Running Scared

We’ve been wargaming the coming Congressional shakeup for a few months now, but today let’s do something a little different — make it visual. Courtesy of 270toWin, here’s what the current Congress looks like.

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There’s an awful lot of blue on that map, especially given that the Democrats get a disproportionate amount of their support from tiny, densely-packed urban districts. But that’s what happens when you have a 255-178 majority.

Next, let’s wipe the map clean. And instead of predicting the outcome of each race, let’s take the poll-averaging data from Real Clear Politics and color in only the Toss Up races.

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What might shock you is, when Congress have approval ratings barely in the double digits, that there are only 31 super-competitive races. Such is the advantage of incumbency. And there is one speck of GOP red on this map — IL-10, the only Republican-held seat rated as a toss-up. But it’s this next map that ought to shock you.

What I’ve done here is to expand our coverage outward, one step to the left (to cover the races Leaning Democrat) and another step to the right (to cover the races Leaning GOP). Take a look — you really need to click on this map and see it full size to get the full effect.

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Look at all that blue. There are 84 races where the Democrats need to worry, and only seven for the GOP. And one of those seats (HI-01) is red only because of that fluke special election in Hawaii a couple months back, where multiple Dem candidates split the vote.

Also note that there is not one region in the country where the Democrats aren’t on defense — except for ubergerrymandered California. When the pundits tell you that 2010 isn’t like 1994, they’re right, but not for the reasons they tell you. The big GOP gains in ’94 were in large part due to the finalization of the Solid South’s long march from blue to red. This time, the Democrats show significant weakness in the South, the Southeast, the industrial Midwest, the Mid Atlantic states, and in pretty big swathes of the Northeast. Even New Hampshire looks like it’s poised to return to return to the Republican fold.

So a total of 91 seats are in play right now. The Democrats have serious disadvantages in 52 of them, and must commit resources to defend a further 27. In a stark contrast, the GOP has three seats in trouble and another 3 in need of shoring up. Put that way, the Democrats’ cash advantage doesn’t look quite so fearsome.

I’ll keep the maps updated as we move closer to the election, along with a new view I’d like to try out next time around.