BIG WINS FOR THE DEMOCRATS:
California (+3 D, – 3 R)
California’s maps were drawn, for the first time, by an independent commission instead of by the legislature. Perhaps because that was an initiative that Arnold Schwarzenegger championed, there were a lot of fears that the deck would somehow be stacked against the Dems and a map that improved matters for the GOP would result. Whoever might have feared that, however, would have to have ignored the huge growth in California’s Hispanic population in the last decade, which would result in a more Dem-friendly map no matter who was drawing it. In addition, using an independent commission may have led to a better result than even if a Dem-controlled legislature had drawn it, because they would have opted for incumbent protection. This map, however, by shaking things up for Dems as well, pushed even more previously-GOP districts into play, amping up the potential number of Democratic pickups (at the cost of making a few Dems less secure).
Three seats flipping from GOP to Democratic is a rough guess; no map in any other state got as thoroughly scrambled as California’s, with more than half a dozen seats truly up for grabs. It’s perfectly plausible that the Dems could pick up five seats or more; it’s just as plausible that, if things go kerflooie, that the GOP could still wind up breaking even. Here’s the basic idea, though: two Republicans, David Dreier and Gary Miller, saw their seats in the San Gabriel Valley completely blown up, and Dems are favored to pick up the Hispanic-majority seats that replaced them, CA-31 and CA-41. The formerly Republican-held seat in Ventura County also got turned into a Dem-leaning seat, enough that it forced Elton Gallegly to retire, but Democratic recruiting trouble and a weird independent candidacy may help the GOP snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in CA-26. Brian Bilbray’s CA-52 in the San Diego area also got transformed into a lean-Democratic seat, but he may have enough staying power to survive. Several other seats with GOP incumbents (Sacramento’s CA-07, Modesto’s CA-10) also moved in the Dem direction.
On the flip side, the Fresno-area CA-21, currently Dem-held, got turned redder, and then got left open thanks to a Dennis Cardoza retirement and Jim Costa district-swap; that gives the GOP a legitimate pickup opportunity. Several other Dem seats (CA-03 in the Sacramento Valley, Santa Barbara’s CA-24, Long Beach’s CA-47) got weakened to the extent that they’re competitive now too, giving the GOP a path to limiting the damage.
Florida (+2 D)
It’s pretty remarkable that Florida turned out to be a big Democratic win despite the fact that the process was controlled entirely by Republicans. However, their ability to wreak mayhem was hampered by minority growth in Florida, and also by the Fair Districts initiative that voters passed in 2010 in order to limit gerrymandering. (While there’s still some pretty transparent gerrymandering in the map, especially around Tampa, it did at least keep the GOP from getting greedy).
Population growth gave Florida two new districts, and the map was drawn to give one to the Dems and one to the GOP. The new Hispanic-plurality Orlando-area FL-09 (60 percent Obama, which will probably see Alan Grayson’s return to Congress) was one; the other is a safe Republican seat (43 percent Obama) centered in Charlotte County. However, a funny thing happened, as individual Republicans scrambled to save themselves: Tom Rooney jumped to the new FL-17 from the swingier FL-18 (51 percent Obama), and in turn, Allen West jumped to FL-18, a safer bet than his previous FL-22, which got quite a bit more Democratic (from 52 percent Obama to 57 percent Obama). West’s decision to turn tail instead of falling on that grenade leaves the GOP with a Dem-leaning open seat in the Palm Beach area to defend, making two new Dem seats likely.
Illinois (+4 D, -5 R)
Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn’s super-narrow re-election in 2010, was, from a purely tactical standpoint, maybe the biggest win of the entire 2010 election, because it preserved the Democratic hold on the legislative trifecta, letting them seriously rearrange the map. (The previous decade’s map was essentially a Republican-drawn map.) There were fears that the Dems might chicken out and draw a wimpy good-government map, but no; this is one state where the Dems were willing and able to play hardball on the same level as the GOP in North Carolina, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, or, well, just about any other state where they were in control.
The Democratic map severely re-edits four seats, taking four seats held by Republicans (Joe Walsh’s IL-08, Bob Dold’s IL-10, and Judy Biggert’s IL-11, all in Chicago’s suburbs, and Bobby Schilling’s IL-17 further downstate) and turning them into districts where Barack Obama got 60 percent or more of the vote. That makes those four districts instantly into the four bluest districts held by Republicans anywhere in the country. While the blowhardish Walsh no doubt already has the color of his parachute picked out, and Schilling seems to have little hope either, Dold and Biggert are moderate (and well-funded) enough that those aren’t slam-dunk pickups for the Democrats, though they’ll certainly have to be pickups, if the Dems want to entertain thoughts of flipping the House. The Dems also dealt with the problem of needing to eliminate one seat by smashing GOPers Adam Kinzinger and Don Manzullo into one Republican vote sink in Chicago’s most distant exurbs, a race that Kinzinger won.
There’s also a fifth possibility for Dems in the downstate IL-13, which is now a narrowly Dem-leaning (55 percent Obama) swing district, with pickup chances bolstered by GOPer Tim Johnson’s abrupt retirement… and one potential problem in the form of the similarly swingy St. Louis-area IL-12, a Dem-held seat left open by Jerry Costello’s retirement.
SMALL WINS FOR THE DEMOCRATS:
Arizona (+1 D)
Despite the fact that Arizona uses an independent commission, this was certainly one of the most dramatic redistricting battles, with Republican Gov. Jan Brewer’s attempt to impeach the commission’s chair Colleen Mathis (and her subsequent reinstatement by the state Supreme Court). I suppose it makes sense that Brewer tried to fight the map, though, as it wound up being a modest boon to Dems. It made already-safer GOP seats even safer, while creating a new Tempe-area open seat, AZ-09, that’s a tossup for now but that, at least based on the presidential numbers, leans slightly Democratic (51 percent Obama). It also made it easier to hold Gabby Giffords’ former seat (now AZ-02) and makes a Dem pickup of the rural AZ-01 more plausible.
With split control of the trifecta, Colorado wound up using a court-drawn map, and the court wound up choosing a Democrat-drawn map. No seats seem poised to change hands because of redistricting, but the map did turn the formerly red CO-06 in Denver’s suburbs into a swing district where Dems can compete (once 46 percent Obama, now 54 percent Obama). That comes at the cost of making rural CO-04 redder, diminishing Dem hopes of picking that one back up.
Kentucky’s compromise map, the result of a Dem House and GOP Senate, didn’t move the boundaries much at all. The Dem win here is a small one but a potentially important one in the event of another Republican wave election at some point this decade: the GOP-leaning KY-06 in the Lexington area, where Blue Dog Dem Ben Chandler barely survived 2010, got two points friendlier (from 43 percent to 45 percent Obama).
Maryland (+1 D, -1 R)
The Democrats control the trifecta in Maryland, and they used it to their advantage. (Whether they used it to maximum advantage is up for debate, though; they went for a safer 7 D/1 R map, while we’ve seen plenty of hypothetical but plausible 8 D/0 R maps suggested.) By turning MD-01 into even more of a GOP vote sink, they were able to turn the state’s other GOP-held seat, MD-06, into a Dem-leaning one (from 40 percent Obama to 56 percent Obama). In that new environment, polls show long-time Republican incumbent Roscoe Bartlett on his way to defeat this year.
Nevada (+1 D)
Split control in Nevada meant another court-drawn map, but thanks to explosive growth in the Las Vegas area, much of it non-white, the map turned out favorable to the Democrats. The newly-created district in the Vegas suburbs, NV-04, is 56 percent Obama; that’s not a slam dunk in an open seat, but likelier than not to go our way. In addition, the other suburban seat, NV-03, picked up by Republican Joe Heck in 2010, stayed well within Dems’ reach, falling only to 54 percent Obama from 55 percent Obama before.
There wasn’t much moving of furniture in Rhode Island, but what happened worked to Dems’ advantage. The Dems who control the legislature shored up potentially vulnerable freshman David Cicilline in RI-01 by a few points, at the expense of the more moderate and more entrenched Jim Langevin in RI-02, who doesn’t especially need any help.
Washington (+1 D)
Washington does redistricting by independent commission; with most of the state’s growth occurring in the Dem-friendly Puget Sound region, the big question wasn’t so much whether a new Dem-leaning seat would be created but where. In the end, new WA-10 wound up linking Olympia with Tacoma’s southern suburbs; at 57 percent Obama it’s likely to elect Democrat Denny Heck. The not-so-good tradeoff for that, though, was that the formerly solid-blue WA-01 in Seattle’s northern suburbs got turned into a swing district (dropping from 62 percent Obama to 56 percent); combined with an open seat left by Jay Inslee’s resignation, that shift sets up the potential for a GOP pickup. (Of course, the tradeoff for that tradeoff is that the occasionally-vulnerable Dem Rick Larsen in WA-02 now gets a much safer district, at 60 percent Obama.)
The special master-drawn map in Connecticut is very much a stand-pat map, with every district’s Obama percentage staying exactly the same. (Alternatively, you might argue that, in itself, is a small Dem victory, since they got the map they were pushing for, as opposed to the Republicans’ big idea, which was to move Bridgeport out of CT-04 in order to push it back toward swing district status.)
The lines hardly needed to move in Hawaii, and that’s exactly what happened. Both districts are still strongly Democratic.
Boise, once split between ID-01 and ID-02, is now mostly in the 2nd, which makes that district slightly friendlier to Democrats. At 37 percent Obama, though, it still isn’t electing a Democrat any time soon.
Iowa (-1 R)
Iowa is a good-government redistricter’s dream: they use a legislative commission and somehow always manage to be the first state done and to have compact, uniform-looking districts that don’t even deviate from county lines. Iowa needed to lose one seat because of depopulation and, at first glance, it looks like the GOP were the losers here, with the elimination of Tom Latham’s seat. However, rather than retire, Latham decided to run against Dem Leonard Boswell in the new Des Moines-area IA-03 (52 percent Obama); the majority of the constituents here are already Boswell’s rather than Latham’s, but Latham is a strong competitor and if this tossup race breaks his way, well, make it -1 D instead.
Louisiana (-1 R)
Louisiana didn’t give the GOP very many good options, despite being in firm control. The state needs to lose a seat because of hurricane-related population loss, and the state’s one Dem, Cedric Richmond, sits in a Voting Rights Act-protected seat in New Orleans. That meant the state Republicans had to toss one of their own overboard, and it looks like it’s freshman Jeff Landry, whose district got vaporized (and who apparently plans to run in a tough primary against fellow member Charles Boustany in a merged LA-03). They did manage to use the remnants of Landry’s district to make another member much safer, though; John Cassidy’s LA-06 dropped from 41 percent Obama to 31 percent.
Massachusetts (-1 D)
Although the Dems control the trifecta in Massachusetts, they were pretty much screwed no matter what: they needed to lose a seat, and with a delegation of 10 Dems and no Republicans, one Dem had to go. John Olver made the decision easier, though, by announcing his retirement. Beyond losing that seat, though, Dems made the best of the circumstances, by making sure all the remaining districts stayed at least 57 percent Obama, and shoring up the district of their potentially weakest link, freshman William Keating. (One small potential, problem, though: the weakest district (MA-06, at 57 percent) now belongs to the Dem, John Tierney, with the state’s strongest Republican challenger.)
The Republicans actually control the trifecta here, but thanks to the state’s geography their options for trying to improve their lot at the Congressional level are pretty limited. Fearing a people’s veto via referendum of a more aggressive map, they settled for a map that left the two districts’ percentages the same.
With a Republican legislature and Democratic governor in Minnesota (where, as with Illinois, Mark Dayton’s narrow victory in 2010 was huge), a court-drawn map had to be used, and, overall, there was very little change. Dems and GOPers can each claim a minor victory, with Michele Bachmann getting a few points safer in MN-06, but with a potentially new target opening up for the Dems in MN-02, where John Kline’s district correspondingly got a few points bluer. The district that will see the state’s biggest battle, MN-08, where accidental GOP freshman Chip Cravaack fights for his first re-election, barely changed at all.
The boundaries changed very little in Mississippi. The delegation’s 3 R, 1 D split is most likely locked in for the next decade, barring the emergence of some sort of Blue Dog superstar in one of the state’s three dark-red districts.
The numbers barely changed in the Cornhusker State. In a way, you might consider that a bit of a fail on the Republicans’ part (seeing how they control the process). By cracking Omaha between two districts to dilute its Dem core, they could have made NE-02 a distinctly redder district, keeping the lightly-endangered Lee Terry safer but more importantly taking that district off the table for the Obama campaign this time. Instead, they just stood pat.
New Hampshire may have had the least change of any state with two or more districts: only a few thousand people got switched from one district to the other. The overall percentages stayed the same.
A court-drawn map in New Mexico (where there’s a Democratic legislature and a Republican governor) stuck with least change; the overall percentages in all three districts hardly budged.
New York (-1 D, -1 R)
Most of the states in the “wash” category are the small states with two or three districts, but there is one very, very complicated wash, and that’s New York. With the Republicans controlling the state Senate, that means split control, and that led to a court-drawn map that tried to split the difference. Retirements by two members, one of each party, one from Upstate and one from the City, made the task of deciding which two seats to eliminate (thanks to depopulation) much easier: those two seats, the Poughkeepsie-area seat held by long-time Dem Maurice Hinchey and the Queens seat picked up in a special election surprise by GOPer Bob Turner, easily fell to the axe.
However, there was a lot of scrambling of the remaining seats, with a number of seats getting pushed into the “tossup” or “lean” realm that we wouldn’t necessarily have expected to see being competitive. In fact, two freshman incumbents, one from each party, seem likelier than not to lose their next races: Dem Kathy Hochul (another surprise special election victor in the Buffalo area, whose NY-27 fell from 46 percent Obama to 44 percent Obama, the reddest district in the state), and GOPer Ann Marie Buerkle (one of 2010’s narrowest winners and now facing a rematch with Democratic ex-Rep. Dan Maffei in a district that’s now 56 percent Obama). In addition, there are slightly bluer swing districts for three other upstate GOP frosh: Nan Hayworth, Chris Gibson, and Tom Reed, any of whom could also fall. (Several other Dems got tougher rows to hoe, though, too, including a couple who haven’t had competitive races in ages: Louise Slaughter and Nita Lowey.)
Democrats are very likely to lose one seat in Oklahoma in 2012, but it has nothing to do with redistricting. Oklahoma was one of the first states to finish, and they tinkered very little with the lines of OK-02, the only Dem-held seat in the state, which stayed 34 percent Obama (or with any other district’s line, for that matter). Dan Boren subsequently issued a surprise retirement announcement. Expect a 5 R, 0 D state after 2012, but not because of any gerrymandering.
Despite split control (a Dem governor, a Dem Senate, and a 30-30 House), the parties managed to iron out a compromise map, basically sticking to the principles of least change. The GOP may have emerged with the tiniest of advantages here, making swingy OR-05 a point less blue in exchange for the already-ridiculously-blue OR-03 becoming two points more blue. But even the 5th (down to 53 percent Obama from 54 percent) seems poised to stay in Dem Kurt Schrader’s hands except under the most extreme wave conditions.
West Virginia is kind of the flipside of Nebraska: is it a wash, because the map barely changed, with every district’s percentages exactly the same? Or is it a win for the out-party (in this case the Republicans), because the party in charge (here the Democrats, who despite their lack of luck here at the presidential level, still dominate the state legislature) failed to do anything to push their advantages? (Here, that would have meant making WV-02 safer for the Republicans in exchange for making WV-01 swingier, to help make it easier for a Dem to pick that one back up.)
SMALL WINS FOR THE REPUBLICANS:
This is a very minor win for the Republicans, who already have a 6 R, 1 D edge in this state but locked it in a little further. They managed to shore up the weakest link in their delegation, Mike Rogers, whose district, AL-03 went from 43 percent Obama to 37 percent Obama. That came mostly at the expense of fellow GOPer Robert Aderholt, who could safely afford to go from 23 percent (!) Obama up to 26 percent in AL-04.
Arkansas (-1 D, +1 R)
The single biggest redistricting fail on the Democrats’ part is, without a doubt, Arkansas, a state where they control the legislature and the governor’s chair and yet managed to make things worse for themselves. After experimenting with ways of making their one remaining House seat in the state (AR-04, held by Mike Ross) safer via the so-called “Fayetteville Finger,” the Dems instead opted to make AR-04 a few points redder in exchange for making AR-01 (picked up by GOPer Rick Crawford in 2010) a point bluer, probably figuring that Ross could take care of himself and that Crawford was a decent target. Ross’s response was… to retire. So, now the Dems find themselves defending an open seat that’s 37 percent Obama, while chasing after a different seat (the 1st) that they only managed to bump up to 39 percent Obama and are in little condition to get back.
Indiana (-1 D, +1 R)
The Republicans control the trifecta in Indiana, and they were able to exploit that to draw a map that, most likely, will flip one more seat in their direction. They managed to drop the Obama percentage in the South Bend-area IN-02 from 54 percent Obama to 50 percent. (Bear in mind that that’s no swing district anymore; that reflects an extreme high water mark for Dems, based on Obama’s overperformance in Indiana.) That may not have been enough in itself to defeat Dem Joe Donnelly, but, lured by the prospect of facing Richard Mourdock (rather than Richard Lugar) in a Senate race in addition to getting dealt a worse district, he retired, leaving an open seat. Beyond that, though, it wasn’t a terribly aggressive GOP map; they strangely didn’t do anything to shore up freshman Larry Buchson in the 48 percent Obama IN-08, and they let suburban IN-05 (open because of Dan Burton’s retirement) creep up to 47 percent Obama.
Michigan (-1 D)
With Republicans controlling the trifecta here, and most of the state’s population loss having occurred in the strongly-Democratic Detroit area, the results in Michigan were a foregone conclusion. With the need, because of the VRA, to keep two African-American majority seats in Detroit, the axe fell further out in the suburbs, with long-timer Sander Levin and sophomore Gary Peters getting mashed together in a new safely-Democratic MI-09. (Interestingly, Peters may yet survive, not by challenging Levin, but by challenging Hansen Clarke in one of the black-majority seats.) The GOP also managed to strengthen their hand slightly in rural MI-07 (from 52 percent to 51 percent Obama).
Missouri (-1 D)
Missouri is a split-control state, with Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon balanced against a Republican legislature – although with most of the state’s population loss happening in the St. Louis area, Democrats would have been hard-pressed to preserve a Dem seat even if they’d been in charge. In the end, though, Missouri was one of the more egregious cases of legislative Democrats laying down their arms and letting the GOP do what they wanted. The result was elimination of Russ Carnahan’s swingy suburban MO-03, with Carnahan opting to run in a Dem primary against Lacy Clay in the St. Louis-based MO-01. The tradeoff is that Republican-held MO-02 became a few points bluer (from 44 percent to 46 percent Obama); if Carnahan had run here, we might have had a small shot at picking it up, but as it stands it looks off the table.
South Carolina (+1 R)
The Republicans control the trifecta in South Carolina, and most of the growth has happened in GOP-friendly parts of the state, so whipping up one more red district in the state (which already has a 5 R, 1 D delegation) was no real problem for them. The new SC-07, centered on Myrtle Beach, is likely to end up in the Republican column, though it’s worth noting that, at 45 percent Obama, it’s the state’s second least-red district (after the black-majority SC-06 at 70 percent Obama), and, if he survives the primary, the Dems have a good contender here in the form of Ted Vick.
The Republicans’ House delegation grew by three in Tennessee in 2010, so their interests lay in consolidating their gains at 7 R, 2 D, and not expanding the map. This ranks as a “small win” rather than a “wash” simply because they did so very well at that. Their theoretically most vulnerable freshman member, Stephen Fincher, found his TN-08 drop from 43 percent Obama to 35 percent. And they did that without pushing any of their other members up into the 40s, either, probably locking the entire delegation in for the next decade.
Texas (+2 D, +2 R)
Texas was the big redistricting bonanza, gaining four new seats as a result of the 2010 Census. (Florida was the only other state to gain more than one seat.) The Republicans control the trifecta in Texas, but there were two big obstacles preventing them from going completely nuts: the fact that more than three-quarters of the state’s massive growth over the last decade was among non-whites, and the fact that the Obama administration’s DOJ seemed intent on playing hardball with them over complying with the Voting Rights Act. In the end, the Democrats made out OK in Texas, but the fact that the GOP managed to wrangle a “compromise” map that led to a +2 D, +2 R (instead of the +3 D, +1 R result that the population growth would seemingly dictate) makes it a small GOP win.
The plan has the initial appearance of creating that +3 D, +1 R result, in that three of the four newly-created districts (TX-33 through TX-35) have Hispanic majorities and 60 percent+ Obama percentages. However, what happened below the surface is that the GOP managed to gerrymander two existing seats, thanks to massively cracking apart Austin’s Travis County. Dem Lloyd Doggett’s TX-25 is now a strongly-GOP open seat (Doggett opted to run in the Hispanic-majority 35th). They also shored up GOP freshman Blake Farenthold (one of 2010’s most surprising winners, and a probable loser had he run again under the old lines), moving TX-27’s center of gravity from Corpus Christi to Victoria, taking it from 53 percent Obama to 40 percent Obama).
So, really, the Dems are gaining the Dallas-area TX-33 and the Rio Grande Valley’s TX-34, while the GOP gains the Austin-to-Ft. Worth TX-25 and the Houston-suburbs TX-36. In fact, now that the dust has settled, there’s only one swing district left in the whole state; that’s the San Antonio-area TX-23, a 50 percent Obama seat that GOPer Quico Canseco will have to fight to hold.
Virginia is one more state where, faced with a bounty of pickups from the 2010 harvest (three new seats), the GOP had to focus on locking in gains rather than targeting more Dems. In exchange for conceding a much safer Fairfax County seat to Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly in VA-11 (which went from 57 percent to 61 percent Obama), they managed to boost each of their troublesome seats by a few percentage points. That includes VA-02 and VA-05, where they’re defending freshmen, and VA-01 and VA-10, where rapid exurban growth is increasingly letting Beltway liberals establish a beachhead.
And the same story applies in Wisconsin, where the GOP picked up two seats and needed to focus on protecting those, rather than expanding. Their top priority was protecting freshman Sean Duffy in WI-07, which they managed to drop from 56 percent to 53 percent Obama, which may make all the difference in a close election. This came at the expense of a slightly safer WI-03 for Democrat Ron Kind, in the state’s other rural district. The other GOP freshman, Reid Ribble, didn’t see his fortunes improved, though; his WI-08 stayed flat at 54 percent Obama.
BIG WINS FOR THE REPUBLICANS:
Georgia (+1 R)
It was pretty clear all along that the Republicans (who control the trifecta here) would gain a seat in Georgia, with much of the state’s population growth occurring in the mostly-white exurban reaches far to the north of Atlanta. That’s exactly what happened, with Republicans placing dark-red new GA-09 there (with former GA-09 getting the new GA-14 designation). They also put another seat strongly into play, taking Blue Dog Dem John Barrow’s GA-12 down from 54 percent Obama to 44 percent. Barrow’s conservative voting record finally comes in handy, but if he still isn’t able to hold on, the Republicans will have converted it to a -1 D, +2 R map instead. Finally, they also protected freshman Austin Scott in GA-08, although they did so at the expense of conceding a safer GA-02 (58 percent Obama, up from 54 percent) to Dem Sanford Bishop, who narrowly won in 2010.
North Carolina (-3 D, +3 R)
Think state legislative elections don’t matter? North Carolina certainly proves that they do. In a rather unexpected result, the Republicans managed to take control of both chambers of the legislature in North Carolina in 2010, and that gave them unfettered control of the redistricting process (although it has a Democratic Governor, North Carolina is one of the few states that doesn’t give the Governor veto power over redistricting). Considering that the map during the 2000s was a Democratic gerrymander – and also considering that in 2010, unlike in many other states, a number of Blue Dogs (Larry Kissell, Heath Shuler, Mike McIntyre) survived the wave — the counter-gerrymander turned into the GOP’s single biggest offensive windfall of the cycle.
North Carolina used to have six (out of 13) districts greater than 50 percent Obama, but thanks to some creative map drawing, there are now three super-blue districts (each more than 70 percent Obama), and ten strongly-GOP districts that are 45 percent Obama or less. That locks in 2010’s one surprise GOP pickup, Renee Ellmers (whose NC-02 went from 52 percent Obama to 43 percent), forced Dem Brad Miller to retire (as his NC-13 went from 59 percent Obama to 45 percent), and gave Kissell a terribly steep hill to climb (with NC-08 going from 53 percent Obama to 42 percent). Two Blue Dog Dems in GOP-leaning districts also got dealt worse hands: Shuler (whose NC-11 went from 47 percent Obama to 40 percent) chose to retire, while McIntyre finds himself in a tossup (with NC-07 dropping from 47 percent Obama to 42 percent).
New Jersey (-1 D)
Managing to eradicate one Democratic seat in a blue state isn’t a showy result as far as “big wins” go, but the way the state GOP went about it was particularly Machiavellian. New Jersey uses a bipartisan commission to do redistricting, with a neutral tiebreaker in charge. (Although there was some doubt as to whether this year’s tiebreaker, law school dean John Farmer, was really that neutral to begin with.) With conventional wisdom dictating that the map would create a “fair fight” district that would pit one Democrat and one Republican against each other in the suburbs, the GOP put together a map that created the appearance of a fair fight but was, functionally, a Dem loss.
Their approach: move Democratic Rep. Steve Rothman’s house into GOPer Scott Garrett’s NJ-05, but keep the 5th an unappealing GOP-leaning seat (49 percent Obama) and move most of Rothman’s constituents into fellow Dem Bill Pascrell’s much safer NJ-09(64 percent Obama) in the hopes that Rothman would follow them there, instead of starting off with a disadvantage against Garrett. That was the map that got picked, and Rothman did exactly that, running against Pascrell in the new 9th and leaving Garrett with only minor opposition instead of that promised “fair fight.” (The GOP also managed to strengthen their most vulnerable members, Jon Runyan in NJ-03 and Leonard Lance in NJ-07, in fact moving the 7th from 51 percent Obama to 47 percent.)
Ohio (-1 D, -1 R)
Ohio Republicans controlled the trifecta after flipping the state House and the Governor’s seat in 2010, but they were limited by their ability to create much mischief by the need to wipe out two seats while locking in their gains from 2010 (five seats!). Most pundits expected them to have to toss one Republican overboard in addition to one Democrat. To most people’s surprise, the two who got mashed up turned out to be veterans Mike Turner and Steve Austria in new OH-10 (rather than frosh Bob Gibbs and Bill Johnson, as expected); Austria decided to retire rather than lose a primary to Turner. Pundits also wondered whether the GOP would target Dennis Kucinich or Betty Sutton for elimination, among the Dems. In the end, the GOP managed to target both of them.
They did that by putting Kucinich in a safely-Dem Cleveland-to-Toledo OH-09 with Marcy Kaptur (a primary which he already lost), and by creating a new Democratic vote sink in the Columbus area. That latter action potentially saved the two Columbus-area GOPers, Steve Stivers and Pat Tiberi, both of whom previously had Dem-leaning swing districts, and created a containment pool for the one part of the state where the Dems seem to be rapidly gaining. More significantly, it also let them pit Sutton against GOP frosh Jim Renacci in a combined Akron/Canton-area OH-16 that leans GOP (47 percent Obama, a far cry from Sutton’s old seat, which was 57 percent Obama). Polls have shown this race to be a tossup, but if this gambit pans out with a Renacci win, the GOP will have gotten the -1 D, -1 R result. managed to turn the -1 D, -1 R compromise into a -2 D wipeout.
Pennsylvania (-1 D)
Despite only phasing out one Democratic seat, the GOP needs to receive some sort of chutzpah award for their map in Pennsylvania, perhaps the most aggressively ugly map anywhere in the country. The decision of where to eliminate the seat was a pretty easy one for the GOP (who controlled the trifecta, after picking up the state House and Governor’s chair in 2010): much of the state’s population loss occurred in the counties around Pittsburgh, and the mashup of Dems Jason Altmire and Mark Critz in PA-12 was an obvious solution. (In the end, Critz won a surprise victory in that primary.) However, that still left the problem of trying to make their districts in the eastern part of the state safer; by zigzagging their way across the landscape in a crazy quilt, they managed to replace GOP freshman Lou Barletta’s 57 percent Obama district, PA-11, with one that’s 47 percent instead, and then pushed three other potentially troublesome GOP-held suburban districts (PA-06, PA-07, and PA-15) way to the right (each moving from the 56-58 percent Obama range to 51-53 percent).
Utah (+1 R)
The debate among GOPers in Utah (who, naturally, control the trifecta in the nation’s reddest state) was whether to go with a “pizza” or “donut” map; the pizza would have cracked the Salt Lake City area four ways in attempt to dislodge the delegation’s lone Democrat, Blue Dog Rep. Jim Matheson, while the donut would have carved out the state’s most Democratic (or least Republican, as we’re talking about Utah) areas in a concession to Matheson. In the end, “pizza” won out, with no seat featuring a stronger Obama performance than 41 percent. That 41 percent was in the new UT-04, and Matheson opted to run there, leaving 38 percent Obama UT-02 as a dark-red open seat. Facing mostly new constituents in the 4th, Matheson’s race is a serious tossup; if the GOP opponent Mia Love can pull it off, change that +1 R to -1 D, +2 R.
There’s one state left that hasn’t finished, and no one really knows when they’ll be done: Kansas. Whatever they do, it won’t change the calculus much; they already have a delegation that’s 4 R, 0 D. The main question is how much the GOP, who controls the trifecta here, decides to crack apart KS-03, the Kansas City-area district that’s the lone swingy district in the state at 51 percent Obama.
+3 D, -3 R