The Other GOP Wave: Redistricting

Just a reminder: with all this talk of Republicans taking back the House of Representatives and winning back some Senate seats this fall, don't forget the other, possibly bigger, consequence of the 2010 elections. Redistricting.

After the 2010 Census, state legislatures and governors will redraw the lines of congressional districts, arm-wrestling over lines that will determine where more liberal and conservative populations are placed.

And political scientist Larry Sabato reminds us today that, in this year, the races for governor's mansions and state houses are supposed to tilt Republican, giving the GOP an advantage heading into the redistricting process:

The statehouses will provide the third leg of the Republicans' 2010 victory. We have long suggested the GOP would gain a net +6 governorships. We now believe they will win +8. This boon to the GOP for redistricting will be enhanced by a gain of perhaps 300 to 500 seats in the state legislatures, and the addition of Republican control in 8 to 12 legislative chambers around the country.

Republicans are likely or even certain to gain the governorships in Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. We believe the GOP candidates also have an edge in Illinois and Oregon--both of these quite surprising. Democrats will also pick up a few statehouses to cut their losses: Hawaii is near-certain, with fair to good shots in Connecticut, Minnesota, and Rhode Island (though we currently retain the last two as toss-ups).

After the 2008 election, a more permanent Democratic majority seemed to loom. Barack Obama and the unpopularity of President Bush teamed up to make big inroads for the Democratic Party in formerly GOP territory, and analysts wondered whether the GOP had become a regional party of the South, basically irrelevant on the national scene, and whether it could ever climb back into relevance. Well, two years later, it looks as if Republicans have not only survived the threat, but are poised for a timely counterstrike that could give them an edge in congressional races for the next 10 years.

For a preview of the national redistricting war, see this piece by Shane D'Aprile in the January 2010 issue of Campaigns & Elections.