2012 election: good for Pres. Obama, not so good for those down the ticket

Michael Barone has an interesting column where he examines the down ballot races. His focus is on the outcome of the Democratic battles in congress and state houses in light of the shifts due to reapportionment from the 2010 census results. While it is true that Republicans blew up their hopes of gaining a majority in the Senate, the numbers beyond that are not encouraging for the Democrats:

Between 2008 and 2012, they gained seats in only three states: Delaware, where a popular Republican ran for the Senate in 2010; Maryland, thanks to Democratic redistricting; and California, where a supposedly nonpartisan redistricting commission was dominated by Democrats.

The reapportionment process following the 2010 Census cost Democrats some seats because their strong states had relatively little population growth. They have five fewer seats in New York, for example.

The reapportionment effect was strengthened because the 2010 backlash against Democrats gave Republicans control of redistricting in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, all of which lost seats, and North Carolina, which stayed the same.

As a result, in the 113th Congress, as compared to the 111th, there will be three fewer Democrats from Michigan, six fewer from Ohio, seven fewer from Pennsylvania and four fewer from North Carolina.

Democratic losses were greatest in the South, which gained seven seats from reapportionment. There will be 22 fewer Southern Democrats and 29 more Southern Republicans in the House next year than there were in 2009.

Another way to look at it: 123 of 201 House Democrats will be from the Northeast, the West Coast, Hawaii and Illinois. Only 23 are from the Midwest outside of Illinois and only 42 from the South.

Obama was able to build his electoral vote majority thanks to big Democratic majorities from core constituencies concentrated in these states, which gave him 207 electoral votes.

But the concentration of blacks, Hispanics and gentry liberals means there are fewer Democratic votes in the suburbs, the countryside and the geographic heartland. The Obama campaign strategy concentrated on turning out core voters. That left House Democrats short of the votes they needed elsewhere.

Where does the Republican Party go from here?

After bruising losses of both the White House and several (arguably winnable) Senate races this week, the GOP is searching for answers.  It would be foolish to look at the newly emerging electorate and not see that fundamental changes are necessary.  The actual demographics from 2004 and 2012 aren’t wildly different.  A friend of mine put it this way, and I think he’s right: certain groups of people who, in the past, didn’t vote in great numbers have awakened to the power of their vote.  They are now standing up and being counted within our democracy and they’re voices cannot be ignored.

This is a good thing.  We want engaged citizens.  We want our electorate to reflect the entire country, not a predominant class or race.  Now Republicans have a challenge (and an opportunity).  They must expand their base.  There will be a temptation to reach out to other voters through capitulation on core principles which comprise the character of the conservative movement.  This is not only futile and foolish.  First, true conservatives will balk and not support those candidates, and second, conservative principles aren’t the problem.

The conservative movement must seek out opportunities to go and speak directly to minority communities that look at conservatives with a weary eye.  Sure, were President Obama’s caricatures of Romney and Republicans fair?  Of course not.  But that doesn’t matter.  Political parties aren’t in the business of fairness.  Conservatives must approach the electorate as though every state and every person matters.