Every twelve years — during the Year of the Tiger, according to the Chinese calendar — a unique situation obtains in Mississippi, New Jersey, and Virginia: Races for the U.S. House of Representatives are the top of the ticket races in the state. There are no governor’s races, nor are there contests for the U.S. Senate. The result of this lack of this statewide campaign activity, not surprisingly, is a lower level of interest in politics in general, and, consequently, a lower voter turnout; and, as any good operative will tell you, a lower turnout level translates into an advantage for the side whose partisans are more intensely motivated.
In these three states today, there are six Democrats sitting in seats that are rated as Republican seats, according to Charlie Cook’s Partisan Voting Index (the Cook PVI is a calculation that measures how strongly a given congressional district leans toward one party or the other, as compared to the nation as a whole).
To give an example, the most strongly Democratic districts in the House are New York’s 15th and 16th Districts, both rated at D+41; the most strongly Republican districts in the House are Alabama’s 6th District and Texas’s 13th, both of which are rated R+29.
In Mississippi, the 1st District is rated R+14, while the 4th is rated R+20. In New Jersey, the 3rd District is rated R+1. And in Virginia, both the 2nd District and the 5th District are rated R+5, while the 9th is rated R+11.