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New Cook PVIs Show Big Opportunities for Conservatives in the House

For all you political junkies, this is the type of news that will brighten up your day.  Charlie Cook has finally revised his partisan rating index for House districts to reflect the new congressional districts post-redistricting.  The index factors in the average vote totals for the Republican and Democrat presidential nominees during the past two election cycles in each district and compares them against the national average.  According to the Cook index, the districts currently span from R+29 to D+41.

Here are some key takeaways:

  • Redistricting has solidified Republican control over the House.  The number of R rated seats has increased from 240 to 246, while the number of seats rated strongly R (R+5 and above) has increased from 182 to 190.
  • The most Republican seat is now TX-13 (R+29), which is held by Mac Thornberry.
  • The most Democrat district currently held by a Republican is IL-8 (D+6).  It is occupied by Joe Walsh.  The most Republican district held by a Democrat is UT-4 (R+14), currently occupied by Jim Matheson.
  • The median district (#218), MI-7 (Tim Walberg), went 51.4% Obama and 46.1% Kerry.  MI-7 is rated R+3.  In other words, Republicans can lose every seat ranked below R+3 and still win a majority.

The Cook Report concludes:

If both parties hold all their “strong” districts, Democrats would now need to win 73 percent of all “swing” districts to achieve a majority – a very difficult feat even in a “wave” year, something 2012 does not appear to be. It also doesn’t help Democrats that of the 99 “swing seats” (those between D+5 and R+5 in the PVI), 56 lean slightly to Republicans while just 43 lean slightly to Democrats. If every single seat elected a member consistent with its PVI score, there would be 246 Republicans and 189 Democrats, not far off from the current count in the House. This suggests that in a “neutral” year, Democrats could win just as many popular votes for House as the GOP and still fall more than two dozen seats shy of a majority.

Unless there is gross political malpractice on the part of Republicans, they should be in control of the House for the foreseeable future.  Now it’s time to build a conservative majority within the party conference.  We can get obtain a conservative majority within the conference (roughly 120 seats) simply by nominating conservative Republicans from districts rated R+10 or greater.  This is a project I began focusing on when I helped start the Madison Performance Index, which rates members’ conservative performance relative to the PVI of their respective districts.

Obviously, those scores will change in 2012, as they will reflect the new district PVIs.  Additionally, there will be some shifts in the PVIs after the 2012 presidential results are factored in.  Either way, we have a plethora of conservative districts to work with.  It’s not too soon to begin looking out for good congressional candidates in 2014.  This is especially relevant if Romney becomes president.

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