July 14, 2004


For U.S. Representatives Rahm Emanuel (D-5) and Jan Schakowsky (D-9), who represent portions of Chicago's Northwest Side and adjacent suburbs, the Bush-Kerry presidential race could be either a lose/win or a win/lose situation.

If President George Bush wins a second term, there is a strong likelihood that that the Republicans will lose control of the U.S. House in 2006. Historically, the party of the incumbent president loses House seats, especially in the mid-term election of a president's second term. That's a lose/win scenario for Emanuel and Schakowsky.

However, if Democrat John Kerry wins the presidency, there is an equally strong likelihood that the Republicans will retain control of the U.S. House in 2006 as voters react normally against the incumbent president's party in the first mid-term election. That's a win/lose scenario for Emanuel and Schakowsky.

Presuming, as is likely, that the Republicans retain their majority in the House, which is currently 228-207, this fall, then Schakowsky's close ally, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, won't become speaker in 2005. The odds are great that she will become speaker in 2007 if Bush wins, but the odds are negligible that she will become speaker that year if Kerry wins.

Pelosi appointed Schakowsky, first elected in 1998, as one of her chief deputy whips and named her to the Democratic Steering Committee, which doles out committee assignments. Schakowsky, age 60, decided to forego a 2004 bid for U.S. senator and to seek re-election to her House seat. If Pelosi becomes the first female speaker of the House, Schakowsky's power will increase commensurately. It is entirely possible that she could win the whip's post, which would make her third in the Democratic House hierarchy. And, in that position, she would have a chance to become speaker at some future date.

So, in the long run, it is in the best political interest of Schakowsky for Bush to win in 2004.

As for Emanuel, age 44, a Kerry loss would be politically more advantageous than a Kerry win. Emanuel, first elected in 2002, was a top White House aide from 1993 to 1999 during the Clinton Administration. That position broadened his nationwide connections and enabled him to raise $2.9 million for his 2002 congressional campaign.

According to Washington sources, Emanuel is the all-but-certain choice to head the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee after the 2004 elections, for the 2005-06 campaign cycle. He is perceived to have the clout to raise vast dollars for Democratic congressional candidates. The current committee chairman is Robert Matsui, a California Democrat, who is not expected to seek retention.

But therein lies Emanuel's conundrum: If the Democrats win the House in 2004, then Matsui is the hero -- but the majority wouldn't be more than a couple of seats. If the Republicans keep the House in 2004, it would be with only an eight- to 10-seat majority. So if Bush wins and the Republicans retain their House majority, Emanuel will be in a position to be the hero of 2006 and to strategize and achieve a Democratic majority, installing Pelosi as speaker. However, if Kerry wins, then Emanuel could be the goat of 2006 and be blamed for any loss of Democratic House seats.

So, like Schakowsky, it also is in the political interest of Emanuel for Bush to win in 2004.

Matsui's problem in winning a Democratic House majority is related to the political polarity of the nation. In 2000 Bush won 239 of 435 congressional districts, to the Democrats' 196. Yet, in the 107th Congress elected in 2000, the Republicans had a 222-213 majority. That meant that a sizable number of Bush districts elected a Democratic congressman, but it also demonstrated that most Al Gore districts elected a Democrat and most Bush districts elected a Republican.

In 2002, due primarily to redistricting, the Republicans enhanced their House majority by seven, winning 229 seats. One Democrat has since switched parties, but the Republicans lost special elections this year in Kentucky and South Dakota, so their majority is down to 228-207. A House majority is 218, so the Democrats must make a net gain of 11 seats in November.

At present, 30 Democrats occupy congressional districts won by Bush in 2000, and 21 Republicans occupy districts won by Gore. Of those Democrats, 21 are from Southern or Border states; they would be vulnerable to defeat in an anti-Democratic year, such as 1994. Of those Republicans, 15 are from the Northeast (Connecticut, New York, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire), and they would be vulnerable to defeat in an anti-Republican year, such as 1974, 1982 and 1986.

Because of a 2003 remap in Texas, the current 16-16 split in that congressional delegatioin will likely become a 22-10 Republican majority. That means that the Democrats will have to pick up 17 Republican seats elsewhere. That won't happen. Regardless of whether Bush or Kerry wins, the Republicans will still have a House majority, probably in the range of 225 seats, and Denny Hastert of Illinois will remain as speaker.

If Emanuel assumes the helm of the Democrats' congressional campaign committee in 2005, he will be able to raise more money if Kerry is president, but he will be less likely to overturn the Republican majority in 2006. If Bush is president, Emanuel will raise less money but likely will win a Democratic majority.

As the adjoining vote chart indicates, Illinois' congressmen are predictably partisan on fiscal and defense issues, but quite independent on social issues such as abortion, flag desecration and school vouchers.

Of the state's 19 congressional districts, Gore won 10 and Bush won nine in 2000. There are 10 Republicans in the delegation, nine of whom occupy Bush-won districts. Mark Kirk, in the North Shore 10th District, is the only Republican in a Gore district. He votes pro-choice on abortion, but otherwise he generally backs the Republican line, rarely deviating from fellow Republican Henry Hyde (R-6) on fiscal issues.

Among Democrats, Emanuel, Schakowsky and Luis Gutierrez (D-4) are predictably liberal on virtually every vote, although Emanuel did support the $87 billion appropriation for Iraq, and Gutierrez backed a ban on flag desecration. Democrat Bill Lipinski (D-3), from the Southwest Side, deviated from party orthodoxy on school vouchers, flag desecration, Iraq funding, the Pledge of Allegiance, ending the marriage tax penalty and abortion.

All six incumbents are safe bets to win re-election in November.