Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Red, Blue, Pink?

Many commentators love to point out that Bush carried 31 states, while Kerry won only 19; and that 17 of the 33 states with Senate races next year are “red.” Supposedly, this gives the GOP an insurmountable edge for control of the Senate. And, certainly, Republicans do benefit from the Senate’s overrepresentation of small states. But this red-state-lock analysis assumes that Bush’s support has remained the same as it did on Election Day, when he won 50.7% of the vote. But RealClearPolitics currently averages the national polls as showing Bush with a 43.8% approval rating. That’s 6.9 points lower.

If we assume that Bush’s decline has been even across the country (a reasonable hypothesis), then the following states are no longer “red,” i.e. subtracting 6.9 points from Bush’s 2004 performance puts his support under 50%:

New Mexico
North Carolina
West Virginia

Maybe we should call them “pink.” (The last four barely fall under 50%). New Mexico, Iowa, Ohio, Florida, Missouri, Virginia, Arizona. West Virginia and Tennessee all have Senate races this year. While George Allen (VA) is safe, Mike DeWine (OH), Jim Talent (MO) and Jon Kyl (AZ) may all have serious challengers. This list could make Robert Byrd (WV) and Bill Nelson (FL) breathe a little easier, and make Harold Ford Jr. feel more confident about his race to take the Tennessee seat being vacated by Bill Frist.

Bush’s decline might not be uniform, though. I suspect he has taken less of a hit in the South, due to his popularity among evangelicals, the tendency of Southerners to rally behind wartime commanders-in-chief, and the polarized nature of Southern politics may make it harder for his popularity to change wildly (e.g., 73 percent of white North Carolinans voted for Bush, while 85 percent of African-American Tar Heels backed Kerry).

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