The Triumph of Ideology over Hope

Christopher Alleva
Primary voters in Maryland contradicted the media narrative that voters are looking for centrist candidates to garner crossover voters. This cycle, a pair of Maryland House incumbents, a Democrat and a Republican went down to defeat against well funded ideological opponents. Al Wynn (D) was beaten by second time challenger ultra-liberal Donna Edwards in the Washington suburban 4th district and Wayne Gilchrest (R) was overtaken by conservative Andy Harris in the largely rural Eastern Shore 1st District.

This result is mostly attributable to convoluted serpentine gerrymandering as much as anything else that reinforced strong ideological preferences. Prior to the 2000 redistricting, Maryland's 8 member congressional delegation was split four to four. Moderate Democrats Ben Cardin and Steny Hoyer represented white Baltimore and Southern Maryland respectively., while Wynn and Elijah Cummings represented majority African-American districts in suburban Washington and Baltimore. The Republican delegation was manned with liberals like Connie Morella and Gilchrest and the more conservative former Governor Bob Ehrlich and Roscoe Bartlett representing the more rural eastern and western parts of the state.  


The 3rd district snakes through three counties and Baltimore City, twisting and turning to capture every white Democrat voter possible. Intertwining the 3rd is Elijah Cummings' 7th district, drawn to capture every African American voter in the metropolitan area. Wynn's former 4th district was redrawn to include the large African American precincts on the southeastern border of Washington with Hispanic and white neighborhoods in eastern Montgomery County thrown in. Gilchrest's former 1st district and the 6th district were drawn to concentrate the Republican vote as much as possible. The 1st district includes Maryland's entire Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay along with heavily Republican precincts around Baltimore and Annapolis.  


Harris and Edwards both ran campaigns challenging the incumbent's commitment to fundamental party principles. Gilchrest was completely out of step with the Republican Party. He was pro-choice, he voted for McCain Feingold, he was a member of the Congressional Climate Change conference, and he voted to keep earmarks opposed by the party. His 2006 American Conservative Union (ACU) rating was a failing 48.


Wynn's record in Congress placed him on the far left of the Democratic Party. Despite this, they punished him for a couple of votes that strayed from their orthodoxy. The scorekeeper for liberals, Americans for Democratic Reform rated Wynn at 100%. Majority Leader, Steny Hoyer doesn't even score 100%. Gilchrest scored an improbable 60%. In contrast, Wynn has a lifetime ACU rating of 9.9. These races indicate that Republicans are far more tolerant than Democrats. If the Democratic nominee strays from party orthodoxy even slightly, it is more likely they will punished by their party's voters than the Republicans.  


The narrative being advanced by the mainstream media is the reemergence of their vaunted independent and swing voter in this election cycle. Pundits are interpreting McCain's nomination and Obama's success to the independents asserting themselves. The results of these two Maryland races seem to defy this conventional wisdom. Both Republicans and Democrats rejected incumbents that were unfaithful to their party's planks. This is a reflection of a long term trend in the House of Democrats drifting more liberal and Republicans shifting more conservative. These Maryland elections show that voters of both stripes are animated by ideology. 


The winner of the presidential election is going to need to come up with some novel electoral calculus to defeat their opponent. Straight talk John and messiah Barack may have found the key to their party's nomination but translating this to victory in November is another matter. McCain is hardly in a position to use G.W. Bush's strategy of turning out the base and Obama will not have the advantage of a third party challenger in the race like Ross Perot in 1992 to siphon off Republican and independent votes crucial to Bill Clinton's win.  


One thing that is certain is both candidates will continue to refine micro-targeting techniques. These tactics have proven successful in turning out party faithful, the open question is can they be used to get out less motivated voters. 

Primary voters in Maryland contradicted the media narrative that voters are looking for centrist candidates to garner crossover voters. This cycle, a pair of Maryland House incumbents, a Democrat and a Republican went down to defeat against well funded ideological opponents. Al Wynn (D) was beaten by second time challenger ultra-liberal Donna Edwards in the Washington suburban 4th district and Wayne Gilchrest (R) was overtaken by conservative Andy Harris in the largely rural Eastern Shore 1st District.

This result is mostly attributable to convoluted serpentine gerrymandering as much as anything else that reinforced strong ideological preferences. Prior to the 2000 redistricting, Maryland's 8 member congressional delegation was split four to four. Moderate Democrats Ben Cardin and Steny Hoyer represented white Baltimore and Southern Maryland respectively., while Wynn and Elijah Cummings represented majority African-American districts in suburban Washington and Baltimore. The Republican delegation was manned with liberals like Connie Morella and Gilchrest and the more conservative former Governor Bob Ehrlich and Roscoe Bartlett representing the more rural eastern and western parts of the state.  


The 3rd district snakes through three counties and Baltimore City, twisting and turning to capture every white Democrat voter possible. Intertwining the 3rd is Elijah Cummings' 7th district, drawn to capture every African American voter in the metropolitan area. Wynn's former 4th district was redrawn to include the large African American precincts on the southeastern border of Washington with Hispanic and white neighborhoods in eastern Montgomery County thrown in. Gilchrest's former 1st district and the 6th district were drawn to concentrate the Republican vote as much as possible. The 1st district includes Maryland's entire Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay along with heavily Republican precincts around Baltimore and Annapolis.  


Harris and Edwards both ran campaigns challenging the incumbent's commitment to fundamental party principles. Gilchrest was completely out of step with the Republican Party. He was pro-choice, he voted for McCain Feingold, he was a member of the Congressional Climate Change conference, and he voted to keep earmarks opposed by the party. His 2006 American Conservative Union (ACU) rating was a failing 48.


Wynn's record in Congress placed him on the far left of the Democratic Party. Despite this, they punished him for a couple of votes that strayed from their orthodoxy. The scorekeeper for liberals, Americans for Democratic Reform rated Wynn at 100%. Majority Leader, Steny Hoyer doesn't even score 100%. Gilchrest scored an improbable 60%. In contrast, Wynn has a lifetime ACU rating of 9.9. These races indicate that Republicans are far more tolerant than Democrats. If the Democratic nominee strays from party orthodoxy even slightly, it is more likely they will punished by their party's voters than the Republicans.  


The narrative being advanced by the mainstream media is the reemergence of their vaunted independent and swing voter in this election cycle. Pundits are interpreting McCain's nomination and Obama's success to the independents asserting themselves. The results of these two Maryland races seem to defy this conventional wisdom. Both Republicans and Democrats rejected incumbents that were unfaithful to their party's planks. This is a reflection of a long term trend in the House of Democrats drifting more liberal and Republicans shifting more conservative. These Maryland elections show that voters of both stripes are animated by ideology. 


The winner of the presidential election is going to need to come up with some novel electoral calculus to defeat their opponent. Straight talk John and messiah Barack may have found the key to their party's nomination but translating this to victory in November is another matter. McCain is hardly in a position to use G.W. Bush's strategy of turning out the base and Obama will not have the advantage of a third party challenger in the race like Ross Perot in 1992 to siphon off Republican and independent votes crucial to Bill Clinton's win.  


One thing that is certain is both candidates will continue to refine micro-targeting techniques. These tactics have proven successful in turning out party faithful, the open question is can they be used to get out less motivated voters.