Conventional wisdom heading into this year was that Republicans would benefit mightily from the decennial congressional line-drawing process, carving up districts and creating a decidedly friendly national map.
But as states rush to finish their House maps in advance of the rapidly approaching 2022 primary season, a new storyline has emerged: Democrats could well break even or possibly gain an advantage when all of the new lines are finished across the country.
Two recent developments are key to that sea change:
1) New York Democrats unveiled a congressional map that would take the current delegation of 19 Democrats and 8 Republicans and potentially turn it into a 22-4 split. (The state is losing a seat.) It is “the largest single-state shift in the country,” according to Cook Political Report House editor David Wasserman.
2) Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court, where Democrats hold a majority, took control of drawing the state’s lines, after the Democratic governor and the Republican-controlled legislature deadlocked on a map that must reduce the state’s House delegation from 18 seats to 17 seats.
FiveThirtyEight’s Nathaniel Rakich noted in the wake of the unveiling of the New York map:
“I had previously calculated that redistricting alone would hand Republicans two new House seats (give or take) in the 2022 midterms, while Democrats would roughly stand pat. (This is before accounting for the likely Republican-leaning national political environment.) Add this map to the mix, though, and Democrats would be poised to gain about three seats nationally and Republicans would be poised to lose around two.”
As Wasserman wrote: “For the first time, Dems have taken the lead on the Cook Political Report’s 2022 redistricting scorecard. After favorable developments in NY, AL, PA et. al., they’re on track to net 2-3 seats from new maps vs. old ones.”
Wasserman also pointed out that uncertainty around the redistricting process remains in several states, so all predictions about how the final national map will look should be taken with that in mind.
Now, none of this means that Democrats are suddenly favorites to keep control of the House this fall. They are not. The first midterm election of a president’s term tends to carry double-digit House losses for the party in power – and if that occurs again, Republicans will be in the majority come January 2023.
What it does suggest is that Democrats are surprisingly well-positioned to fight redistricting to (at least) a draw, a scenario that almost no one foresaw at this time last year.
The Point: Even if Republicans retake the majority this November – and they are favorites to do just that – the new congressional lines (if approved) in New York and Pennsylvania could help limit their gains and keep Democrats in the game for 2024 and beyond.