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GOP Struggling to Find Opportunities for Pickups in U.S. House Races

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Yesterday's blog entry detailed how the Democratic Party has become increasingly competitive on a number of dimensions in challenging GOP-held U.S. House districts from 2002 to 2006. Today Smart Politics examines how Republicans have fared along these same measures—is the GOP becoming more or less competitive in Democratic-held districts?

Overall, the numbers are not good for the Republican Party. To begin with, the number of districts in which the GOP failed to even field a challenger was at a post-redistricting high in 2006 (45 races -- more than four times as many districts in which Democrats failed to run a candidate).

Additionally, an increasing number of Republican challengers are flailing in "blow out" races decided by between 50 and 99 points: rising from 32 districts in 2002, to 36 districts in 2004, to 42 districts in 2006.

Similarly, more and more Republican challengers are losing in "very uncompetitive" races decided by between 30 and 49 points: from 70 in 2002, to 73 in 2004, to 83 in 2006.

Democrats are also facing fewer and fewer Republicans breathing down their neck in Democratic-held districts on the cusp of being competitive -- those races decided by between 11 and 29 points -- dropping from 51 in 2004 to 27 in 2006.

Lastly, the number of Democratic districts that are only narrowly-held have fallen from 17 in 2002, to 7 in 2004, to 6 in 2006.

In sum, the Republicans are facing two big problems when looking at trends in party competitiveness:

1. The universe of competitive and near competitive Democratic-held districts has fallen noticeably, providing fewer and fewer good opportunities for GOP pickups in 2008.

2. Secondly, as outlined yesterday, the opportunities for Democratic pick-ups in competitive and near competitive Republican-held districts have risen greatly in the past four years.

Previous post: Seeds for Democratic Gains In U.S. House Actually Planted in 2004
Next post: Many Familiar Faces To Depart Capitol Hill After '06 Election

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Remains of the Data

No Free Passes: States With 2 Major Party Candidates in Every US House Race

Indiana has now placed candidates from both major parties on the ballot in a nation-best 189 consecutive U.S. House races, with New Hampshire, Minnesota, Idaho, and Montana also north of 100 in a row.

Political Crumbs

Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


An Idaho Six Pack

Two-term Idaho Republican Governor Butch Otter only polled at 39 percent in a recent PPP survey of the state's 2014 race - just four points ahead of Democratic businessman A.J. Balukoff. Otter's low numbers reflect his own struggles as a candidate (witness his weak primary win against State Senator Russ Fulcher) combined with the opportunity for disgruntled Idahoans to cast their votes for one of four third party and independent candidates, who collectively received the support of 12 percent of likely voters: Libertarian John Bujak, the Constitution Party's Steve Pankey, and independents Jill Humble and Pro-Life (aka Marvin Richardson). The six candidate options in a gubernatorial race sets an all-time record in the Gem State across the 46 elections conducted since statehood. The previous high water mark of five candidates was reached in seven previous cycles: 1902, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1914, 1966, and 2010.


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