Rep. Steve Stivers, who represents one of the most competitive districts in the country, could see some college student-dominated precincts moved to a more safely GOP seat. Rep. Steve Chabot, who lost reelection in 2008, will have less to worry about, with parts of House Speaker John Boehner’s safely GOP district an obvious option to shore him up.
Even though Republicans don’t control the line-drawing, they could see two of their most vulnerable members placed in safer situations. GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, whose district needs to be downsized, could see the liberal stronghold of Olympia drawn into the seat of Democratic Rep. Adam Smith. And Rep. Dave Reichert, a perennial Democratic target, could see some of his Democratic-leaning seat drawn into a new 10th District, improving his chances for reelection.
Outside of Illinois, Democrats have few opportunities to unilaterally protect their own. A handful of members, like Holden and Kind, will be assisted by GOP attempts to pack as many Democratic voters as possible into a single district, but they are few and far between. And this doesn’t include the handful of states where Republicans are also seeking to eliminate Democratic seats. While Democrats could gain as many as 8-9 seats from the new Illinois and California maps, Republicans will return the favor in North Carolina (2-4 seats), Georgia (1-2 seats), Indiana (1 seat), Missouri (1 seat), and Michigan (1 seat).
When all is said and done, Republicans aren’t likely to gain more than several seats through redistricting and could end up losing a couple. But the more important number is how many seats both parties are best-positioned to defend – and that number is likely to substantially change in the coming months.
On that score, Republicans hold a significant advantage, making the Democrats’ 24 seat pickup to retake the majority steeper. And that’s ultimately the GOP’s secret weapon as they aim to hold control of the House.
This article appears in the June 22, 2011, edition of National Journal Daily.