Recent memory holds the idea of the “permanent Republican majority.” It had the Republicans crowing and the Democrats quaking.
Ron Brownstein gives us an idea of how far through political space we have traveled since then:
The consistent thread linking the 2006 and 2008 elections was the narrowing of the playing field for Republicans even as Democrats extended their reach into places once considered reliably “red.” Consider the Electoral College maps available to John McCain and Barack Obama. By the presidential campaign’s final days, McCain was seriously competing in only two states that went for John Kerry in 2004: Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. McCain ultimately was routed in both; indeed, Obama not only defended all 19 states (plus the District of Columbia) that Kerry won but held McCain to 42 percent or less in all but three of them.
Brownstein’s analysis, in the National Journal, is excellent. He looks at the gains made by the Democrats in the last two elections.
In Congress, Republicans are also suffering through what amounts to a fatal contraction. Eighteen states might be considered the “true blue” states. These 18 (all of the Kerry 2004 states, except New Hampshire) have voted Democratic in each of the past five presidential elections. With this month’s defeat of Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., Republicans now hold only four of those 18 states’ 36 Senate seats. The number will shrink to three if Sen. Norm Coleman loses a recount to Democrat Al Franken in Minnesota.
Democrats, again, are moving in the opposite direction. Twenty-nine states voted for Bush both times. After 2004, Democrats held just 14 of the 58 Senate seats from those 29 states — a testament to Bush’s first-term success at energizing the conservative base. But with this week’s Alaska victory, Democrats since 2004 have captured eight more red-state Senate seats, giving them at least 22 overall (with another pickup possible in the Georgia runoff). Democrats now hold at least 38 percent of the Senate seats in the past decade’s red states, while Republicans hold just 11 percent of blue-state seats.
More evidence of what Browenstein is talking about come from Gallup:
The Republican Party’s image has gone from bad to worse over the past month, as only 34% of Americans in a Nov. 13-16 Gallup Poll say they have a favorable view of the party, down from 40% in mid-October. The 61% now holding an unfavorable view of the GOP is the highest Gallup has recorded for that party since the measure was established in 1992.
But there is a lesson here for Democrats. Franklin Roosevelt had what Karl Rove and the Republicans dreamed of: a long-lasting Congressional majority. The Roosevelt coalition was an unholy alliance of Southern segregationists and northern liberals. That won’t happen again.
Will Barack Obama be able to forge such a long-lasting coalition?
The odds are against. But then, in any given room on any given day in America, Obama is likely the smartest guy there.
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