Saheli*: Musings and Observations
Saturday, February 26, 2005
 
Red vs. Blue and House vs. Statehouse


Matthew Yglesias
has some interesting ruminations on governor-driven pressure on Republican congressional delegations. Medicaid (which he distinguishes as the one that helps poor people, not Medicare, the one that helps middle class old people) is on the Bushian chopping block, an easy place to make at least a little bit of room for the tax cut. Yglesias:
What's especially appealing about it from Bush's perspective is that it doesn't require him to actually take anyone's health care away. Instead, he's going to try and cut the amount of money the federal government gives to the states to spend on Medicaid. This will force state governors and state legislatures to cut people's Medicaid coverage, but since each state will have a lot of flexibility in deciding exactly who to screw over and how to screw them, the hope is that governors and state legislators will wind up getting blamed by the voters rather than the president and congress. Nowadays, of course, most governors are Republicans, and they're not going to like this. The issue in play, then, will be whether or not Republican governors have any sway over their states' congressional delegations and senators.
This got me thinking about the red vs. blue map of governors, which rather different from the more famous red vs. blue map of the presidential election (from About.com): The Democratic bastions of CA and NY have Republican governors. Supposedly heartland red-states like Oklahoma, Montana, Wyoming and North Carolina have Democratic governors. I also pulled up maps of the House of Representatives. (Here's CNN's 2004 flash map; it's approximately the same as the 2002 one I use below, with the notable exception of Texas.) The congressional map is a little hard to read for our purposes, since we're not interested in the demographics of geography but the relationship between a states House caucus and its statehouse. It might appear, for example, that California has a Republican caucus when it's actually very Democratic; it's easy to forget that Wyoming and Montana only have one representative. (I'm ignoring Senators for now, for simplicty's sake; they provide yet another interesting level of complexity.)

It seems to me that, in terms of power, such a relationship must be almost entirely mediated through party lines: governors play an important part in their party's state level committee, which in turn plays an important part in the primary and general election campaign funding for congressional races. In the aforementioned Montana and Wyoming, the governors has little direct influence over the representatives; if the governors are sitting on higher electoral margins they might try and run ads or otherwise use their "political" capital to push down the rep's numbers. Later maybe I'll actually look up each representative's margin of victory and each governor's margin of victory. Until then, though, I'm going guess that with voters inconsistent enough to elect two statewide officials from different parties, such tactics are probably futile. Texas had an impressively bluish delegation in 2002, now almost totally red, so a governor might try the threat of redistricting. In general though, consistent states like Nevada, Utah, Colorado, and Idaho ought to be better at presenting a united front regarding their states' interests than New York, where the Republican governor hobnobs with the Republican Congressional architect of cuts in New York's transportation funding. For the purposes of the Medicaid problem, we can ignore the Governator and Pataki and rely on the coastal delegations to stand on their own. The single Democratic reps from the Dakotas might need a little encouragement. But, on this very first analysis, it does seem like the red-red states like Nevada are where citizens interested in saving Medicare should try to apply some pressure. I'll be particularly interested in the case of Colorado, where it seems that the Republicans represent the poorer parts of the state.


 


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Saheli Datta started this when she was a journalism student at Columbia in New York. Now she lives in the Bay Area. *Old people call me R. New people, call me Saheli. Thanks! My homepage. Specifically, my links. Email me: Saheli [AT] Gmail [dot] Com

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