December 8, 2010


America's voters, and especially those in Illinois, are guilty of aberrant behavior. In 2008 they enthusiastically embraced Barack Obama's mantra of "change we need," while in November they resoundingly repudiated Obama's policies and programs as "change we don't want."

Which is the aberration?

The most accurate yardstick is congressional voting, as recent elections were "nationalized": The elections of 2006 and 2008 were referendums on, and repudiations of, the Bush Administration; the 2010 election was a referendum on, and a repudiation of, the Obama Administration.

Illinois has 19 congressional districts. After the 2002 election the Republicans had a 10-9 majority, and after Obama's 2008 statewide sweep, the Democrats had a 12-7 edge.

After the November election the Republicans are up by 11-8. Pro-Obama incumbents were ousted in the three historically Republican districts won by a Democrat in 2004 and 2008, encompassing outlying suburban and rural areas. In a rural Downstate district that Obama won with 57 percent of the vote in 2008, which hadn't elected a Republican since 1980, an obscure pizza parlor owner soundly defeated its pro-Obama Democratic congressman.

White House Democrats whine that their debacle was caused by Obama's "failure to communicate." Congressional Democrats complain that "outside money" caused the loss of 65 House districts and six Senate seats. Democratic strategists and consultants contend that their party's drubbing is due to unmotivated 2008 Obama voters. Republicans, of course, view 2010 as a stupendous repudiation of Obama and all he has enacted.

Mark Twain popularized the saying that there are lies, damn lies and statistics. Here, to rebut the lies, are some salient statistics: The 2010 election returns clearly support the proposition that Obama's 2008 zealots were AWOL in 2010.

In 2002 Democratic congressional candidates amassed an aggregate of 1,740,543 votes (51.3 percent of the total cast), to the Republicans' 1,656,823, for a margin of 83,720 votes in a turnout of 3,397,366. That averaged 91,607 votes per district for the Democrats and 87,201 for the Republicans.

In 2004, when John Kerry whomped George Bush in Illinois by 2,891,550-2,345,946 (getting 54.8 percent of the votes cast), Democratic congressional candidates topped the Republicans by 2,675,273-2,271,496 (with 54.1 percent), for a margin of 403,722 votes in a turnout of 4,946,769. That averaged 140,803 votes per district for the Democrats and 119,552 for the Republicans. In the 8th U.S. House District, 35-year Republican incumbent Phil Crane was upset by Democrat Melissa Bean by 9,191 votes, with Bean getting 51.7 percent of the vote.

In 2006, amid anti-Bush fervor, Democratic congressional candidates topped the Republicans by 1,987,114-1,442,969 (getting 58.0 percent of the votes cast), for a margin of 544,145 votes in a turnout of 3,430,083. That averaged 104,584 votes per district for the Democrats and 75,945 for the Republicans. Compared to 2002, turnout was up by just 32,717, but every Republican candidate, including all incumbents, saw their totals vote shrink by 10 to 25 percent.

Over 6 percent of the electorate -- about 250,000 voters -- shifted from support of Republican congressional candidates in 2002 to Democrats in 2006.

In 2008, when Obama annihilated John McCain in Illinois by 3,419,348-2,031,179, getting 61.9 percent of the vote, Democratic congressional candidates topped the Republicans by 2,955,274-1,961,173 (with 58.9 percent), for a margin of 994,101 in a turnout of 4,883,447. That averaged 155,540 votes per district for the Democrats and 103,219 for the Republicans. The Democrats' total congressional vote was 464,074 less than Obama's, while the Republicans' was 70,006 less than McCain's.

In 2004 the state's presidential vote was 5,274,330 and the congressional vote was 4,946,769, a difference of 327,561 votes. In 2008, with the Obama-induced surge, the Illinois presidential vote was 5,521,916 and the congressional vote was 4,883,447, a difference of 638,469 votes.

Illinois' turnout for president increased by 247,586 from 2004 to 2008, but the total congressional vote was 63,322 less in 2008 than in 2004. Notably, almost 550,000 2008 Obama voters didn't cast a vote other than for president.

Illinois reverted to norm in November. Democratic congressional candidates topped the Republicans by 1,847,747-1,707,264 (getting 51.9 of the vote), for a margin of 140,483 votes in a turnout of 3,554,738. That averaged 98,670 votes per district for the Democrats and 89,856 for the Republicans -- numbers almost identical to 2002.

In the 2010 contests, Republicans ousted Democratic incumbents Bean, Bill Foster (D-14) Debbie Halvorson (D-11) and Phil Hare (D-17), all of whom won overwhelming victories in 2008.

Here's an analysis of the 2010 outcomes:

8th District (Western Lake County, McHenry County, and Barrington, Schaumburg and part of Palatine in Cook County): Bean beat Crane in 2004, was reelected by 12,635 votes (getting 50.9 percent of the vote) in 2006, and smothered her Republican foe in 2008 by 63,363 votes (with 60.7 percent). That seemed to spell "entrenchment," meaning that Bean was unbeatable. Obama won the traditionally Republican district in 2008 by 170,333-130,384 (getting 56 percent of the vote), even though Bush had carried it by 153,245-121,710 (with 56 percent) in 2004. Obama got 48,623 more votes than Kerry, and McCain received 22,861 fewer votes than Bush.

In the 2004 race, Bean won by 139,792-130,601 in a turnout of 270,393, running 18,082 votes ahead of Kerry; in 2008 she won by 179,444-116,081 in a turnout of 295,525, running 9,111 votes ahead of Obama. It appeared that the 8th District was swiftly trending Democratic.

But then Bean miscalculated, embraced Obama's agenda, supporting the stimulus, TARP, cap and trade and "Obamacare." The "independent" Bean of 2004 to 2008 evolved into the "ObamaBean" of 2009-10.

The Republican candidate, Joe Walsh, was seriously flawed and seriously underfunded. He had staff turnover, issues about his foreclosure, and questions about how he loaned his campaign $28,000 when he had $41,000 in income. Walsh embraced the Tea Party, tied Bean to Obama, and ripped "reckless" spending.

Bean spent $2 million, to Walsh's $550,000. The result: Despite his flaws, the election was a referendum on Bean/Obama, and Walsh won by 347 votes in a turnout of 194,253.

Bean is already priming herself for a rematch in 2012. Walsh will be an implacable anti-Obama vote. But the 8th District appears to have aligned itself to its Republican roots. Bean's comeback as the pro-Obama candidate is dubious.

14th District (Kane, Kendall and DeKalb counties, including Elgin, Aurora, Geneva, Saint Charles and Batavia, plus Lee, Henry and Whiteside counties): Republican House Speaker Denny Hastert's held the seat for 22 years before resigning in 2008. In the special election, Foster faced Republican Jim Oberweis, a toxic, chronic and unelectable candidate. Foster won by 5,025 votes, and he then trounced Oberweis in the 2008 election by 49,751 votes, getting 57.8 percent of the vote.

Bush won the district with 54 percent in 2000 and with 55 percent (158,428-125,269) in 2004. In 2008 Obama beat McCain by 181,329-145,345, getting 55 percent of the vote. The Kerry-to-Obama spike was 56,060 votes. Foster beat Oberweis by 185,404-135,653 -- a vote almost identical to Obama's.

In November the Republican candidate was Randy Hultgren, a state senator from Winfield. Foster, a pro-Obama vote, spent $3.1 million and lost. The final tally was 111,808-97,792, a margin of 14,076 votes. Hastert won in 2002 by 135,198-47,165 and in 2006 by 117,870-79,274. The 14th District has aligned itself to its Republican roots.

11th District (Will, Kankakee, Grundy and LaSalle counties, including Joliet, Kankakee, Ottawa and Morris): Epic is the word, as in epic bad judgment and epic upset. Halvorson won an open seat in 2008 by 185,652-109,608, getting 58.4 percent of the vote and carrying all eight counties by hefty margins, including Will County by 37,675 votes. Obama won the district by 175,808-148,600. Halvorson's margin was an epic 76,044 votes, but Obama's was 27,208.

Halvorson was the Illinois Senate majority leader, and she was in line to be the Senate president. The 2008 results were a red flag for her. Republican Marty Ozinga ran 38,992 votes behind McCain, while Halvorson ran 9,844 votes ahead of Obama. Bush won the district in 2004 with 54 percent of the vote.

In Congress, Halvorson was an Obama toady -- epic bad judgment. In November she faced Adam Kinzinger, an obscure 32-year-old military veteran and a former McLean County commissioner. Halvorson spent $2.5 million, she was on Chicago television stations excoriating Kinzinger for wanting to block social security raises, and still she lost by 128,250-94,939 (getting 43 percent of the vote), a 33,311-vote margin. In two elections, Halvorson's vote crumbled from 185,652 to 94,939 -- an epic decline of 49 percent.

19th District (Quad Cities, Decatur, Mississippi River border counties): Hare got to Congress by a backroom deal. He was Democrat Lane Evans' district director for 24 years, and when Evans decided to quit in 2006 after winning the primary, the Democratic county chairmen picked Hare. Hare won 115,025-86,161 in 2006, and he was unopposed in 2008. Obama won the district by 160,104-118,163, with 57 percent of the vote.

But Hare was a slavish Obama backer, and in November, against Republican Bobby Schilling, an obscure Rock Island pizza parlor owner, he lost by 84,820-103,668, getting 43 percent of the vote and losing by a margin of 18,848 votes. The district's Obama/Hare/Democratic vote declined by half. This rural, conservative district has finally aligned itself with the Republicans.