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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Dems 4 for 4 in Special Elections for House Seats Since ’08

Not to put too much lipstick on the ’09 elections pig, but Rhodes Cook has a positive (for Dems) perspective at Larry J. Sabato’s Crystal Ball that merits a read. From Cook’s “’09 Elections: Some Parting Thoughts“:

…The Republicans did not emerge from this month’s elections unscathed. Their loss of a historically GOP House seat in upstate New York exposed the party’s own problem–their ongoing failure to win free-standing special congressional elections even on favorable terrain….The loss in upstate New York marked the fourth time since the beginning of 2008 that the Democrats picked up a previously Republican House seat in a special election, with no similar takeaways by the GOP.
The Democratic special election gains have not been localized in one part of the country, but rather have been scattered across the map–two in the deep South, one in the Midwest and now one in the rural Northeast, a loss that transforms the partisan count of House seats in the Empire State to Democrats 27, Republicans 2.

Cook provides some details on the other three House races, and makes a convincing argument, based on our losses of the governorships of VA and NJ, that the key demographic going forward for Dems is geographic — it’s about the ‘burbs:

The Democrats’ suburban collapse was not a problem unique to Virginia. It was replicated in Democratic New Jersey, where suburban Middlesex County (outside New York City) and Burlington County (outside Philadelphia) switched from the Obama column in 2008 to Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie in 2009.
This may ultimately be the biggest test for Democrats in 2010–to reclaim the upper hand in the nation’s suburbs. With the Democrats enjoying hegemony in the major cities and Republicans in rural and small-town America, the suburbs are the balance of power in 21st century politics, a major source of independent voters and the prime battleground for the two parties.
Suburban support was a cornerstone of Democratic victories in the elections of 2006 and 2008. But in 2009, the vote-rich suburbs of Virginia and New Jersey showed significant movement to the Republicans, giving them the upper hand in the gubernatorial contests in both states.

It’s an interesting perspective. Might be good for some of the creative thinkers in the Democratic Party to begin focusing on how to address the most critical concerns of suburban voters.

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