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Jewish World Review
June 30, 2010
/ 18 Tamuz 5770
Racial Gerrymandering Backfires
John H. Fund
Nothing has done more to rattle Democratic incumbents than a National Public Radio poll earlier this month on the outlook in the 70 most competitive races in the House -- 60 of which involve seats now held by Democrats and 10 by Republicans.
The numbers revealed in the poll have eye-popping implications. The NPR poll showed that Republicans lead the generic ballot test in these 70 districts by 49% to 41%, and have a five-point lead in districts with a Democratic incumbent. At the same time, Republicans have a solid 16-point lead in those competitive districts they currently hold. These numbers indicate the anti-incumbent political winds are blowing in one direction -- against the Democrats.
Democrats concerned about why they are faring so poorly note that President Obama's approval numbers have continued to erode. The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll shows him with a 45% job approval rating, with 48% disapproving. That is dangerous territory for Democrats, since a president's approval rating is historically a good guide to how many seats a party in power loses in a mid-term election. In the last poll taken before Democrats lost 54 House and eight Senate seats in the 1994 mid-term election, President Clinton had a job approval rating of 46%.
Mr. Obama's approval numbers may mask the real peril Democrats face because his job rating among blacks is an overwhelmingly positive 91%. As Michael Barone of "The Almanac of American Politics" points out, those readings imply that his job approval rating among whites is likely only about 39%.
That's especially significant because most of the 70 competitive House races polled by NPR (as well as most of the states with the closest Senate races) have below-average populations of black voters. Racial gerrymandering justified by dubious interpretations of the Voting Rights Act has concentrated blacks into mostly safe Democratic districts, meaning now that most competitive seats are more white than average. These districts are more likely to be hostile to President Obama's agenda, and thus more likely to be treacherous political terrain for Democrats. No wonder party strategists are so worried about this fall.
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JWR contributor John H. Fund is author, most recently, of "Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy". (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.)
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© 2006, John H. Fund