For all the talk of a new generation of Democratic rule in the House of Representatives and Republicans’ being shut out of control until at least the next census in 2011, the hard numbers don’t agree. In 33 districts nationwide, Democrats emerged triumphant with 55% of the vote or less. In 18 of those districts, the margin of victory for the Democrats was less than 52%.
Four of the “squeaker Democrats” — Mahoney (FL-4), Gillibrand (NY-20), Carney (PA-10), and Lampson (TX-22) — were elected in historically Republican districts in the wake of scandal surrounding the GOP incumbent. Mahoney and Lampson, in fact, were narrow winners over substitute Republican candidates when the resigned incumbents in their districts (former Representatives Mark Foley and Tom DeLay) could not even get their names removed from the November ballots.
Writing about the so-called “Watergate Year” in which Republicans were reduced to about one-third of the House (their worst setback in mid-term House races before ’06), Ronald Reagan’s political consultant, Lyn Nofziger, saw positive lining in the gloomy results because he felt the elections cleaned out the deadwood in the GOP and all but one of the defeated incumbents, he noted, ever made it back to the House. So it could be this year. In several districts, senior Republican lawmakers who had lost touch with the grass-roots in their districts and did not go home frequently were unseated.
Below are the closely won Democratic seats in ’06, most of which are sure to be the most hotly contested House races in ’08 and the battlegrounds for a possible Republican recapture of the House.
|Representative||State||District||Percentage of vote won in 2006|
|John Hall||New York||19||50.9%|
|Carol Shea-Porter||New Hampshire||01||51.5%|
|Paul Hodes||New Hampshire||02||52.6%|
|Kristen Gillibrand||New York||20||53.0%|
|Peter Welch||Vermont||At Large||53.2%|
|Michael Arcuri||New York||24||53.6%|
|Heath Shuler||North Carolina||11||53.7%|