How Ridiculous Gerrymanders Saved the House Republican Majority

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 7 2012 8:28 AM

How Ridiculous Gerrymanders Saved the House Republican Majority

COLUMBUS, Ohio—Mitt Romney made a late play for Pennsylvania. Super PACs dive-bombed the state with ads; the candidate made two stops to the state in the last 48 hours of the race. Despite that, the president carried the state by 5 points, similiar to the margin Al Gore won by in 2000. And despite that, this was what happened in Pennsylvania's House races.

Screen shot 2012-11-07 at 9.41.41 AM

Maybe you can't tell, but this map, with Republican-held seats in red and Democratic seats in blue, shows the president's party with five of Pennsylvania's 18 House seats.* Democrats have been packed into three uncompetitive seats around Philadelphia, an uncompetitive seat in the Lehigh Valley, and a safe seat in Pittsburgh. The state's suburbs, exurbs, and rural areas have been rigged to be just outside the range where Democrats might win them.

Here's Ohio, a state the president won by 2 points.

Screen shot 2012-11-07 at 9.44.39 AM

Same deal. Democrats have been packed into four deep blue districts. Republicans have given themselves the other 12.* They controlled the process in North Carolina and Michigan, and gave themselves similar maps. To be perfectly fair, Democrats played the same game in Illinois and Maryland, squeezing out suburban Republicans by packing just enough of Cook County and Montgomery County, respectively, into their districts. But in states that weren't very gerrymandered, like Iowa and Colorado and New Hampshire, you ddin't see a huge divergence between the presidential vote and the House votes. Had some ruthless court gerrymander evenly divided Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and North Carolina, and had Democrats been able to distribute their votes differently, they could have won up to a dozen more seats, knocking on the door of the majority. I predicted this two months ago, but the ridigity of the gerrymander is more impressive when you see it hold off a minor wave.

Correction, Nov. 11, 2012: This post misstated Pennsylvania's representation in the House. The state has 18 seats, not 13. It also misstated the number of House seats Republicans hold in Ohio. It is 12, not 14.

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics



Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

Stop Panicking. America Is Now in Very Good Shape to Respond to the Ebola Crisis.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?


Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

I Am 25. I Don’t Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 21 2014 11:40 AM The U.S. Has Spent $7 Billion Fighting the War on Drugs in Afghanistan. It Hasn’t Worked. 
Business Insider
Oct. 21 2014 11:27 AM There Is Now a Real-life Hoverboard You Can Preorder for $10,000
Oct. 21 2014 11:37 AM What Was It Like to Work at the Original Napster?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
Oct. 21 2014 12:05 PM Same-Sex Couples at Home With Themselves in 1980s America
Oct. 21 2014 10:43 AM Social Networking Didn’t Start at Harvard It really began at a girls’ reform school.
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.