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Dems Pin Hopes on Blue 'Burbs

Timothy Egan's piece in today's New York Times "'06 Race Focuses on the Suburbs, Inner and Outer," offers the not so surprising conclusion that Democrats will do better where population is denser. But Egan's article notes changes that provide some encouragement for Democratic candidates:

After years in which Republicans capitalized on rapid growth in outlying areas, Democrats now see an opportunity to make gains in close-in suburbs where changes in the composition of the population are working in their favor. In a dozen or so Congressional districts that are leading battlegrounds in the midterm elections, older, more densely packed suburbs are trending Democratic, helping to offset Republican dominance on the sprawling exurban frontier.

...the mix of demography and politics has been playing out in many districts. In the cluster of counties outside Philadelphia Bucks, Delaware and Montgomery among them John Kerry in 2004 improved on the vote of Al Gore four years earlier. Similarly, in Fairfax County, Va., Democrats carried the presidential race easily in 2004 after losing to Mr. Bush in 2000. In Colorado, Democrats made big gains in the populous Denver suburbs of Arapahoe and Jefferson Counties, though Mr. Bush won both, by small margins.

And in the aging suburbs outside Chicago, Democrats have gradually made enough gains that they think they can now win the seat being vacated by Representative Henry J. Hyde, a 16-term Republican. The district includes much of DuPage County, still reliably Republican but becoming more Democratic as it grows.

Egan discusses a study by Robert E. Lang and Thomas W. Sanchez entitled "The New Metro Politics," which is generating buzz among political strategists:

...Dr. Lang and other experts note that the exurbs in the fastest-growing counties provide a very small share of the nation's vote, and say bigger gains can be had by either party in focusing on places of transition, where older and newer suburbs meet. In looking at the 50 biggest metropolitan areas, which have about 150 million people, Dr. Lang found that 90 million lived in a somewhat older suburb and that only 5.6 million lived in the exurbs, where Mr. Bush's vote was strongest.

Clearly, suburban demographic trends are boosting Democratic prospects in November. For a more in-depth analysis of the transformation of politics in the 'burbs, see Ruy Teixeira's March 31 EDM post "Exurbia: The Next Frontier."