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Ballpark Update: Iraq War Resolution Hits the Senate Floor

by Ross Margulies // Published June 23, 2006
Vol. 4.2 in a series of guest blog posts by FairVote interns.

The senate yesterday rejected a nonbinding resolution that would have called for Bush to begin withdrawing troops by 2007. By a 60-39 vote, the Senate reaffirmed its support for a continued presence of troops in the region.

In our continued analysis of incumbents playing on 'the other side of the fence' (those Senators who failed to vote along party lines), FairVote once again observed stark polarization among the vote. As our Monopoly Politics report notes, "the partisan division in most districts usually determines the winner of elections," lending weight to the argument that it is not the candidate, but the partisanship of the region, that is dictating the movement of politics in our current system

Starting in 1997, the Center for Voting and Democracy has released a biannual report, Monopoly Politics, that projects the outcome of most House races based on a simple, but powerful observation: the partisan division in most districts usually determines the winner of elections. In most House races, we can project not only who will win but by what margin without knowing anything about the identity of the challenger, about the voting record or any other characteristic of the incumbent, about campaign spending in past or current elections, or about polling data and organizational endorsements. All we need to know are the results from recent federal elections in the district and the incumbent"s party and seniority. The Monopoly Politics reports provide state-by-state, district-by-district guides to U.S. House races. The history of elections in each district is included, and winners and victory margins are predicted in the great majority of House races. Our predictions of winners in House elections have been incredibly accurate over the years. For more info on the program, check out FairVote's Voting and Democracy Research Center. New 2006 predictions are expected soon.

Coming as no suprise to FairVote, the only Republican Senator to stray from the pack yesterday was Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chafee. Of the 25 most Democratic seats, only three are represented by Republicans; Lincoln Chaffee sits far deeper in enemy waters than the other two GOP members (Senators Snowe and Collins from Maine) representing blue states-- Rhode Island boasts a 61.6% Democrat-leaning partisanship.

On the other end of the spectrum is Democratic Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska; Nelson 'no' vote makes sense for a candidate representing one of the most Republican states in the nation. As our country becomes increasingly polarized, of the 25 most Republican seats, only six are represented by a Democrat.

In the current winner-take-all system that is so entrenched in the minds of Americans, the voices of many in the nation remain silent. In Chaffee's Rhode Island, for example, 39% of the voting population selected George W. Bush as their candidate for President in 2004. Yet, our electoral college system does not allow for their voice to be counted (if they fail to achieve a plurality.) Similarly, although Senator Chaffee managed to climb to office in a very blue state, the position he takes on the Senate floor must be modified by the electoral concerns of representing a state with a Democratic majority.