Bloodbath For North Carolina Democrats
Republicans in North Carolina released a newly redistricted map Friday afternoon that looks to relegate Congressional Democrats to a permanent minority for the next decade.
President Obama, who carried six of the state's 13 Congressional districts on his way to winning the state, would only carry three districts under the new map. Four of the state's seven Democrats - Reps. Heath Shuler, D-N.C., Larry Kissell, D-N.C., Brad Miller, D-N.C., and Mike McIntyre, D-N.C., now face very tough re-election bids, running in districts where John McCain took over 55 percent of the vote.
The map is revenge of sorts for Republicans. For decades, Democrats controlled the redistricting process in the state, even as the state became increasingly Republican over the years. But thanks to gerrymandered districts favoring Democrats, the party was able to hold a majority in the state's Congressional delegation, even holding it in the 2010 wave election.
Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue has no veto power over the Congressional map, meaning the Democrats' only challenge would come through the courts.
North Carolina is a Voting Rights Act state and the map will have to be pre-cleared by the Department of Justice. But it keeps two majority-minority districts intact and keeps most of the districts with the same geographic shape - only making tweaks to disperse GOP friendly areas to the districts of vulnerable Democrats.
Since the beginning of the election cycle, North Carolina was always going to be the GOP's goldmine in redistricting. The National Republican Congressional Committee already targeted the state's Democratic incumbents for 2012, and ran TV ads against both Shuler and Miller.
Miller suffers the most with the new map. His district, which gave President Obama 60 percent of the vote, sees that total drop dramatically to 45 percent under the new lines. Miller gains GOP territory from Rep. Virginia Foxx, who saw her district give up heavily Republican Surry and Stokes counties to Miller.
"Miller has been drawn into a district where he cannot win," wrote North Carolina political analyst John Davis in a report analyzing the new map. Republicans perpetuated a bit of revenge against the five-term Democrat, who was chairman of the state Senate redistricting committee last cycle that drew maps to give his party an advantage - and help secure his own new seat.
Shuler also is a big loser with the new map. While his western North Carolina seat favored Republicans beforehand, it is now the most Republican of any of the seats in the entire state. McCain would take 58 percent of the vote in the newly-drawn district; he only won 52 percent in the current district.
Parts of Buncombe County, which contains the liberal city of Asheville, were moved into GOP Rep. Patrick McHenry's district. Shuler also gains GOP territory in Avery and Mitchell Counties.
Shuler is already rumored to be looking for an exit from Congress, with buzz surrounding an athletic director opening at the University of Tennessee. Hendersonville District Attorney Jeff Hunt is seriously considering a GOP bid in the 11th District.
"This is the partisan and politically gerrymandered map we expected. It does nothing to move our nation forward, but rather continues to divide us," said Shuler spokesman Andrew Whalen. "Congressman Shuler is running for re-election in 2012 and looks forward to continuing to fight for all the working families of Western North Carolina."
Kissell was a top GOP target last time, though he won re-election by ten points. But his district now becomes significantly more Republican. McCain won 47 percent of the vote here in 2008; he would win 55 percent under the new lines. That's accomplished, in part, by shedding some of the heavily-Democratic parts of Mecklenburg County.
While still not in good position, McIntyre may have drawn the best hand of the quartet. His district becomes three points more Republican. McIntyre is already facing a rematch from his 2010 opponent, Marine veteran Ilario Pantano, who waged an aggressive campaign against the congressman last time.
Republicans also made sure to shore up their most vulnerable freshman, Rep. Renee Ellmers, who narrowly ousted Democrat Bob Etheridge last year after he had a confrontation with a video tracker. Under the old lines, her district voted for President Obama. Under the new lines, it would give 55 percent for McCain. The swing is made possible by taking all of Sampson County and shedding its parts of Franklin and Nash counties.
The more state's more secure Republicans - Reps. McHenry, Virginia Foxx, Walter Jones, Howard Coble and Sue Myrick - all made concessions in order to allow their party to take on the targeted Democrats, but McCain still carried all of their districts with at least 55 percent of the vote. (No seat is less than a R+9, in the Cook Political Report's Partisan Voter Index).
The state's three remaining seats -including two minority-majority seats -- remain firmly in the Democratic column.
CORRECTION: President Obama carried six of North Carolina's 13 Congressional districts in 2008, not eight as originally reported.