Thursday, March 31, 2011

Washington Post Misleading on Michigan Redistricting

The Washington Post has an article on Michigan redistricting by Aaron Blake.

Maxed out in Michigan - The Fix - The Washington Post

The article discusses various scenarios for how redistricting will play out. It claims that Republicans face a problem because they are "maxed out" and will have difficulty eliminating a democrat seat and holding their own. Blake hardly notes that demographic shifts are extremely favorable for Republicans.

The fundamental error this piece makes is to use President Obama's 2008 performance as a benchmark for how Republican or democratic a district is. But this is unreasonable. Because John McCain publicly abandoned the state weeks before the election, some conservative and independent voters refused to vote for him. Others may have gone to Obama, swelling his margin.

Obama's performance is the absolute high water mark for democrats, and is totally out of line with local elections in Michigan for decades. For this reason, I don't use it, or measures based on it, like the Cook ratings, for analyzing Michigan elections. I prefer to use Michigan state house elections, since they are local and have frequent open seats.

For example, Obama won Michigan's 6th district. Is Republican Congressman Fred Upton endangered? Democrats have only one of 7.5 state house seats in the 6th. This has not changed in many decades. There is no reason to think that the 6th district is vulnerable. Similar analyses apply to most other Republican districts.

Blake notes that the conventional wisdom is that democrats Gary Peters and Sander Levin will end up in the same district. The conventional wisdom is correct. This is simply the only reasonable option for Republicans.

Blake notes that the Detroit districts may have to extend into Oakland County. But the Michigan Supreme Court has ruled that guidelines on County breaks are not enforceable.

Blake notes the curious decision of state rep Marty Knollenberg to run for Congress. But just because he sits on the redistricting committee doesn't mean he runs the committee. I'm not sure how he thinks he will have a district to run in. He will probably end up in the same district as either Peters/Levin or Thaddeus McCotter. It would make a lot more sense for Knollenberg to run for state senate in 2014, when John Pappageorge will be term-limited.

Blake mentions other possibilities.

Combining Peters and McCotter is insane unless it is a heavily Republican district.

Breaking up Dale Kildee's district can't work because no neighboring Republican district can take on Flint.

Combining Kildee and Peters wouldn't work since they aren't adjacent, and most of the democrats are at the southern end of Peters' district.

Breaking up Dingell isn't practical for the reasons that Blake mentions.

Blake is overthinking things. This blog has already demonstrated that it is easy to draw a map that combines Peters and Levin and shores up Walberg, Benishek, and McCotter. The only question is whether Republicans should go for more.

Michigan Congressional Redistricting: Two Possible Maps

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