This is the twelfth edition of a research project at PoliticusUSA known as Taking Back the House. You can check out the previous edition here. The purpose of this project is to analyze each Republican Congressional district in the United States and see how likely the district can go ‘Blue.’ To do this, I will take a look at the overall demographics of the district, as well as review the historical voting patterns and the record of the Congressperson representing the district. This series will run until we’ve looked at every single district in the country, which should take us right into the 2014 campaign season.
Congressional District: Arkansas 2nd District
U.S. Representative: Tim Griffin
Median Household Income: $45,415 (National Average: $51,017)
Unemployment Rate: 8.8% (National Rate: 7.2%)
Gender: 51.2% Female, 48.8% Male (National Percentages: 50.8% Female, 49.2% Male)
Age: 13.2% 65 and over (National Percentage: 12.8%)
Race: 73.1% White, 22.0% Black, 1.2% Asian (National Percentages: 72.4% White, 12.6% Black, 4.8% Asian, 0.9% American Indian)
Ethnicity: 95.1% Non-Hispanic, 4.9% Hispanic (National Percentages: 83.6% Non-Hispanic, 16.4% Hispanic)
Urban/Rural Population Split: 70.6% Urban, 29.4% Rural (National Split: 82% Urban, 18% Rural)
District Voting Patterns: Prior to Griffin being elected in 2010, the 2nd District was a solidly Blue district as Vic Snyder served in the House for seven straight terms. However, after the election of Barack Obama in 2008, Snyder suddenly saw himself in quite a bit of trouble heading into the 2010 election. As early polls showed him trailing Griffin by a wide margin, he decided not to run for reelection and retire. For a point of reference, Snyder did not even face a Republican challenger in 2008, instead defeating Green Party candidate Deb McFarland by 53 points.
As Snyder was considered a liberal during his tenure, it is not shocking that he was targeted by the GOP in the aftermath of the 2008 Presidential election and during the rise of the Tea Party. In 2010, Griffin ended up running against Democrat Joyce Elliot. He won that election by 20 points and defeated Democrat Herb Rule in 2012, 55-40. As far as Presidential elections, Mitt Romney won this district in 2012 by 12 points, while John McCain took the district in 2008, 54-44.
Congressional Activity by Griffin: Oddly, Griffin announced in October that he will not run for reelection in 2014. While the official reason is the standard ‘I want to spend more time with my family’, something else must be at play here for a relatively young Congressman (Griffin is 45) to up and quit after only serving two terms. He doesn’t seem to be quitting to seek another office, whether it’s a run for Governor or Senate, so one has to wonder what the real reason is? Is it because he stuck up for Speaker John Boehner during the government shutdown? Is it because he’s on the record supporting immigration reform?
Anyway, in his almost three years in office, Griffin has proven himself to be a very reliable Republican when it comes to votes. Per OpenCongress, he has voted with his party 97% of the time. One exception was that he voted for raising the debt ceiling and reopening the federal government on October 16th. He defended Boehner throughout the shutdown, so no surprise he did this, as he probably wanted to show his continued support for the Republican leadership. However, just a few days later, he abruptly announced he would not seek another term. Griffin currently sits on the Ways and Means Committee and spent his freshman term on the Armed Services Committee.
Notable Quotes by Griffin:
“I have made no decision as to my plans after Congress except that I will continue in public service, including as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserve,”- Griffin to Talk Business Arkansas on October 21st, 2013.
“The biggest threat to ‘Medicare as we know it’ is to maintain the status quo and do nothing. If we do nothing, Medicare goes bankrupt and sooner than we thought” – From Griffin’s campaign website.
Odds of District Going Blue in 2014: Pretty decent now. With Griffin already stating that he will not seek reelection, this district becomes downright winnable for the Democrats. It wasn’t that long ago when an actual liberal represented this district in the House. Now that Griffin will be out of the way in 2014, the odds of the Tea Party running an extreme candidate just shot through the roof. With Republican primaries seemingly being all about how far to the right a candidate can go, it opens the door even wider for a reasonable Democratic candidate to win this seat.
Overall, the demographics aren’t bad for a Democratic candidate. The district includes Little Rock, the state’s largest city, and much of the surrounding suburbs. The percentage of black voters in the district is slightly higher than the nation as a whole, and the amount of seniors is about on par with the rest of the country. The district’s median income isn’t much different than the national average. Same goes for the unemployment rate. Everything about this reads ‘swing.’ If the Democrats can run a solid candidate and back the candidate with decent funding, there should be no real reason why this can’t turn Blue!
Justin is the Managing Editor and a Contributing Writer for Politicus Sports, PoliticusUSA’s very own sports site. You can check out the site here.
Justin Baragona is the Managing Editor at Politicus Sports as well as Senior Editor at PoliticusUSA. He was a political writer for 411Mania.com before joining PoliticusUSA. Politically, Justin considers himself a liberal but also a realist and pragmatist. Currently, Justin lives in St. Louis, MO and is married. Besides writing, he also runs his own business after spending a number of years in the corporate world. You can follow Justin on Twitter either with his personal handle (@justinbaragona) or the Sports site’s (@PoliticusSports).