Oh So Polarized

Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images
Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images

7:35 a.m. E.T.

The national division coming out of the 2012 election is stark enough to make even long-time observers of our national politics do spit takes with their breakfast smoothie.

Look at these numbers from Gerald Seib’s Wall Street Journal column:

Based on nearly complete results, of the 234 Republicans elected to the House, just 15 come from districts that the Democratic president carried, according to a running tally compiled by David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report. Of 201 Democrats elected, just nine come from districts Republican Mitt Romney carried….

Not only are House members coming from reliably partisan districts, many are winning in landslides. In this fall’s election, 125 House members — 42 Republicans and 83 Democrats — won their districts with 70% or more of the vote….

The situation is similar in the Senate. There will be 45 Republican senators in the new Congress. Only 10 of them come from states President Obama won. There will be 55 Democrats and independents who caucus with Democrats. Just 11 of them come from states Mr. Romney won….

Voting in that presidential race, meanwhile, was starkly partisan. President Obama won the votes of just 6% of Republicans, exit polls indicate. Mr. Romney won just 7% of Democrats.

By contrast, when Republican Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980 — with a share of the national vote similar to President Obama’s this year — he won 27% of Democrats’ votes. Swing voters aren’t exactly an endangered species, but their population appears to be thinning.

The number of states that are so clearly red or so clearly blue that they aren’t seriously contested in presidential races is climbing, while the number of swing states in the middle is falling.

In this year’s contest, there really were only nine true swing states that were seriously contested. By contrast, as National Journal has noted, in the 1960 presidential election, 20 states were so closely contested that they were decided by margins of less than 5%. By 2000, the number of similarly competitive states had dropped to 12. This year, the number was four.

And from the New York Times:

Of the 234 House Republicans who will sit in the 113th Congress, 85 percent won re-election with 55 percent of the vote; more than half of next year’s House Republican Conference won more than 60 percent. And virtually every one of them ran on holding the line against tax increases and the Obama agenda.

There are a lot of substantive and political challenges to getting a deal to avert the fiscal cliff, but you can start with the realities reflected above.

Related Topics: Barack Obama, Fiscal Cliff, Gerald Seib, John Boehner, Mark Halperin, New York Times, Analysis, Budget, Congress, Democratic Party, Economy, House, News, Republican Party, Senate, The Page

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