Blue Dog vulnerability in 2010

Crystal Ball's Isaac Woods looks at how many, and which, Blue Dogs might be in trouble next year

By Thomas Schaller
December 18, 2009 10:15PM (UTC)
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Though attention this week is squarely on dissenters and holdouts on the Senate side, Isaac Wood of UVa's Crystal Ball has a nice, detailed post about the status of House Blue Dog Democrats, how they voted on healthcare bill, and in general who among these 52 Blue Doggies may be vulnerable next November.

Short summary: Wood and the Crystal Ball rate 21, or fewer than half the 52, as safe incumbents running for re-election. In the other 31 cases there is a mix of members retiring (3), running for other office (1), plus 27 who are running for re-election in districts where the underlying demographics have Republicans licking their chops. "In fact, over a third of Blue Dogs hail from districts Obama won last November," writes Wood. 'While the coalition is often portrayed as a group of Southern congressmen who must vote conservatively or risk losing reelection, nineteen members represent districts Obama carried, with seven representing districts in which Obama won over 60 percent of the vote."


OK, so what can we expect come November for this group, which includes a lot of southerners, yes, but many outside the region? Well, if we presume the historical, 16-seat average loss for a president's party in the House during that president's first mid-term, and given that the 52 Blue Dogs are almost exactly one-fifth of the caucus' 258 total members, that would mean a loss of 3 Blue Dogs--if their vulnerability were no greater or less than Democrats generally.

But, of course, they are more vulnerable. Partly this may be a result of their voting records. Woods looks at their roll call on the House healthcare reform bill. Twenty-four voted against, providing 24 of the 39 nay Democratic votes, or 62 percent of nay votes; whereas they provided just 28 of the Democrats' 219 aye votes, or just 12 percent of ayes. But voting against healthcare is going to be the safe electoral move for some of them.

Part of it is that a disproportionate share of them are so-called "McCain-Democrats," those who won in districts that President Obama lost in 2008, as Woods points out. And therein lies a strange political calculus for the president--having to fight harder to save the seats who backed him and his legislative agenda at far lower rates.

Thomas Schaller

Thomas F. Schaller is professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the author of "Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South." Follow him @schaller67.

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2010 Elections Democratic Party Healthcare Reform War Room