By now, we have all heard about how the great Independent swing toward Democrats from 2004 to 2006 was the key to Democratic victory. This is something many of us saw coming for quite some time, and we even dubbed it the "Indycrat" phenomenon. The first article I saw on this was a June 2005 post by Jerome Armstrong. During the rest of that year, it was a topic that was discussed other places like Donkey Rising, Survey USA and many other election focused outlets.
However, at Yearly Kos I briefly chatted with Simon Rosenberg who asked me to look into whether, from 2004 to 2006, Democrats received a greater vote swing from self-identified Democrats or from self-identified Independents. The reason he asked me to do that is because he believed Democrats actually received more of a boost from self-identifying Dems than they did from self-identifying Independents. While I was skeptical of this at first, I just looked into it now, at it appears Simon was right. Comparing 2004 and 2006 exit polls, here is the estimated swing Democrats received according to partisan self-identification:
Overall Dem vote increase: 5.15%
Growth from Dem's: 2.41%
Growth from Ind's: 2.08%
Growth from Rep's: 0.66%
This is rather surprising, but it does seem to be the case that Democrats won 2006 just as much by exciting the rank and file as anything else. I am actually kicking myself right now for not realizing this sooner, as it is the sort of statistic I pride myself on digging up. This would have been extremely useful to combat the post-election narrative that Democrats won in 2006 by being centrist, conservative, or in anyway breaking from their own party. The independent swing was important, but the swing they managed to pull off through an excited base was just as important, if not more so. Democrats stuck with their own party more often than Republicans, and then turned out at higher rates. Without this swing from their own base, Republicans would certainly still be in the majority in the Senate, and probably still be in the majority in the House.
The role of the Democratic base in winning the 2006 election has been extremely under-reported. This is disturbing, because the power centers one uses to win an election almost inevitably end being the power centers to whom ones caters after the election. If Democrats are unaware that there own base was largely responsible for their victory then, well, that might actually explain the way we have governed to date. There are quite a few Democrats, such as these congresscritters listed by Howie, who don't think they owe their own base anything, and they are voting accordingly. I think it would be useful to find a way to remind them who helped put them in office / the majority.