One of the things I’ve been meaning to do is update the 4th district map, which had an error on it in Shelton. The town originally made me (and others) scratch their heads by going for Jim Himes by about 500 votes. I found this strange because Shelton is not usually a swing town, and no other suburbs had gone for Himes.
As it turned out, Himes didn’t win Shelton after all. A moderator apparently read the wrong numbers and Shays ended up winning Shelton in the final tally by about 900 votes.
Fortunately for him, Himes had won the district by a few thousand votes, so his election stood. But this necessitates a change in the map, so here it is:
That means that Himes ended up winning only in the three cities of Norwalk, Bridgeport and Stamford. He still did manage to pull off his win, as I said before, thanks to increased turnout for a presidential election, bigger margins in Bridgeport, and by keeping Shays’ margins down in some of the suburbs.
So does this mean that Himes has to worry about the suburbs? Well, maybe. His percentage of the suburban vote–defined as the vote in towns that aren’t Norwalk, Stamford or Bridgeport–was about the same as Diane Farrell’s 2006 percentage: 43%. His win came from the cities, where he won 66% of the vote. Farrell won the cities with 56% in 2006, and 58% in 2004.
Can Himes count on that 66% in the future? Maybe. The cities have been trending more and more Democratic, although it’s hard to predict just what Stamford will do. Still, 66% is a high percentage compared with past efforts, and could be attributed to Barack Obama’s coattails.
But let’s assume that he does keep that high urban margin, and a similar suburban margin. What will happen to those margins in the midterm environment of 2010, when turnout drops off from its presidential year peak and Himes is no longer sharing a ballot line with Barack Obama?
2006 was the last midterm election, so let’s use that as a model. If we assign the same percentages of city vs. suburb, in which Himes won 43% of the suburban vote and 66% of the urban vote, to the turnout figures in cities and suburbs from 2006 (i.e., take the urban vote from 2006 and give Himes 66% of it), Himes would still win–but by a much smaller margin. His vote margin would drop from 12,238 to 4,329, and his percentage would drop from 52% to 51%.
It’s too slender a margin for comfort. If the margin for Himes in the cities fell to 60%-40%, and his suburban margin stayed the same, Himes would lose by about 4,000 votes. A mild Republican wind could blow those votes to John McKinney or whoever decides to run against Himes. Worse, if the GOP candidate can carry the suburbs by more than 59%, he/she could balance out even a 66%-34% split against him/her in the cities.
This chart should make nothing clear:
This is all still very hypothetical, of course. We have no idea what sort of year 2010 will be (though history suggests it’ll be more Republican-leaning than, say, this year).
What’s clear is that there is a significant divide between cities and suburbs, and that Himes has work to do in both. Both have been trending towards the Democrats during the past few cycles (Stephanie Sanchez lost the suburbs 70%-30% in 2002), but that doesn’t mean that Himes can sit back. He needs to make sure he gets that big margin in the cities in 2010, while raising his margins in the suburbs.
The right Republican candidate, plus a more favorable climate for Republicans in general, could give Himes fits in 2010. I’d be surprised if this isn’t Connecticut’s race to watch again in 2010.