Republicans: The New Whigs

Once the minority of House and Senate are comfortable in their minority status, they will have no problem socializing with the Republicans. Any farmer will tell you that certain animals run around and are unpleasant, but when they've been fixed, then they are happy and sedate. They are contented and cheerful. They don't go around peeing on the furniture and such.

Uber-rightwinger (and, to judge him by his quote, total douchebag) Grover Norquist spoke those words soon after the 2004 election, when the Democrats were still looking at their care-worn, frayed-nerve faces in the mirror and asking, "How could this have happened?"

But given last night's election results, perhaps it's time for Democrats to engage in a little douchebaggery of their own. And I'm not talking about West Virginia, where Hillary Clinton scored a victory in her brave but ever-more-quixotic campaign for the Democratic nomination. No, I'm talking about the election in Mississippi's first congressional district, where Democrat Travis Childers beat Republican Greg Davis.

A few words about the district. It is red, ace. Bright red. The sort of red that makes your sports car a target for speed traps. To put it in a more-quantitative form, look at the Cook Partisan Voting Index. The index, for those unfamiliar, is either an R or a D followed by a number. It comes from averaging presidential election results in a congressional district over the past couple cycles, then comparing that to the national average to find out what percentage over the national average the district falls. So, for example, take the D+4 rating of my own 22nd district in Florida. That rating means that Democrats finished in that district four percentage points higher than the national average, making it a swing district that slightly favors Democrats.

Mississippi's first congressional district? R+10. And the district is the third special election we've had this year. The first, in former Speaker of the House Denny "The Sausage King of Chicago" Hastert's old 14th district in Illinois, went to Democrat Bill Foster over Republican Jim Oberweis, 53-47. That district is R+5. In the second contest, in Louisiana's 6th district, Democrat Don Cazayoux beat Republican Woody Jenkins in an R+7 district. (Tangent: You know you're in Louisiana when the election is between a guy named Cazayoux and a guy named Woody Jenkins.)

And now, R+freaking 10, and the Republicans lost by about six points. If that is a sign of things to come, the Democrats could be looking at mind-bogglingly huge pick ups in the House, especially in blue states with widespread soft Republican districts. Take Michigan, where districts 6 through 11, all held by Republicans, have voting indexes of R+2, R+2, R+2, R+0, R+4 and R+1, respectively. With its huge money advantage, solid candidates in many districts in which the Dems were previously content to provide passive resistance, and the examples of the previous special elections -- especially last night's win in Mississippi -- Democrats could be looking at picking up some 20 to 30 seats in the House.

Before you go screaming about getting hopes up, that is a conservative estimate, ace. I looked at all the congressional districts currently held by Republicans that have a Partisan Voting Index of R+5 or less, including seats held by Republicans in Democratic districts. (Chris Shays springs immediately to mind.) There are 65 such seats. I put certain seats in the gimme column (AZ-01, for example, in which disgraced Rick Renzi will allow for an easy Democratic takeover) and others I dismissed out of hand (AL-03, for example, which, despite an R+3 rating, is never going Democratic).

The 111th Congress will see heavy Dem. majorities in both Houses. First order of business: The public castration of Grover Norquist.

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