Charlie Cook’s latest National Journal column takes a comprehensive look at congressional redistricting around the country, and while it’s hard to call it good news for Democrats, it’s certainly a lot better than what we were hearing immediately after last November’s elections:
Just three states–Arkansas, Iowa, and Louisiana–have completed congressional redistricting. Although Republicans were forced to swallow one of their own seats in Louisiana because the state is losing one, the district to be cut in Iowa may come out of either the Democratic or the Republican column. Forty states will need to complete new maps in the next year; so far, anyway, redistricting isn’t looking like the GOP bonanza that some Republicans initially thought it would be.
Republicans haven’t had great early success in channeling big money toward their vulnerable freshmen, in part because one in five House members is a GOP freshman and they are competing for resources. Instead, many GOP strategists are counting on redistricting to help shore up seats in places where Republicans might have been able to win in a 2010 kind of environment but wouldn’t flourish again under the same map.
In Ohio, Pennsylvania, and other states, redistricting may indeed boost some of these freshmen and take Democratic opportunities off the table. In terms of the overall numbers in the House, however, redistricting is increasingly looking like a wash. Even though Republicans will redraw four times as many seats as the Democrats will, the GOP’s chances to win big in the mapmaking game are offset by the number of seats the party already picked up in 2010.
Cook also mentions that Republicans in some states (e.g., Texas) simply can’t overcome the surge in Hispanic population. In other states, everyone must cope with a great deal of procedural uncertainty, notably in California and Florida, who are implementing new “nonpartisan” redistricting systems. It’s too early to make definitive judgments, but it’s certainly not looking that bad for Democrats, who should benefit in 2012 from much more favorable turnout patterns.