The Tea Party wave that swept Republicans into power in state legislatures across the country in 2010 could not have come at a worse time for Democrats. Coinciding with the decennial Census, the GOP's statehouse victories in 2010 enabled Republicans to redraw congressional districts in the party's favor, all but ensuring that Republicans would hold onto their majority in the House of Representatives. And that's exactly what happened in 2012, despite the fact that House Republicans lost the popular vote to their Democratic counterparts by 1.1 million votes.
A recent memo by the Republican State Leadership Committee, obtained by Talking Points Memo, shows just how important the redistricting effort is to the GOP's House majority. "Drawing new district lines in states with the most redistricting activity presented the opportunity to solidify conservative policymaking at the state level and maintain a Republican stronghold in the U.S. House of Representatives for the next decade." [italics added]
Indeed, the numbers in 2012 were so lopsided that it's hard to imagine how Democrats could ever win back the House. In Ohio, 12 House GOP candidates were elected, compared with four Democrats. In Pennsylvania, Republicans won by a 13-5 margin. But both states were carried by President Obama.
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In fact, it's far more likely that Democrats will lose seats in 2014. "Only four Republican incumbents are in seats that tilt toward Democrats — a fraction of the 17 seats Democrats need in order to seize the majority," says Alex Isenstadt at Politico. "There are 15 Democrats representing GOP-leaning districts, so Democrats will need to invest heavily just to maintain their current membership in the House."
However, that hasn't stopped some Republican leaders from worrying about 2014. With a majority of Americans holding the House GOP responsible for the impasse over the fiscal cliff, Republican approval ratings have sunk. The House GOP has also been pilloried by national Republicans — such as Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey — for holding up aid to victims of Hurricane Sandy.
And the House GOP's public image as inflexible and ideologically extreme could worsen as Congress heads into a new round of budget battles, according to Alexandra Jaffe at The Hill:
The dysfunction was on full display for the votes on the fiscal cliff and Hurricane Sandy, which saw every Democrat in the House join with a minority of Republicans to pass politically popular bills. In fact, many Republicans who voted "no" actually wanted the bills to pass, a contingent that Ashley Parker at The New York Times has dubbed the "Vote No/Hope Yes" caucus:
So could Republicans actually lose? According to Jaffe, Democrats have identified 30 districts in which the Republican incumbent won by "only" 10 points or less. In other words, it's still a long, long shot.
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