Friday, June 4, 2010
The Last Gasp of the Blue Dogs
The "Blue Dog" coalition of moderate and conservative Democrats in the House has been contracting for forty years. Since the 1960's, many Blue Dogs, watching the leftward drift of their party, have retired, lost their seats or switched to the GOP. The years 1966, 1980 and 1994 saw significant shifts as more traditionally conservative Democratic districts became GOP bastions of strength. In twenty years we will look back at 2010 and say that this was the year the Blue Dogs dissapeared. There are three races in particular that are worth watching that illustrate the point; Chet Edwards (Texas), Ike Skelton (Missouri) and John Spratt (South Carolina). Edwards represents a very red district outside of Midland while Skelton (who is also the chairman of the powerful Armed Services Committee) represents a conservative area of west-central Missouri. Spratt's district sprawls over much of northestern South Carolina. All are moderates and have significant power in the House and all are in trouble. The GOP doesn't need any of these seats to win control of Congress but they are contesting each and may in fact win them all. I'm convinced Edwards will lose; the Republicans in his district have given him stiff challenges before and he's down significantly in the polling that has been conducted. Spratt's challenger is within the margin of error and the Missouri GOP is gunning for Skelton. What will hurt Spratt and Skelton is the turnout of their respective bases-they must come to the polls or they will probably lose their elections. This year the GOP's base is much more motivated so you'll see the Democratic Party spend a lot of time and money this summer and fall working on the GOTV effort-especially with voters who cast ballots for the fist time in 2008. With retirements in Tennessee and Arkansas and the probable loss of Travis Childers in Mississippi as well as other Blue Dogs in Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio the January 2011 House will have very few, if any of this vanishing breed left. It is quite possible that Gene Taylor of Mississippi will be the only one left and when that happens we'll see the end of a process that started almost fifty years ago.