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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

2006 Election update

Tuesday was the primary here in Kentucky and I actually voted for the Democratic candidate who got the majority of the votes, John Yarmuth. The winner took nearly 54% of the vote.

If you don't know Yarmuth's name, he is the former publisher of the alternative weekly Leo newspaper, and widely viewed as the most left-leaning of the candidates. Andrew Horne, who finished second with a bit less than one-third of the vote (32%), was a "fighting Dem" former Marine who served in Iraq during both the Persian Gulf War and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Yarmuth will now face five-term Republican incumbent Anne Northup in November. With Horne out, I'm not sure how closely national media will follow the race. The "fighting Dem" angle is gone.

What's left to cover? Well, Yarmuth's newspaper accepted "sexually explicit personal ads" and the conventional wisdom among some analysts is that Northup will try to tar him with that come November. And, of course, they'll comb his political columns in the paper.

Meanwhile, Yarmuth is going to try to link his foe to the Bush administration's failings: Iraq, Katrina, the budget deficit (perhaps), the Medicare drug program. etc. It's a long list, as my readers know.

And the Republican party in Kentucky may be in trouble -- what with the governor under indictment since last week.

Whether journalists are watching or not, the race will figure into the national scene because it is one of the few swing seats that some political observers see -- thanks to gerrymandering.

Indeed, some political scientists wonder if the Dems can win back the House even if they take the lion's share of the votes come November.

Matthew Shugart of Fruits & Votes, a political science professor who specializes in comparative electoral systems at the University of California, San Diego, has an interesting post you should read on congressional elections. Matthew presents a lot of data on past congressional elections and finds that parties winning a majority of the votes nationally tend to win the Congress. However:
Despite an overall tendency for seats to follow from votes in a fairly predictable way, it is clear that recent elections are deviating from the pattern. Every election since 1996 is above the trend. More to the point, in each House election since 1996, the Republican party has won a majority of seats on less than 50% of the vote. The only time that had happened before was in 1952. In 1996, as well as 1952, the Republican party did not even win a plurality of the House vote.
There's some additional discussion and the blogger/scholars basically concludes that 47% may be the threshold. If Republicans get less than that, they should lose the body regardless of factors like gerrymandering.

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