The GOP majority in the House took a hit on November 6th, 2012. The GOP’s significant 242-193 seat majority in the chamber was reduced by eight seats and will be 234-200 when the new Congress convenes in January (a special election in IL is set for Jesse Jackson Jr’s seat).
Republicans narrowly lost the national House popular vote. At last count the numbers were 58,829,851 votes for Democrats and 57,825,039 votes for the GOP House candidate. Ultimately, this resulted in the GOP losing several seats, largely limited to four states (FL, CA, NH and IL). In NH the GOP lost both House seats, in Illinois they lost three, in California they lost four and in Florida they lost two seats. But beyond these four states the GOP suffered minimal damage. So these results bring up the interesting question of whether the GOP House majority, considering it survived relatively unscathed the Obama reelection, can stand until 2022 (when the lines are redrawn for a new election).
Considering Republicans largely lost seats only in states they did not control redistricting in this is a fair question. In California and Florida non-partisan redistricting Commissions redrew the lines. In New Hampshire barely anything was done to the overall lines and in Illinois Democrats controlled the redistricting process. But let’s look at how well the GOP did in states where they controlled the process. In Oklahoma they gained a seat, in Texas they drew even, in Georgia and South Carolina they gained a seat, in North Carolina the GOP gained three seats (and eventually a fourth is likely to trend their way). In some swing states that Obama won but where Republicans controlled redistricting (Ohio, Colorado, Wisconsin and Virginia) the GOP did not lose a single seat. This may point to the durability of the GOP majority due to redistricting going forward.
But a redistricting advantage can wane over time. Keep in mind the GOP thought they had a lasting majority in the House after 2000 and in 2006 and 2008 Democrats throughly wiped out their majority and then some. For some Republicans the question may be whether they can appeal to suburban voters. In Colorado, longtime Rep. Mike Coffman somehow survived a tough challenge in a district Obama easily carried. In Pennsylvania, Congressmen Jim Gerlach and Mike Fitzpatrick, survived easily in districts Obama carried. The durability of their members in swing suburban districts makes their prospects at holding the House better.
In the future the GOP is sure to have new opportunities. In North Carolina the will surely again target Mike McIntyre (NC-7). In Georgia the GOP is not likely to give up against John Barrow (GA-10). And in Utah the GOP likely will put in an extreme effort to oust Jim Matheson (UT-4). New Hampshire’s districts are also sure to go which ever way the political wind is blowing as our several swing districts in FL, IA and elsewhere in the country.
Democrats face a number of obstacles in taking back the House. Since 2008 they have been unable to field a crop of candidates that can win in rural or suburban districts that lean Republican. In numerous other swing or Democratic leaning districts, take for example Mike Coffman’s Denver based district, they have been unable to dislodge longtime or even freshmen GOP candidates. Lastly, Democratic majorities in large states they dominate, Illinois, California and NY state seem to be at their all-time highs. This means Democrats are unlikely to further nudge the Congressional needle their way by winning Congressional District races in these states.
It is impossible to fully predict the political winds and which way they may blow in eight or ten years. But it is safe to say the GOP will enjoy several advantages over those years to keep their House majority. Unless Democrats expand the Congressional map and find some way to appeal to voters beyond their urban and suburban liberal bases and coastal states they are unlikely to see enough gains before 2022 to retake the House of Representatives.