Most of Congress coming back despite low approval

15 of 22 senators seeking re-election expected to cruise, including Hatch

By Donna Cassata

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Nov. 1 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Tim Storey, an elections analyst with the National Conference of State Legislatures, cites post-Census redistricting in which both Republicans and Democrats shore up incumbents and create a significant number of safe, non-competitive House districts.

But Storey points out that the district boundaries reflect a geographical and cultural reality: The United States is a nation of clusters.

"It takes a real quick look at voting patterns geographically to realize that we are very sort of clustered in heavily partisan ways," Storey said. "And so when you start drawing maps, many of these districts, you can't unless you extraordinarily contort the lines, you're always going to have some number of districts, a large number, that are heavily Republican and heavily Democratic. So that is the nature of a geographic dispersion along party lines."

Storey said people decide where to live for a variety of reasons, but the conventional view still stands — rural America is predominantly Republican and urban America is strongly Democratic. The suburbs provide some intersection of the two, and that line moves in and out depending on the election. Other factors come into play, too. The 1965 Voting Rights Act limits what nine states can do in drawing up new districts, to ensure that minorities are represented in Congress.

Just being in office helps a candidate a lot. Incumbents typically have a considerable advantage in raising money, making it difficult for challengers to unseat them.

The result is that next week, despite the public's frustration, Americans won't be sending many incumbents to the want ads or unemployment offices.

That likelihood leaves some people in the world of business and human resources scratching their heads. Think about George Clooney's job-firing character in the 2009 film "Up in the Air" unable to tell members of Congress they're out of a job.

Vic Tanon, the self-described chief simplicity officer for Emplicity, a human resources outsourcing company based in Irvine, Calif., said his firm consults with companies of 20 to 50 employees, the kind that members of Congress repeatedly talk about when they talk about job growth.

"In what you call a small business there isn't a lot of room for keeping, let alone hiring, people that are not delivering results. There's just not a lot of room," Tanon said. "When you get into larger work places, it's easier for people to hide."

Tanon said small businesses have to worry about their own existence.

"They need results. They look directly to their people and their resources to get those results and when they're not, to remain competitive, we need to write up those employees, put them on a PIP — a performance improvement plan — document that. And if they don't meet the PIP, I'm sorry, but we will have to free them to the economy," he said.

Burton Goldfield, president and chief executive officer of TriNet, a San Leandro, Calif., firm that provides health care plans and guidance on hiring and firing, like Clooney's character, sees parallels between Congress and business.

"The results aren't there," Goldfield said. "Now that doesn't mean that you fire them, but if they're not going to acknowledge that the results aren't there, then you're pretty much done. If I'm counseling an employee, and they're not willing to own up to the results, the chances of them surviving in that role are near zero."

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