Why the House Will Stay Republican

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 27 2012 9:55 AM

Why the House Will Stay Republican

My new piece will hopefully snuff out some of that irksome hope and glee emanating from Democrats by pointing out how much harder it'll be to win the House. This is a topic that can spin off into a million directions, and Democrats will say that they've baked the new Republican advantages into their own projections. But I wanted to point out how, if Barack Obama won exactly the same margins he did in 2008, he would be unable to bring along a Democratic House. I focus for a time on Ohio's first congressional district, which used to be swing territory.

In 2008, Obama won this by 31,128 votes and swept Steve Chabot out of office. In 2010, Chabot won a comeback bid by 11,098 votes. The overall Chabot vote slipped from to 140,469 in 2008 to 103,770 in 2010. But he’s safe now... The old district forced Chabot to compete in Cincinnati while winning Republicans in neighboring Butler County. But the new district excises Cincinnati—that’s the jagged hole—and brings in a chunk of Republican heaven, Warren County. It’s one of 11 districts that favor Republicans, and nine of them strongly favor Republicans. Obama may win the state with 51 percent of the vote while Democrats win 31 percent of the House seats.

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Democrats will point out that their weakness in gerrymandered states will be overcome by wins in new California, Texas, and Illinois seats. And to an extent, they will! But it's very tough to see how they get to +25. Their best hope for taking back control later this decade is that the districts shift their demographics. In a quote I didn't use, Republican pollster John McHenry weighed that possibility

"It's hard to predict out a full decade," he said. "If the economy stays sort of stagnant, if we see further drops in immigration, will we have fewer Hispanic voters in the long term? We don't know where population growth will be. It seems like some breaks have been put on the growth of last decade. Georgia was growing really aggressively in the first part of the decade, but it slowed. People are going to keep moving to the sun unbelt and new South, but at some point even the iPhones sales don't double every year."

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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