Shulerdammerung: Twilight of the Dogs

ELKO, Nev. – One way to read the news that Rep. Heath Shuler is cutting bait and retiring this year: The end of the Blue Dog Democrats, the conservatives representing swing-y seats. Another way to read it: Consult Ari Berman.

The consequences of redistricting in North Carolina—one of the most important swing states in the country—could determine who controls Congress and the presidency in 2012. Democrats hold seven of the state’s thirteen Congressional seats, but after redistricting they could control only three—the largest shift for Republicans at the Congressional level in any state this year. Though Obama won eight of the thirteen districts, under the new maps his vote would be contained in only three heavily Democratic districts—all of which would have voted 68 percent or higher for the president in 2008—while the rest of the districts would have favored John McCain by 55 percent or more. “GOP candidates could win just over half of the statewide vote for Congress and end up with 62 percent to 77 percent of the seats,” found John Hood, president of the conservative John Locke Foundation.

Shuler’s western North Carolina district was one of the places remolded to minimize the number of Democrats and maximize the Republicans, with the precise goal of forcing out Shuler. North Carolina, like Ohio and Pennsylvania, will become a roughly 50-50 red-blue state that sends a better than 2-1 Democratic majority to Congress, partly because Democrat-voting African-Americans are packed into districts where the most liberal candidates will more easily win primaries. And for some reason, voters say they’re more pessimistic than usual.