For more than a half dozen years Republicans have held on to a majority in Congress and in many state legislatures through gerrymandering that carefully drew districts to ensure Republican majorities. But often, to maximize the number of districts with Republican majorities, the actual party majority in favor of Republicans was slim: 52 to 55% in numerous districts. In normal years, this thin majority was enough to allow Republicans to skate to easy victories. So far, 2018 is proving to NOT fall into the "normal year" category (neither did Virginia's 2017 election that saw 15 Republicans in the House of Delegates go down to defeat). As a story in Politico notes, Republicans may now be poised to lose a number of their thin majority districts as Democrats are energized and out to take revenge on Trump and the larger GOP. Here are story highlights:
Republicans redrew congressional districts across the country in 2010 in an attempt to consign Democrats to a semi-permanent House minority.
But in 2018, the long-successful GOP insurance policy is at risk of backfiring in a big way — not only carving a path for a takeover, but possibly allowing for bigger Democratic gains.
In many states, Republicans maximized gains in the House by spreading GOP voters across as many districts as possible. Typically, that left Democrats with around 40 to 45 percent of the vote in those districts, making them difficult under normal circumstances for the minority party to contest.
But this election year is anything but normal. Many of the once-secure 55-45 Republican districts are very much in play, even in states that have not had competitive congressional races since 2012, the year new maps were installed. And North Carolina and Ohio — where Democrats chose nominees in primaries on Tuesday — are turning into the prime examples.
[A] half-dozen Republican districts that could become fierce battlegrounds this fall, including the fast-changing suburbs of Cincinnati, Charlotte, Columbus and Raleigh. President Donald Trump won less than 55 percent of the vote in each of the seats in 2016 — and some of the Republican incumbents have been caught by surprise by the ferocity of their competition. . . . . “because of the way the maps have been drawn and the environment that Republicans are facing, you have a whole bunch of Republicans who have never been in a competitive race in their life, who are running [in one] right now.”
“In a normal year, you're safe in these seats, but in a time like this, Democrats are within striking distance,” Jackson continued. “This is when gerrymandering backfires.”
Pittenger’s district [in North Carolina] could end up being the biggest gerrymandering backfire of 2018. The Republican lost his primary Tuesday night to Mark Harris, a conservative pastor who cast the three-term congressman as a part of the “Washington swamp,” effectively tapping into the anti-establishment anger driving the GOP base in a seat where Trump, Mitt Romney and John McCain all got between 53 percent and 56 percent of the vote in recent presidential elections.
But Harris, who lagged behind Pittenger in fundraising, now faces Democrat Dan McCready, a veteran and businessman who has vowed not to support House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for speaker and banked more than $1.2 million in cash on hand in preparation for November. Harris’ campaign had $70,000, according to his pre-primary FEC filing.
Trump won North Carolina’s 9th District, which stretches from the Charlotte suburbs to Fayetteville, with 53.5 percent of the vote in 2016. But the area is stocked with suburban, college-educated voters — a cohort that trended away from Republicans over the past year.
[I]ncumbents in safely drawn seats can also be out of practice. “You win every two years, and you put it on cruise control, then before you know it, you’re in an environment you’re not ready for,” said Chip Gerhardt, a Republican consultant in Ohio.
Let's hope the story proves right and many Republicans to their surprise go down to defeat.