07 November 2006

Democratic backfire?

If, as widely expected, the Democrats take over the House of Representatives (and possibly the Senate) as a result of today's elections, it will be because the Democratic Party has been successful winning back seats in traditionally Republican districts.

You might wonder: why would a traditionally Republican district vote for a Democrat this time? Is the war really that bad? What is the difference?

The difference is that many of these Democrat candidates are so-called Blue Dog Democrats (or what used to be called Boll weevils). In other words, they are (generally) conservative Democrats. Many of them are pro-life. Many of them are pro-gun. For many of them, if they had (R) behind their name instead of (D) it wouldn't be much of a difference. In fact, some of these types of Democrats have switched parties: Senators Phil Gramm of Texas and Richard Shelby of Alabama were once "boll weevil" Democrats. Representatives Billy Tauzin and Jimmy Hayes (both of Louisiana) were once "Blue Dog" Democrats who later switched parties.

The Democrats have recruited many of these Blue Dog Democrats and backed them with money from the party and other politicians (most of whom are moderate or liberal Democrats). This is a calculated strategy, but it could backfire. While some of these conservative Democratic candidates have said they haven't yet pledged their speaker vote to Nancy Pelosi, I'd be generally surprised if any of them didn't vote (especially because of the money coming their way from the Party). However, if these Democrats tend to vote their minds instead of their party (which is likely given their history), they could make the Republican minority a functional majority for many issues.

Finally, there has been some talk of party-switchers, and if any, they would be these such conservative Democrats switching to the Republican side. As with the vote for Speaker, this would surprise me a little bit, at least between now and January. Whether some of these candidates switch later down the road, that's another story.
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