Monday, February 13, 2017

2016 election shows rurality is top predictor of how Republican a congressional district is

U.S. Rep. Sean Maloney of New York has been assigned to lead a review of what his fellow House Democrats did wrong during the 2016 election, reports Paul Kane for The Washington Post. Maloney, who examined 127 House races from 2016, found that "the three biggest predictors of the partisan bent of a House district are the percentage of it that is rural, how much of its population has received college degrees and how diverse it is." Generally, the more rural a place is, the less likely it its residents are to be college-educated or culturally, ethnically and racially diverse.

Maloney's district, New York's 18th
(Click on image for larger version)
Maloney found that "there are House districts that Democrats have competed in, or even represented for a long time, that have moved so sharply away from Democrats that they need to reassess whether to compete there ever again," Kane writes. "Yet there is also an emerging set of districts that have long been held by Republicans that are now bending toward Democrats faster than even the most optimistic strategists envisioned."

"The ones now on the table? Longtime Republican districts that are becoming more demographically diverse," Kane writes. "Off the table may be rural districts with little diversity, the very places where President Trump did well in 2016." Maloney said one problem is that Democrats need to "get out of the past" and embrace new ways of measuring party metrics.

The question "is whether they should recruit moderate to conservative candidates in rural districts or just abandon them altogether." Kane writes. "A beta test for 2018 will come in two special elections this spring to replace House members getting elevated to Trump’s Cabinet. Democrats regularly win governors and Senate races in Montana, where Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) is set to become interior secretary, but it’s unclear whether the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will invest in that mostly rural at-large district." Instead, they may focus on winning back Democratic seats in urban and suburban areas. But ignoring rural areas was a recipe for disaster in 2016.

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