Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Shifty Fifty

So I had a couple of hours this morning after watching the Sunday morning newsfest to do some number crunching. There are those of us who are saying that Texas is slowly but inexorably going to the left. After seeing the results in the local elections you would be hard-pressed to convince anyone of that, but that is looking only at the surface and who won and who lost.

So I decided to look at the 150 State House races and sound them for any changes.

First, you have to eliminate 100 districts right off the bat as “safe districts.” By my count there are 47 “safe” Democratic districts and 43 “safe” Republican districts. I base this on whether, in 2006, there was a Democratic opponent in a district. If not, it is safe Republican. Same goes for a Republican opponent in a district. If not, it is safe Democratic. Then you add in the districts where results weren’t reported in 2008 at the Secretary of State’s statewide results webpage, where there was no opponent, then look at the split in 2006. If the Republican won in 2006 it is safe Republican, if the Democrat won, safe Democrat.

100 safe districts. That’s 2/3rds of the state, right now slightly favoring the Democrats.

This leaves 50 House Districts where there is some action going on, and even some flips. These I looked at in more detail.

For instance, I looked to see what were the percentage differences between those voting Democratic and those voting Republican. Intriguing if anything.

Overall, in these 50 districts, Democrats had a net increase of the vote by 1.26%, and Republicans had a net loss of the vote by 0.82%. Or a 2.08% net difference.

Big shifts were seen in two House Districts. In 2008 the Republican House candidate in HD 33, a Democratic leaning district had 12% less of the vote that the Republican candidate had in 2006 and the 2008 Democratic candidate did 7% better than the one in 2006.

HD 55 has suffered a similar fate. While the Republican won in HD 55 in 2008, it was by a decidedly smaller margin than in 2006. A heavy Republican district in 2006, outpolling Democratic candidates by 2:1, in 2008 the Republican won by a mere 10%.

And really, looking at overall trends of Republican leaning districts, 12 of these 50 house districts had Republican victors in 2008, but the per cent difference that separated winners from losers narrowed compared to the 2006 differences.

Now the trends in Democratic leaning districts are also telling. 7 of these 50 are districts where the winner was a Democrat, but that win, again, was by less of a margin than in 2006. So we see some districts trending from Democratic to Republican also.

But only 7 Democratic as opposed to 12 Republican.

Finally, I wanted to look at Republican leaning districts that are getting more Republican, and Democratic leaning districts that are getting more Democratic.

Essentially, we are in a dead heat in this. 15 Republican districts had Republican winners in 2008 that won by a larger margin than the candidates that ran in 2006. Among the 2008 Democratic winners, 14 districts had Democratic winners that won by larger margins than the Democratic winner in 2006.

Another one is HD 105 where we don’t have a declared winner. But you might as well include it in the column of a district whose Republican edge is on the wane, as Harper-Brown has had her 14% 2006 margin, as the 2008 results cut this lead to a fraction of a percent.

HD 29 had no change. HD 29 is a 60:40 R to D district. In 2008 Randy Weber won by the same margin that a dead woman won in 2006.

Conclusion? Texas is moving to the left. It’s slow, and some parts of Texas are moving the other way. I would imagine these are parts that appear on those red areas in the northeast corner seen on the New York Times map that inspired this effort.

But I didn’t check.

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