Two years after Barack Obama and Democrats reached their electoral high point, the political pendulum swung quickly and definitively back to Republicans in 2010. It was a political “whiplash” of sorts — a swift refudiation of the way the country was moving.
Republicans reclaimed congressional districts from the New Hampshire coast to the swamps of Louisiana to the Iron Range of Minnesota to the Las Vegas suburban desert. Indeed, they won everywhere, but the “whiplash” was stronger in some places than others.
Out of the 435 congressional districts, Democratic candidates underperformed Barack Obama in 83% of districts and overperformed him in 15% (they matched him in the remaining 2%). In an ominous sign for 2012, Democrats ran under Obama’s 2008 margins in every single district in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Indiana.
To calculate what I call the Whiplash Vote, I measured Obama’s margin of victory in 2008 against each Democratic candidate’s margin in 2010. So, for example, if Obama beat John McCain by 15 points in Virginia’s 11th district (57%-42%), and Gerry Connolly and Keith Fimian essentially tied two years later (49.3%-48.6%), the Whiplash Vote there is -15.
Interestingly, Democrats outpreformed Obama in many districts in the South and West and still lost. Blue Dog Jim Marshall went down to defeat in Georgia’s 8th by six points to Austin Scott (53%-47%), but Obama had lost by 13 points in the district — therefore, the Whiplash was a positive +7.
The most extreme Whiplash was in Florida’s 21st, where McCain edged Obama by two points in 2008, but where Democrats failed to field a candidate in 2010. That led to a Whiplash of -98 (the difference between -2 and -100), which of course is an aberration but nonetheless stunning.
On the other side of the spectrum, Democrat Dan Boren beat his opponent by 14 points in Oklahoma’s 2nd, which was 46 points better than Obama’s 32 point deficit there.
The full map is below. I created it using a fantastic product called Google Fusion Tables where you can visualize data (like election results) on Google Maps. If you click on each district, you can view the Whiplash. Dark red signifies a Whiplash of over 14 points, medium red is 6-13 points, and light red is 0-5 points.