Politics

After midterms, House Democratic Caucus to become more liberal as House becomes more conservative

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Alex Pappas
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      Alex Pappas

      Alex Pappas is a Washington D.C.-based political reporter for The Daily Caller. He has also written for The Washington Examiner and the Mobile Press-Register. Pappas is a graduate of The University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., where he was editor-in-chief of The Sewanee Purple. While in college, he did internships at NBC's Meet the Press and the White House. He grew up in Mobile, Ala., where he graduated from St. Paul's Episcopal School. He and his wife live on Capitol Hill.

Democrats can keep their big tent after the election. There just won’t be anybody on one side of it.

While members of the liberal Congressional Progressive Caucus are relatively safe in a tough year for Democrats, the more moderate Blue Dog Democrats in the House will be on the endangered species list after Tuesday’s election.

In fact, a Daily Caller analysis of House races shows that a member running in a Blue Dog district is about five times more likely to be at least somewhat vulnerable than a Progressive Caucus member.

Based on the RealClearPolitics ratings of House races, 62 of 76 seats held by a member of the Progressive Caucus are “safe.” For the Blue Dogs, the picture is much more bleak. Of the 54 districts held by a member of that caucus, only six are “safe.”

With moderate and conservative Democrats in much greater trouble than progressives, it is a virtual certainty that the “average House Democrat” will be much more liberal when Congress reconvenes next year.

“You can call it the ideological paradox,” said Isaac Wood, the House race editor for Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball. “If Republicans clean up in the elections next week, the House will become more conservative, but the Democratic Caucus will actually become more liberal. The ranks of the Blue Dogs will be decimated, but the Progressive Caucus will be largely untouched.”

Seats belonging to 82 percent of Democrats in the Congressional Progressive Caucus — a group bound together by liberal goals like universal health care and gay marriage — are considered safe contests. As a whole, 48 percent of Democratic House seats are safe.

The handful of Democrats in the Congressional Progressive Caucus not considered safe include Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Florida Rep. Alan Grayson, New York Rep. John Hall and Illinois Rep. Phil Hare.

Adam Sarvana, a spokesman for the Congressional Progressive Caucus, did not respond to a request for comment.

On the other hand, a decimated Blue Dog Coalition could end up being dwarfed in comparison to various other caucuses, including, for example, the Congressional Bike Caucus (182 members) or the Congressional Kidney Caucus (66 members).

“This is going to be a very tough election for the Blue Dogs, because many of them had success in districts where Democrats are always an endangered species,” said Jim Kessler, vice president for policy at the moderate Democratic think tank Third Way, in a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal.

Some of the vulnerable Blue Dogs include members like Arkansas Rep. Marion Berry, Georgia Rep. Jim Marshall, North Carolina Rep. Heath Shuler and Mississippi Rep. Gene Taylor.

“It’s clear that the new House Democratic Caucus will be smaller, more liberal, and more California-centric,” remarked one senior GOP aide. “That’s going to make it even harder for them to reach out to the independent and moderate Americans whose support they have lost.”