On September 20, the House voted for the umpteenth time to defund Obamacare, this time by making it a requirement to continue funding the federal government. The 230 Republicans who voted to do so included Nevada’s Mark Amodei, who represents the state’s northern tier, and Joe Heck, whose district is entirely within Clark County.
Only one Republican voted against the resolution in question: Scott Rigell of Virginia, who came out in favor of the odd notion that the two sides should hold budget negotiations, which they used to do back when the party opposing the president wasn’t insane (not to be too unkind: two Democrats voted with the House Republicans, so some things are contagious).
Here’s the interesting trivia: Obama carried Rigell’s district in both of his elections, by just under two percent, and the two Democrats are in districts that went overwhelmingly Republican in both of those elections.
Could there be a pattern here?
Let’s consider some numbers, courtesy of The Daily Kos. Reps. Dina Titus and Steven Horsford, Nevada’s two Democratic House members who both voted against the Republican resolution, represent safely Democratic districts. Obama carried Titus’s district, in the heart of Clark County, by a nearly 2 to 1 margin in both 2008 and 2012. Obama also carried Horsford’s district by double digits in both elections.
As for the Republicans, both sides tend to see Amodei as having a safe district and Heck as skating on much thinner ice. The numbers bear that out: According to the Nevada Secretary of State’s website, Republicans in Amodei’s congressional district 2 outnumber Democrats 144,510 to 111,461; in Heck’s district 3, Democrats actually have an advantage, 136, 511 to 126,943. In both districts, large contingents of independent and third party voters skew conservative, which helps those incumbents.
But Amodei might want to be careful. While Romney carried his district in 2012, the area has a fast-growing Hispanic population and Hispanics are showing no signs of switching their allegiance to the Republican Party. (That may explain Amodei’s great interest in immigration reform and being on the House subcommittee that is to address the issue, if the House can ever take a break from voting to defund Obamacare.)
To be fair, though, Democrats seem incapable of figuring out how to win in that district or even making the effort, so Amodei can do his best imitation of Alfred E. Newman and say, “What, me, worry?”
Heck, however, is in a bind. Obama won his district both times, though less in 2012 than in 2008. More crucially, Heck won in 2010 by the smallest percentage of any Republican who unseated a Democrat that year, and benefited in 2012 from an opponent with a troubled campaign.
That doesn’t mean that Democratic challenger Erin Bilbray-Kohn’s campaign will be better or that she will unseat Heck. It also will help Heck to run in an off-year election, which tends to favor the party that isn’t in the White House.
But it does mean that Heck’s habit of trying to ride several horses simultaneously could make for entertaining attacks. His district isn’t right-wing, and no signs of a primary challenge from the right have appeared. And as various elements of the Affordable Care Act take effect, the Republican party’s greatest problem is its realization that Americans will like at least some of the changes. It may be hard for Dr. Joe Heck to explain why he would shut down the federal government rather than change the health care system.