He Needs Them More Than They Need Him?

(This article was co-authored by Jim Hobart).

In a recent article in The New Republic, Jonathan Chait writes:

Obama has come into office having won the popular vote by seven percentage points, along with a 79-seat edge in the House, a 17-seat edge in the Senate, and massive public demand for change. But it’s already clear he is receiving less, not more, deference from his own party. Democrats have treated Obama with studied diffidence, both in their support for the substance of his agenda and (more importantly) their willingness to support it procedurally.

Democrat opposition to Obama’s agenda has been written about and analyzed quite frequently in the past few months, with everything from the progressive “net roots” wing of the party having too much sway to an inability of the Obama Administration to transition from campaigning to governing being blamed.

However, another possibility that is not mentioned as frequently is that while Obama may need the support of Dems in Congress, Dems in Congress don’t need Obama.

Despite all the talk this fall about “Obama’s coattails” carrying Dems to victory in competitive districts, a look at the election results in open seat districts won by the Dem candidate demonstrates that this was not the case.

In the 18 open seat districts won by Democrats this fall, the Dem Congressional candidate outperformed Obama by an average of 3.4% (56.2% to 53.2%). Thus, these freshman Dems, as well as their Democrat colleagues in Congress, are much more beholden to the voters in their district than to the President they, on average, out-performed.

Open House Seats Won by Dems


Average Dem Freshman Percentage

Average Obama Percentage

Average Difference




Continuing to look at open seat districts won by Dems, but switching gears from Obama’s problems to GOP opportunities, a look at these seats reveals some top-tier Republican pick up opportunities. Whether it’s a GOP district where the Republican candidate was hurt by an expensive and bruising primary, like in Alabama 2 or Maryland 1, a district where the Dem’s performance lagged behind that of Obama, like in Ohio 15 or New York 25, or a district where the Dem replaced a scandal plagued GOPer, like in Arizona 1 or New York 13, Republicans certainly have some prime targets to begin chipping away at the sizable Dem majority in the House.

Public Opinion Strategies