After the Republican Party made historic gains in the U.S. House of Representatives last year, Congress’ lower chamber is once again in play in 2012.
The Democrats’ road back to the majority is a steeper climb than many analysts apparently believe. There are a lot of reasons for this, but the number one reason has been receiving surprisingly little play: Democrats are getting their clocks cleaned in the 2012 redistricting.
By taking enough marginal districts currently held by Republicans and making them safer, Republicans can make the median congressional district — the 218th most Republican district in the Congress — one that is much more difficult for Democrats to win. Doing this would therefore make winning control of the House much more difficult for Democrats.
Once Republican legislators in North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania have shown their hands, we might expect to see the median Democratic district made even more heavily Republican. I suspect the median district nationwide will move from being a little less than 52 percent Obama today to being barely more than 50 percent Obama.
We may well be heading for a scenario where Democrats win the popular vote, and do so by a not-insignificant amount, but still lose the House. This hasn’t happened since 1942, when Republicans won the popular vote by three points, yet narrowly lost the House. I’m willing to bet that if the House vote is as close as it was in 1996, when Republicans won the national popular vote by 77,000 votes out of 87 million cast, that they’ll keep a comfortable majority.