Just like that, Indiana’s 5th District, where both sides spent well over $ 10 million last year, became an easy catch for the GOP Rep’s first year. Victoria Spartz.
“Obviously it’s a bit of a knee for anyone who wants to run as a Democrat in Indiana-05,” said Christina Hale, the 2020 Democratic candidate who narrowly lost to Spartz.
“The bridge is stacked,” Hale said. It’s not impossible for Democrats to seriously challenge the seat again, she conceded, but it won’t be competitive anytime soon. “We probably won’t see a real race for a number of years.”
Even with a Congress more tightly divided than it has been for two decades, Democrats are stuck on defense – still marked from 2020, when they promised to send the Republicans deeper into the minority to end up losing 13 incumbents.
Now Republicans are getting a total reset in many places they had their closest calls last year. Besides Indiana, they can also easily bolster increasingly purple suburbs with ruby-red rural areas in competitive districts in places like South Carolina, Missouri, Indiana, North Carolina, Florida, Utah and – maybe most important – Texas, where Republicans are set to bolster at least half a dozen vulnerable members.
The measures will increase Republicans’ chances of overthrowing control of the House, and the best Democratic strategists are well aware of the headwinds.
“It is easier to defend the castle than to storm it,” said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (DN.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional campaign committee. “The first priority is to defend these holders,” he added.
The DCCC telegraphed its strategy earlier this year when it announced it would target 21 Republican districts. The list was notably devoid of targets in North Carolina and only two in Florida and Texas – three states where Republicans have full control of the redistribution process. At this point in the last election, the committee had announced its intention to contest twice as many GOP seats.
The DCCC’s own post-election autopsy revealed the flaws in its 2020 game plan. Maloney, who replaced Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) As chairman last year, said it was a strategic mistake of spending so much money on Republicans when many incumbent Democrats needed more help.
“The obligation is on the other team to win seats. We already have the majority,” said Maloney. “So my job is to hold the ones I have and beat a few. And we’re going to do it, and I can do it with a tight, disciplined battlefield.”
The rapid political alignment that accompanied Donald Trump’s rise to power has opened dozens of offensive targets for House Democrats. They took over the house in 2018 largely thanks to the commuters who abandoned longtime GOP members in order to put a stop to Trump.
But some of that picked up in 2020. Although Trump continued to struggle in the wealthy, well-educated areas, the Republican Congress the incumbents still prevailed. Now the GOP is getting even more assurance with the upcoming redistribution, despite Democrats’ pledge to rely on state courts to control gerrymandering.
“You have to pass the smell test in terms of the court system. But it can be done, and we should be able to strengthen these seats a lot more,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), A former chairman of the House GOP campaign committee.
Of the 33 GOP incumbents who won in 2020 by 8 points or less – a generous margin for a House race – 15 represent states where Republicans have full control over the redistribution, according to a POLITICO analysis.
Of the 33 Democratic incumbents who won by the same margin, only 5 live in a state where their party will create new cards: Bustos and Representatives Lauren Underwood and Sean Casten in Illinois and Representatives Steven Horsford and Susie Lee in the Nevada.
Although Republicans lost no incumbents in 2020, many had to run far ahead of Trump. Spartz, for example, beat his opponent by 4 points. Trump only beat Biden by half that margin in the Spartz District, a pattern that played out for GOP candidates across the country in 2020.
But new constituency lines will make their path to their re-elections easier, at least for the next election.
The Spartz District will likely no longer include Marion County from Indianapolis, which she lost about 30 points to Hale. Instead, the GOP’s initial proposal gives it more white and worker regions, which appear ready to go. work more reliably for Republicans over the next 10 years.
Or consider the relative ease with which Republicans can shore up GOP Rep. Ann Wagner. Trump and Biden virtually tied in his suburban Missouri district in 2020 – and while both sides threw millions into the race, Wagner won somewhat comfortably.
Now, Missouri Republicans can easily push some of Wagner’s Democratic voters in St. Louis County to Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) And take over surrounding Red Counties, pushing the seat out of swing territory.
Meanwhile, South Carolina’s 1st District, a Lowcountry headquarters that hosted two of the closest House competitions in 2018 or 2020, can easily cede some of Charleston’s growing suburbs to House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn and get transform into something more GOP friendly.
As these districts become more Republicans, recruiting strong candidates will become more difficult for Democrats.
Former Democratic Representative Joe Cunningham, who won the South Carolina District in an upheaval in 2018 and barely lost it in 2020, has decided to run for governor instead of seeking rematch with GOP representative Nancy Mace. Democrats have yet to find a strong candidate.
In Indiana, Hale said she had not seriously considered a rematch due to the impending remap: “I really felt in my bones that I would be drawn out of the district.”
GOP cartographers may also deploy similar tactics to assist incumbents such as Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.), Stephanie Bice (R-Okla.), French Hill (R-Ark.), Richard Hudson (RN. C.) and Dan Bishop (RN.C.), and Carlos Giménez (R-Fla.) And María Elvira Salazar (R-Fla.).
But nowhere will the Republicans’ redistribution pen be more powerful than in Texas.
Democrats fought for 10 Republican seats in the suburbs of Texas’ largest cities. Although they did not return any, Trump got 51% or less of the vote in 9 seats held by the GOP.
“We had a great opportunity,” said Bustos, president of the DCCC in the last cycle.
“I saw Texas as a state that could go from red, to purple, to blue in the space of, I was saying – what – two, four, six, eight years,” Bustos said. “And now with Republican control of the legislature and the governor’s mansion, and you’re kind of wondering what’s going to happen.”
There will be limits to how much Republicans can tackle changing demographics in certain areas. And Democrats will be able to create their own new easy pickup opportunities in states where they control the redistribution, like Illinois, New York, Maryland and New Mexico.
And the DCCC maintains that tying Republicans to their most extreme members and the apathy of Covid will open up other opportunities – just like the maps drawn by Democratic legislatures and independent commissions.
Republicans also note that the biggest threat to the House Democratic majority is the decline in President Joe Biden’s approval ratings and the long chances presidential parties face in their first half-term term. And they argue that both sides adjust the lines to consolidate transitional neighborhoods every 10 years, with new data on the electorate.
“This is exactly what happens with each redistricting cycle,” said Adam Kincaid, executive director of the National Republican Redistricting Trust. “People want to make it sound like something bad. But to me, it’s just a simple analysis: yes, I expect there to be less competitive seats, everything like ten years ago and the decade before. “