A few weeks ago, a nationally watched race was held in Ohio’s Twelfth Congressional District. After all of the returns reported in roller-coaster like fashion, Republican Troy Balderson eked out a win by just under 1,700 votes over Democrat Danny O’Connor. Sound impressive? It is. For O’Connor.
Republicans have predictably spun the Ohio-12 result as Democrats failing to pick up a seat and technically, that is correct. But they conveniently left out a number of factors which carry about as much weight for other districts in-play this November as this one. Most notably: that drawing elongated, animal-shaped districts to favor their party can easily be shattered in years that are poised to go heavily against the party such as 2018.
One, O’Connor managed to come within a single percentage point of picking up a district that awarded 53% to Trump and in the Spring, managed to snag a Pennsylvania seat that gave the president a whopping 62%. Two, the 2011 Ohio map that produced this district is commonly acknowledged to have been the most egregiously drawn in the country and ironically, it was made law by the very governor who now gushes about the need to get serious about reforming the way the lines are drawn, John Kasich. Three, Republicans have held Ohio-12 or its previous incarnations for a single two-year stint since the 1950s and the district does not even fall within the top 50 districts Democrats need to win to gain the house again they came within one point of doing so.
While statistics can be cited until the cows come home, there are changes that are nearly assured of happening this November that would make the Ohio result spin on its face. Chief among them is that many state delegations both large and small seem poised to be changed inside-out, at least as far as Republican representation is concerned. Put another way, if Democrats can make the gains they are hoping, some states will see Republicans whittled down far more than they should for seats that they were supposed to be inherently favored to win while other states may see other Republicans eviscerated.
Lets look at examples.
When the new Congress convenes in January, the New Jersey delegation could go from Seven Democrats and five Republicans to eleven Democrats and one Republican. The Pennsylvania delegation, which now consists of 12 Republicans and six Democrats could go to 11-7. California, which already sends a lopsided 39 Democrats and 14 Republicans to Washington, can very realistically shoot up to 45-8 or, as some ambitious Democrats believe, particularly with the indictment of GOP Congressman Duncan Hunter, as high as 47-6 (the four Orange County Republican districts, long the bastion of Reagan conservatism, might be completely wiped out). Virginia, with seven Republicans and four Democrats, may completely reverse.
Ditto for Iowa. A non-partisan commission as required by law drew a map that nonetheless resulted in a 3-1 Republican split. This year the Hawkeye State is looking exceedingly likely to go Democratic by that same ratio. It is also very conceivable that Kansas, a state that was designed to send as many as four Republicans to Washington, may well have two Democrats when the new Congress gavels to order.
Even states with already fairly blue delegations may get in on the festivities. Illinois was a rare Democratic gerrymander and it mostly held up. The Land of Lincoln currently sends eleven Democrats and seven Republican to Washington. Some strategists see a 14-4 or even a 15-3 delegation within reach. Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes, may soon become the land of near-universal Democrats. And the other Washington – Washington State has the potential to send just one Republican to the nation’s capitol, down from four at this moment.
Other states might not be surrendering as many seats, but will have noticeable impact. Michigan, a state that in 2012 was drawn to send nine Republicans and just five Democrats to Congress for the entire decade, now has at least even odds of splitting 7-7. Texas, where a protracted seven-year remap battle ended with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of the state, was designed to have a 36 seat map that would go 24-11-1 (the latter would be a tossup but drawn to maximize Republican heavy precincts). After this year, the Republican representation could go to as low as 21 seats. Even Ohio could add a Democrat or two, if not three. Finally, Georgia, a state where lines was drawn with such precision that at least one top Republican boasted during the nationally watched special election to succeed Tom Price that her district at least was designed to block out Democrats, has a district or two that’s at least on the table.
As evidence that something very concerning is materializing for Republican, interest groups are reserving air time in places that would have been laughable as targets as recently as the 2016 cycle. Georgia’s Seventh Congressional District has never been on the table let alone a seat that pro-Republican groups felt the need to run ads trying to shore up the incumbent seeking re-election, Robert Woodall. But earlier this week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce announced that they would be reserving time to boost Woodall. Similarly, Michigan’s Eighth District and North Carolina’s Thirteenth District had been considered reach seats for Democrats as the ear began. But the Trump now, the Trumped aligned America First PAC has included the two districts alongside eight other more predictable buys in an attempt to defend Congressmen Mike Bishop and Ted Budd in seats that seem to be fast-moving toward the tossup category. And George Holding, who holds the North Carolina Second District that was always poised to be spirited but not dangerous for getting away, is now informing supporters that he slightly trails his Democratic rival (though many think it may be a fundraising ploy).
Meanwhile, other districts thought to be little more than reach seats just a few short month ago are now not only on the table but have a glass and silverware to go along (Indiana-2, Pennsylvania-16, Texas-31, Washington-3). Will Democrats feast on them come Election Day? Of course it depends on the size of the wave. But for Republicans, it won’t take many to prove that precision when drawing maps only goes so far to save them climates that are beyond-adverse.