News from the Votemaster
There has been some discussion in the blogosphere of late about why Democratic women did so badly in House races in 2006. Everyone knows that the Democrats picked up 30 seats and took control of the House, but there have been few breakdowns by gender. What result you get depends on which races you look at, of course. Looking at all races mixes up top-drawer races like IL-06, where veteran Tammy Duckworth (D) went down to defeat despite heavy party support with races where a woman was the sacrificial lamb in a race she was expected to lose badly, such as Nancy Boyda (D) in KS-02 --only in this case Boyda won despite getting no funding from the DCCC.
This site tracked 50 Hot House races in 2006. They were chosen because they were expected to be close. The gender of the candidates did not play a role in their selection. Let's take a look at the results and see if Democratic women did badly. The notation (R*) means that the seat was open but the Republicans were the incumbent party. The analysis continues below the table.
In these 50 races, the Democrats won 34 and Republicans won 16, for a 68% Democratic victory rate. In 36 of these races, the Democrats fielded a male candidate. Of these, 30 won and 6 lost, for an incredible 83% win rate. In the 14 races where the Democrat was a woman, 3 won and 11 lost, for a 21% win rate. You don't need a graduate degree in statistics to see this could not possibly have been due to chance.
Actually, it is even worse than it looks, because all the Democratic women who won had a special edge specific to their race. In AZ-08, there was a bitter Republican primary and the establishment candidate lost. The winner, Randy Graf, was so far to the right that the national Republican party abandoned him and in effect conceded the election to Giffords. In NY-20 , the incumbent Republican, John Sweeney, beat his wife badly enough for her to call the police. Democratic challenger Kirsten Gillibrand made a big deal about this. While Sweeney was able to beat his wife, he wasn't able to beat his challenger. The third woman Democrat who won was Melissa Bean, the incumbent. No Democratic woman running as the challenger was able to defeat an incumbent Republican except where the Republican shot himself in the foot, not even in the three districts where the incumbent Republican was a woman. In contrast, the 22 male Democrats facing sitting Republicans won 16 of their races (73%).
What's going on here? Numerous explanations have been tossed out, including:
It is easy to dispose of the first explanation. In NH-01 Carol Shea-Porter came out of nowhere, with no help at all from the DCCC to take down a sitting two-term Republican and in KS-02 , Nancy Boyda, likewise with no help from the DCCC, defeated five-term Republican and former track star Jim Ryun.
Explanation two may be true, but there are numerous male Democrats who the DCCC also ignored and who won (e.g., Jason Altmire in PA-04 ).
If explanation 3 held water, then Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran and double amputee should have won the open seat in IL-06 against a lawyer. She didn't.
The fourth one might have some merit. The DCCC had only one litmus test: Can the candidate win? Ideology didn't matter much, with the DCCC happy to support pro-life Democrats where it looked like they could win. Emily's List would never support a pro-life woman, even if the woman was otherwise acceptable. It is hard to tell how big this factor is. Still there must be a reason for this dismal showing by Democratic women.
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-- The Votemaster