CQ reports that the 2006 House races were significantly more competitive than predicted, and more competitive than in previous years:
CQPolitics.com’s analysis of the official results of the House elections in all 50 states finds that 60 House races in 2006 that were decided by 10 percentage points or less.
That doesn’t suggest that most districts have become partisan battlegrounds. Those 60 districts constitute just 14 percent of the 435 that make up the House; traditional incumbency advantages, voting habits and intricately designed gerrymanders held sway in most of the other 86 percent.
Yet when compared to the low-wattage competition of the recent past, the 2006 campaign looks contentious indeed. In 2004, just 23 House contests — a minuscule 5 percent of the total — were decided by 10 percentage points or less.
This finding holds reason for hope for both parties in 2008. Democrats will claim that there are a number of Republicans who won by surprisingly close margins in 2006, and many will be targeted heavily in 2008.
Republicans on the other hand, will point out that many Democrats won by narrow margins in the best Democratic year since 1974. If they barely pulled through in such a favorable environment, they will face a real test in 2008.
Both will likely prove right to some degree. There are clearly Democrats sitting in Republican seats who will be wiped out in the next cycle. But there are also some Republicans who edged past weak and underfunded challengers; you can bet that they will face real races in two years.
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