It is a fact of life in the South that few Democratic candidates are ever considered favorites in winning election to Congress. But with Barack Obama on the ticket for 2012, Democratic turnout will be high, even in Southern states, and some Democats could have a fighting chance.
In Southern legislatures the winners of redistricting battles are the majority political party. In most Southern states, that’s the GOP. State elected Democrats are fighting hard to hold their seats while congressional districts are redrawn to the benefit of Republicans.
The only congressional seat retained by a Democrat in Louisiana, for example, is a majority-minority seat protected by the Voting Rights Act.
In Texas a legislative committee approved a district map on an 11-5 party-line vote. It would give Republicans 26 House seats, leaving 10 to Democrats.
The NAACP and Mississippi Democratic Party have appealed a state court’s ruling to the U. S. Supreme Court to prevent 2011 fall elections under current district lines.
The new map in Alabama is designed to strengthen the current Republican hold on the state’s congressional delegation — 6 Republicans to 1 Democrat (the sole Democrat being in a majority-minority district).
U.S. Senate races, of course, have no districts and are free of redistricting machinations. In Senate races, turnout is key.
It is doubtful, however, that statewide turnout among Democrats will be enough to unseat a Republican senator in either Mississippi or Tennessee. Counting Missouri as the South, Democrats must work hard to keep Senator Claire McCaskill in office. Her re-election may be tough.
Virginia is also a toss-up, even as Tim Kaine, the former governor and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, announced his candidacy upon retirement of the incumbent, Senator Jim Webb. Kaine will likely face George Allen, a Republican seeking his return to the Senate after his surprising loss in 2006 to Webb. That loss was due largely to fallout from a video of Allen’s using the word macaca to refer to an Indian-American member of Webb’s campaign staff.
The story of Southern congressional seats in 2012 is still unfolding. Redistricting remains underway in some states — in Florida, for example — and those decisions will shape any hope for Democratic victories, and the question of voter turnout is never completed answered until Election Day.