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It looks as if there will be no rest for the weary, at least for Democratic House candidates in the South. Heading into November’s elections, except for a handful of races, Democratic opportunities in the region continue to be limited to districts that are heavily populated by minorities.
The question is whether another group that has struggled of late, Republicans in the Northeast, has some reason for hope this cycle, even with President Barack Obama at the top of the ticket.
Just two years ago, the 11 states of the old Confederacy sent 35 white Democrats to the U.S. House, and Democratic strategists were bragging that reports of the party’s demise in the South were premature.
But after the disastrous 2010 elections, the number of white Democrats has already shrunk by more than half, to just 16, and it could shrink even further, possibly to as few as 10 or 11 in a worst-case November scenario.
In fact, all five states of the Deep South — South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana — as well as Arkansas could be without a single white Democratic Congressman if Georgia Rep. John Barrow loses his bid for re-election and the party can’t hold retiring Arkansas Rep. Mike Ross’ open seat, which looks likely.
The 10 white Southern Democratic incumbents who seem certain to be back next year include Reps. Kathy Castor, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Ted Deutch of Florida; David Price of North Carolina; Jim Cooper and Steve Cohen of Tennessee; Gene Green and Lloyd Doggett of Texas; and Gerry Connolly and Jim Moran of Virginia.
Both Green’s and Doggett’s districts are actually majority Hispanic, while Cohen’s is overwhelmingly black. Castor’s district is majority-minority. The districts of Wasserman Schultz and Deutch have substantial numbers of Jewish voters, and aside from the considerable Hispanic populations, have more in common with districts in the Northeast than in the South.
The districts of Doggett and Price have substantial university populations and influence, making them much more liberal than the typical Southern district. And while Virginia left the Union, the districts of both Moran and Connolly are in the Washington, D.C., suburbs, and not particularly “Southern.”
Democratic strategists are hoping to offset expected losses in the region with gains in Florida, where they have opportunities in two new seats and against allegedly vulnerable GOP incumbents such as Reps. David Rivera, Steve Southerland and Daniel Webster. But aside from the Sunshine State and new Hispanic districts in Texas, additional Democratic opportunities in the region are all but nonexistent.
Republican House prospects in the Northeast are limited as well, but the party has some interesting opportunities in unusual places.