. Lawrence County, where the last previously elected Democratic Member (Frances Spinner in 1854) became a Republican in 1856. In these years, Democrats won 54.11 and 55.55 percent of the two-party House vote of 77.757 and 116.841 million. These wins brought the Democrats to a mid-session 109th Congress majority of 259, 59 from the Old Confederacy and 200 from the North. The current Republican majority emerged in 2010, when the Republicans with a House vote of 44.594 million from a two-party vote of 83.448 million moved up from a 176-259 minority to a 242-193 majority after they gained 70 Democratic seats from 2008 and lost only four (the two 2009 upstate New York seats, Delaware, and Louisiana-2).  Republicans gained a net 25 seats in the Old Confederacy and the Border States -- had Republican gains in 2010 been stopped at the Ohio River,  the House would have been Democratic 234-201, a 33-seat margin that would have prevented the debt ceiling debacle.

The 2010 flip of House control was trumpeted by Republicans as a public opinion turnabout against President Obama, but in fact it was driven by the sawtooth pattern of the Democratic total House vote, which after 2008 fell by 26 million, whereas the Republican vote fell by only 7 million. This has bedeviled the Democrats as far as back as at least 1942, when a crash of 12 million Democratic votes (versus only 7 million Republican) caused the Democratic seat number to fall from 267 to 222, or 1938, when the Republican House vote actually rose by 44,000 and the Democratic fell by 6.33 million, and the Democratic seat number fell by 71 from 333 to 262.

Democrats in their Robert Kennedy moments (“I dream of things that never were, and ask, why not?”) should persuade Presidential year Democratic voters to start voting in off-years and make the off-year Democratic House vote closer to the Presidential year vote. In 2012, the Democratic total vote rose from 2010 levels by a raw 20.360 million or a two-party net 7.692 million, as Democrats won the national House vote by 59.214 to 57.622 million. However, Democrats lost 3.582 million Barack Obama votes from 2008, and 5.673 million Democratic House votes from 2008. When Democrats find these lost votes and persuade them and the 2012 voters to vote in off-years, Democrats will regain the House of Representatives majority achieved in 2006-2008. Until then, Republicans will leverage their low-turnout gerrymandered House majority into cascading obstructionism -- the Twenty-first Century equivalent of the Confederate Civil War against the Abraham Lincoln Northern Strategy of 1860.       

[1] Sacramento attorney Steven Kamp, a graduate of Yale Law School (1981) and the University of California at Los Angeles (1978), and a veteran of Democratic campaigns in multiple states back to 1972, is nearing completion of The New Democratic Majority, a book analyzing American voting patterns between 1788 and 2012 for President, Congress, Governors, state downballot offices, state legislatures and ballot propositions.


Maps and election return data used with permission of David Leip and the U.S. Election Atlas website, "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections"