A vanishing breed: Blue Dogs
The House's shift to the right came partly at the expense of the Democrats most likely to vote with them. The Blue Dog Coalition lost almost half of the 47 members who were seeking reelection -- 22 have been declared losers, and one other (Jim Costa of Fresno) appears certain to end up in that column too. Seven Blue Dogs didn't seek reelection, and all of their seats were claimed by Republicans.
The 11 Democrats (nine of them Blue Dogs) who voted against the $787-billion stimulus package in 2009 didn't fare well either. Only two won reelection -- North Carolina's Heath Shuler and Tennessee's Jim Cooper. Three retired, and all of those seats went to Republicans.
Nor did the 34 Democrats (including 23 Blue Dogs) who voted against the healthcare reform bill in March. Thirteen won reelection, and Democrats held on to the open seat vacated by "no" voter Artur Davis of Alabama. The other 20 either were defeated or retired, with their seats taken by Republicans. Several of those -- notably Rick Boucher of Virginia, Chet Edwards of Texas and Ike Skelton of Missouri -- were longtime centrists, even though they weren't members of the Blue Dog caucus.
It's conceivable that the election results will push other Democrats toward the center, particularly those who narrowly escaped defeat. Closely divided districts tend to produce that kind of lawmaker. But Republicans in the House won't need Democrats' support to push bills through -- they'll have the votes to do it themselves, if their members are loyal. The bigger challenge for them will be getting those measures through the Senate and signed by President Obama.
-- Jon Healey