First, as a result of a highly partisan redistricting process, more and more seats in the House of Representatives are safe for either the Republican or Democratic Party. As a result, the really consequential campaigns are not the mostly lopsided general elections, but the party primaries, where candidates must cater to the most hard-core ideological elements of their base.
This is the difference between Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. When Bill Clinton took office - as leader of the DLC - he WAS already the leader of the Democratic Party.
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