Securing the urban vote has helped Democrats take control of the Senate and win the popular vote in most of the recent presidential elections, but that doesn't work in the House, where rural voters, who tend to be more conservative, have a larger say in the outcome of elections, Nate Cohn reports for The New York Times
. Rural voters have helped give Republicans control of the House, which doesn't appear to be ending any time soon.
"The gap between staggering Democratic margins in cities and the somewhat
smaller Republican margins in the rest of the country allows Democrats
to win key states in presidential and Senate elections, like Florida and
Michigan," Cohn writes. "But the expanded Democratic margins in metropolitan areas are
all but wasted in the House, since most of these urban districts
already voted for Democrats. The result is that Democrats have built
national and statewide majorities by making Democratic-leaning
congressional districts even more Democratic, not by winning new areas
that might turn congressional districts from red to blue."
President Obama focused most of his campaign on metropolitan areas, winning the 2008 and 2012 elections by large margins in cities, Cohn writes. His opponents won the rural areas, but Obama's margin in urban areas was too great to overcome. Obama's strategy was to largely ignore rural ideals and "unabashedly campaigned on social issues, like gay rights and funding for
contraception, that past Democratic candidates would have tiptoed
around for fear of alienating more conservative, rural voters."
"More than ever, the kind of place where Americans live—metropolitan or
rural—dictates their political views," Cohn writes. "The country is increasingly
divided between liberal cities and close-in suburbs, on one hand, and
conservative exurbs and rural areas, on the other. Even in red states,
the counties containing the large cities—like Dallas, Atlanta, St.
Louis and Birmingham—lean Democratic." (Read more
Most cities lean toward Democrats, but "the majority of Americans who live in cities and close-in suburbs are
stuck with having their government tilted in favor of the rural
minority," David Horsey reports for the Los Angeles Times
. This means "that a Democratic
presidential candidate can roll up big numbers in the cities where the
young, liberal and nonwhite voters tend to live and win the electoral
votes of swing states such as Pennsylvania and Florida. But in the
non-urban areas of those states, Democrats are in shorter supply and
have a tougher time winning congressional seats."
"Imagine a state with three congressional districts and assume
that two-thirds of the state’s voters are Democrats," Horsey writes. "You’d guess that
two of the three members of Congress would be Democrats. But you just
might be wrong. If
most of those Democrats live in a large city located in one of those
districts, that means the rest of the Democrats are divided up in the
other two districts where Republicans will probably outnumber them. The
result is two GOP congressmen and one Democratic representative, even
though Democrats are the big majority in our hypothetical state."
"A real-life example of this phenomenon is Pennsylvania, where President
Obama carried the state in 2012 by running up huge vote totals in
Philadelphia and Pittsburgh," Horsey writes. "Obama beat Mitt Romney by 5 percentage
points in the state, which would indicate that a majority of
Pennsylvania voters favor the Democratic Party. And yet, of the state’s
18 House members, 13 are Republicans."
"This phenomenon is repeated through much of the country," Horsey writes. Add to that a
slight bias toward giving small states more representation than their
populations merit, plus Republican success at drawing district lines
that favor the GOP, and the Democratic Party is left with a daunting
problem. If they cannot recapture the kind of support they once had in
farm communities and small, working-class towns, Democrats will find it
nearly impossible to win back a majority in the House for years to come." (Read more