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Election 2022: Why Congress’s Most Competitive Districts Are Disappearing

Instead, matching GOP gains in places like Texas and Florida with Democratic gains in blue states, Republicans nationwide ended up with nine new seats leaning towards them compared to eight now Democratic seats based on their 2020 presidential performance, according to an analysis of 50 states. of the new map of Congress by CNN’s political and data teams. It has the latest new map from Congress for each state.

Perhaps the most important story is not that one party or the other gained seats, but rather that the number of competitive seats fell by 17, part of a decades-long trend to the polarization of voters and the consolidation of power by political parties.

As it stands, only 34 of the 435 seats – less than 10% – are competitive districts, down 17 from when the cards were last used in 2020.

For the purposes of this analysis by CNN, which applied 2020 election results to newly drawn precincts, “competitive” refers to precincts that President Joe Biden or former President Donald Trump won in 2020 by 5 points. percentage or less.

The competitive landscape of 34 districts in CNN’s analysis is more than enough to swing control of the 435-member House of Representatives, and a wave in either direction could even bring districts that weren’t competitive into play. in previous elections.

Capitalized parties at specific locations

Texas Republicans won 10 GOP-leaning seats, according to CNN’s analysis.

But there are 10 fewer competitive seats in Texas.

Democrats won two seats there.

In Florida, where Republicans hijacked the process from a more nonpartisan system demanded by voters, there are three new GOP-leaning seats and two fewer Democratic-leaning seats.
Democrats capitalized in Illinois, where there are three new Democratic-leaned seats, one less Republican-leaned seat and zero competitive districts.

This is also the case in states like Georgia, Missouri and Nebraska.

The process is evolving for the better nationally

Princeton professor Samuel Wang, who leads the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, factors multiple recent elections, instead of 2020 Biden vs. Trump data, into his analysis. He also notes a decline in competitive seats between 2020 and 2022, but an increase in competitive seats since 2012, which he considers “the landmark year of gerrymandering” for Republicans, even though their advantage has gradually faded at the level. national.

“One of the main reasons is to improve the redistricting process,” Wang told me, pointing to the independent commissions and neutral map-drawing processes that have taken over in key states and what his organization considers like better congressional maps in states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Virginia, North Carolina, and New York.

Less competitive neighborhoods. But there will be competition

Professional handicappers use a multitude of factors to determine which races might actually be in play.

The Inside Elections website identifies 54 precincts as battlegrounds and only 11 of them are in the heads or tails category.

“There may be fewer swing districts, but that doesn’t mean there are fewer competitive races,” CNN analyst Inside Elections editor Nathan Gonzales told me in a E-mail.

Added safer Republican neighborhoods than Democratic neighborhoods

Another organization, Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, sees an increase in the number of very safe Republican districts where Biden got 40% or less of the vote in 2020.

There are slightly fewer very safe districts for Democrats and more districts where Biden has won between 2 and 7 percentage points. That suggests Democrats, more than Republicans, will be on defense in the new maps, perhaps even in races that aren’t on the competitive roster.

A wave could penetrate deep into Biden territory

There’s a difference between competitive seating, which has shrunk, and competitive racing, which can be a lot.

“Which districts are actually ‘competitive’ changes from cycle to cycle,” Sabato’s Crystal Ball editor Kyle Kondik told me in an email. “For example, there will likely be several double-digit Biden seats that Republicans end up having a good chance of overthrowing this year, especially if the wind blows behind them in the fall (we’ll see if that happens). ”

He also pointed out that what looks like a safe neighborhood for Republicans or Democrats today might look very different in an election or two.

DRIVER: Many districts drawn to Republican security in places like Georgia and Texas became much more competitive during the 2010s as Donald Trump pushed back many traditional suburban Republican voters. Similarly, Trump made several typically Democratic districts in places like Ohio and Pennsylvania more competitive after rising to the top of the GOP and rattling many voters from Barack Obama. Electoral coalitions change over time, and they can change in ways that are hard to predict.

The neighborhood that most resembles the countryside

Kondik argued that based on the 2020 results, the new House district that most closely resembles the country as a whole is in Kansas, where voters this week were found to support abortion rights. Specifically, it refers to the only district in Kansas held by a Democrat, Rep. Sharice Davids. His newly redrawn district was made more competitive by Republicans who controlled redistricting in the state.

Parties change control of Congress more frequently

Professor Alan Abramowitz of Emory University has written that global polarization may have less to do with gerrymandering than many people think. Even though parties have designed fewer competitive districts, control of Congress has changed hands with more regularity – three times since 2002 and a decent chance for a fourth in November, compared to just once from 1972 to 2000. : Incumbents have less power and there is much more churn even in moderately competitive districts.

Which direction is the wind blowing?

Suddenly, Democrats may have reason to be optimistic in what is still expected to be an extremely difficult political environment when control of Capitol Hill hangs in the balance in November.

  • In the Senate, they are poised to deliver on promises on climate and health care legislation that earlier this year were left for dead.
  • They worked with Republicans to propose bipartisan gun legislation and to support the semiconductor industry.
  • In the United States, support for abortion rights in the red state of Kansas suggests that the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade could be a powerful campaign stake.
  • Stronger-than-expected jobs data suggests that Americans who want to find a job can find it.

But in all of this, the persistent inflation that has made American life more expensive and helped create deep pessimism about the economy has helped keep Biden’s jobs approval at 40% or less, which is a telltale indicator as more and more districts become more solidly partisan. .

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