An Updated Map and Thoughts on the 4th District

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 The town originally made me (and others) scratch their heads by going for Jim Himes by about 500 votes.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:

2008-4thcd.PNG
Himes vs. Shays – for real this time

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:

nerd alert!
See? See?

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.

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11 responses to “An Updated Map and Thoughts on the 4th District

  1. AndersonScooper

    Because really, McKinney on the national stage would be so influential, (or not!), and of course CT-04 is, (or is not), so much better off in terms of the bacon, — being represented by a Democrat or a Republican???

  2. [quote comment=”39293″]Because really, McKinney on the national stage would be so influential, (or not!), and of course CT-04 is, (or is not), so much better off in terms of the bacon, — being represented by a Democrat or a Republican???[/quote]

    You’re right… no one in Washington has ever associated the word “McKinney” with the 4th District, but everyone knows Jim Himes.

  3. you people crack me up…Jim Himes will accomplish exactly nothing in washington and will be long gone after the 2010 cycle. get a grip

  4. AndersonScooper

    As a rookie in a perceived swing seat, Himes will be treated favorably by the Dem majority.

    If McKinney were to be elected in 2010, he’d be #435 in line; the Pelosi led Congress would give him little or nothing.

    Anyway, this is all moot. The analysis Genghis runs with is that of an unknown challenger versus a 20yr incumbent. In 2010 Himes will be an established Congressman, and if someone were to challenge him the more likely outcome is a repeat of what happened in Murphy v. Crappiello. After all we’re talking about a district with a PVI of more than D+5.0%, and of course Himes isn’t a raging liberal.

  5. Shays was able to garner significant independent and even Democratic support, and it’s unknown how well a new challenger who is somewhat unknown would fare. I think Himes probably has an advantage, due to the power of incumbency and the fact that the district does lean Democratic. If the country turns sharply anti-Democrat like it did in 1994 or like it turned anti-Republican in 2006 / 2008, then Himes will have a tough time. I also doubt he’d be able to survive a significant scandal. But with an electorate that was largely split like 2004 or 1998 or 2000, he’s going to have the edge.

    There will be significant amounts spend and raised by both sides for the next several cycles I’m sure, based on the wealth of the district.

  6. A better way to look at CT-04 is to look at the Obama vote. Chris Shays was a fairly popular incumbent who was able to come so close by getting significant support from Democratic voters and not even that was enough to save him in this increasingly Democratic seat. Obama won this district by a 60%-40% margin, and by around 63,000 votes. For a Republican to even come close here, Himes is probably going to need some type of scandal. I would expect Himes’ margin to inch closer to Obama’s margin in 2010.

  7. Scandals, unforeseen major events and other ‘game-changers’ aside, this seat will continue to be a battleground for at least the next two cycles. The uncertainty that exists in America today makes this clear: will things get better or worse before the next election (I’m betting much worse); will Obama frustrate a major wing of his party (5-7% staying home is big); will Congress and the White House play nice or battle; will there be a new Republican ‘Contract with America’?

    Himes is no Pollyanna, he is pragmatic and must know that he needs to work hard to keep his seat and prepare for the worst. That is a good thing and will help him to be an even better Representative of his constituents. He also knows that his re-election race will only barely resemble his race to unseat incumbent Shays (God, I hope he knows this).

  8. If McKinney were to be elected in 2010, he’d be #435 in line; the Pelosi led Congress would give him little or nothing.

    You’re assuming that Pelosi would still be Speaker post 2010??

  9. You have to be on crack to think Republicans will regain the House in 2010. They need 40 seats and this is not like 1992-1994 when Republicans were able to win the House by picking off dozens of old Southern Democratic seats. Most of the seats Dems picked up in 2006 and 2008 will likely stay that way for a long time. A contract with America is not going to work in an economy this bad. People know that cutting spending would simply push the economy into a depression(this is what Herbert Hoover did in 1930 and prolonged the recession along with raising taxes).

  10. People know that cutting spending would simply push the economy into a depression(this is what Herbert Hoover did in 1930 and prolonged the recession along with raising taxes).

    What on Earth are you talking about? This makes no sense.

  11. It is exactly what Hoover did. When you try to raise taxes and cut spending in a recession, the economy crashes because demand falls further. The cutting spending part is what the Contract with America was all about.

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