Analysis: New congressional map only slightly moves the political needle in the 6 districts

02/12/2012 11:25 PM

The political effects of Kentucky’s new congressional district map are slight with the voter performance changing by less than 1.5 points in any one district, according to a Pure Politics analysis using the results of the 2008 Election.

None of the changes were great enough to reverse the results in the presidential race or U.S. Senate race in each of the six districts.

The biggest political effect is in the 6th District in Central Kentucky, where Democrat Barack Obama would have fared 1.5 points better against Republican John McCain in the presidential race but still lost in the district. And Democratic U.S. Senate challenger Bruce Lunsford would have extended his lead in that district by a percentage point over U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell.

It’s worth pointing out that the 6th District changed most in terms of voter performance and the number of new counties — adding six new ones and part of a seventh and losing three counties and part of a fourth.

But it stands to add just a little more than 58,600 new people into that district. That’s smaller number than three other districts: the 2nd (about 89,000 people new to the district), the 5th (more than 69,800) and the 4th (more than 68,800).

As for the others, the Pure Politics analysis shows the 4th and 2nd Districts getting a bit more Republican, while the 1st and 5th Districts inched ever so slightly toward being more competitive but still Republican performing.

1st DISTRICT

It tilts ever so slightly toward being more competitive but still solidly went for Republicans in the 2008 Election.

The addition of northern Ohio County and Marion County adds more registered Democrats, although conservative Democrats. Adding Taylor County essentially cancels out the loss of another Republican County, Butler County, which moves to the 2nd District. The 462 voters it picks up from Washington County won’t make much of a difference, politically.

Republican U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, who has held the seat since being elected in 1994, has said he would have welcomed the addition of Daviess County into the 1st, but Republicans didn’t want that to happen. And they prevailed.

____________McCAIN vs. OBAMA ____ McCONNELL vs. LUNSFORD

OLD MAP …….McCAIN by 72,181 (62.8%) ______McCONNELL by 34,144 (56.0%)

NEW MAP …….McCAIN by 74,485 (62.6%) ______McCONNELL by 32,013 (55.4%)

2nd DISTRICT

It becomes slightly more Republican with the additions of Butler, Mercer, Boyle and Garrard counties, as well as western Jessamine County.

The 2nd District, represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie of Bowling Green since 2009, had to shrink from the more than 760,000 people it had. As a result, it lost precincts in Jefferson County, as well as Republican-leaning Shelby and Taylor counties and part of Spencer County. It also shed Marion County and the northern part of Ohio County.

______________McCAIN vs. OBAMA ____ McCONNELL vs. LUNSFORD

OLD MAP …….McCAIN by 70,526 (61.5%)______McCONNELL by 34,703 (55.6%)

NEW MAP…….McCAIN by 71,688 (62.2%) ______McCONNELL by 35,067 (55.9%)

3rd DISTRICT

The 3rd District, represented by Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth since 2007, will now cover all but the eastern precincts, which are full of voters who lean Republican. They’ll now be in the 4th District.

The southern portion of Jefferson County used to be in the 2nd District. So it now picks up those precincts, which have more registered Democrats, although they have a strong independent streak.

It’s impossible to calculate the difference between the two maps without getting down to the precinct data, which isn’t available yet.

Regardless, the 3rd District will be more favorable for Democrats than it already was. And it was the only Kentucky congressional district President Obama won in 2008. He defeated McCain there by more than 42,000 votes.

4th DISTRICT

This could be the most solidly Republican district in the state as a result of the new map. It picks up Shelby and part of Spencer County, as well as the Republican-leaning precincts in eastern Jefferson County while shedding Democratic counties of Fleming, Nicholas, Bath, Elliott Carter and parts of Boyd and Harrison.

McConnell would have fared 1.3 points better in the district under the new map, while McCain would have added 0.7 points to his tally.

That only reinforces the popular opinion that the winner of this spring’s GOP primary is the hands on favorite to succeed U.S. Rep. Geoff Davis of Hebron, who decided not to seek a fifth term.

_________McCAIN vs. OBAMA ____ McCONNELL vs. LUNSFORD

OLD MAP …..McCAIN by 70,235 (61.4%) ___McCONNELL by 54,512 (58.9%)

NEW MAP……McCAIN by 73,502 (62.1%) ___McCONNELL by 61,765 (60.2%)

5th DISTRICT
The changes by the new map would make this slightly more competitive, although the 2008 presidential race isn’t the best measuring stick in this district.

McCain would have lost a half-a-point under the new map and McConnell would have lost nearly that much as well.

Republican U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers of Somerset has had a lock on the district after serving since first being elected in 1980. It still contains a bloc of Republican counties but now adds Democratic ones of Carter, Elliott and southern Boyd.

__________McCAIN vs. OBAMA _______ McCONNELL vs. LUNSFORD

OLD MAP …..McCAIN by 86,799 (68.2%) ___McCONNELL by 28,129 (55.9%)

NEW MAP……McCAIN by 91,474 (67.8%)___McCONNELL by 28,474 (55.5%)

6th DISTRICT
Republican state Sen. Damon Thayer of Georgetown had been pushing for changes to the map that would have cut Lunsford’s margin of victory in the district in half. It was not to be.

Instead, the compromise map gives Democrats slightly more breathing room. Lunsford would have fared a whole point better under the new map and Obama would have done 1.5 points better, although he still would have lost to McCain handily by more than 166,000 votes to about 138,000 for Obama. That’s notable, considering Obama will be back on the ballot this fall.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler of Versailles, who has been representing the seat since 2004, must now re-introduce himself to Nicholas, Fleming, Bath, Menifee and Wolfe counties and part of Harrison County in the east as well as about 5,100 new voters in northern Scott County who used to be in the 4th District.

At the same time, he says goodbye to voters in Mercer, Boyle and Garrard Counties and rural western Jessamine County, including Wilmore — much to the chagrin of Republican challenger Andy Barr.

Joe Sonka of the LEO reported that under the new map, Chandler would have defeated Barr in 2010 by about 6,000 votes instead of the famously narrow 648-vote margin.

___________McCAIN vs. OBAMA ____ McCONNELL vs. LUNSFORD

OLD MAP…….McCAIN by 39,715 (56.2%)___LUNSFORD by 4,743 (50.7%)

NEW MAP……McCAIN by 28,621 (54.7%) ___LUNSFORD by 10,332 (51.7%)

(Note: the analysis accounted for split counties — Spencer, Washington, Harrison, Boyd and Jessamine — by calculating the results proportionally so the numbers might not exactly match the actual performance in the precincts.)

By the way, here is the old map, used from 2002 until now:

About Ryan Alessi

Ryan Alessi joined cn|2 in May 2010 as senior managing editor and host of Pure Politics. He has covered politics for more than 10 years, including 7 years as a reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Follow Ryan on Twitter @cn2Alessi. Ryan can be reached at 502-792-1135 or ryan.alessi@twcnews.com.

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