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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Cook on 2012

Charles Cook, as usual, is clear-eyed about the numbers:

The fact that Republicans just picked up a whopping 63 House seats would suggest they have over-exposure heading into the 2012 election. But it seems to be much less than one might expect.

In 2006, when Democrats needed just 15 seats for a majority, there were 27 Republicans sitting in Democratic-leaning districts, according to the Cook Political Report’s Partisan Voter Index.

In 2012, Democrats will need to pick up 25 seats, but there will be only 21 Republicans sitting in Democratic-leaning districts. Many of the GOP’s 2010 gains were in districts that should have fallen to Republicans long ago, like Rep. John Spratt’s seat in northern South Carolina or Rep. John Tanner’s seat in western Tennessee.

The five House elections between the wave elections of 1994 and 2006 were marked by mild swings of only nine, five, one, seven, and three seats, respectively. But in the last three House cycles, consecutive swings of 30, 21, and 63 seats have made strategists on both sides feel like they were riding a bucking bronco.

If the bygone era of calm made Democrats’ task of picking up the 15 seats to take back the House look deceptively difficult at the outset of the 2006 cycle, today’s turbulence makes Democrats’ task of recouping 25 seats look deceptively easy.

According to the National Conference on State Legislatures’ Tim Storey, heading into 2011, Republicans will control the entire redistricting process in states totaling roughly 195 congressional districts versus Democrats running the show in states with 49 districts. The rest have split control, independent commissions or some other method.

Predictions that the GOP can pick up dozens of additional seats aren’t terribly realistic. After all, you can’t pick up a seat that you’ve already won, and Republicans just picked up 63.

But at a minimum, the GOP should be in a position to shore up many of their freshmen, maximizing their chances of retaining newly acquired seats.