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Parties Prepping for Redistricting Fight

First in a two-part series: A look at Republicans' efforts to prepare for redistricting will run Tuesday.

Republicans and Democrats are already organizing and strategizing for their decennial battle over Congressional redistricting, with a decade’s worth of elections hanging in the balance.

While the fight over conducting the census is expected to take center stage over the next year and a half, partisans on both sides of the aisle are keenly aware of what is at stake in the post-2010 redrawing of district boundaries.

Democrats thus far appear to have the upper hand over their GOP counterparts in terms of behind-the-scenes planning for the fight, perhaps a result of the fact that the party lost the overall battle in the last round of redistricting.

Democrats are also now in control of Congress and the White House, which was not the case at the time of the last redraw, and they will no doubt look to the upcoming effort to help cement, and grow, their majority.

Former Rep. Tom Davis (Va.) was deeply involved in the last redistricting as head of the National Republican Congressional Committee from 1999 through 2002.

“They were sleeping last time,” Davis said of Democrats. “They slept through this stuff. I think they’ve gone to school on what we did.”

The upcoming round of redistricting will be unlike any other because it is the first since passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, which prohibits the use of soft money and thus severely limits the involvement of Members. Lawmakers can still raise hard dollars for the effort, but party strategists on both sides of the aisle are trying to figure out how to tackle redistricting under the new guidelines.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has tapped fellow California Rep. Mike Thompson (D) to spearhead the party’s redistricting effort.

“We just want to make sure everybody’s ready,” Thompson said. “I’ve been meeting with the different delegations and making sure that any questions that they have can be answered. [That] they know exactly what they can and can’t do. And making sure that the states are ramped up and ready to go so that we don’t get caught flat-footed.”

Traditionally, Democrats have relied on outside groups to handle the nuts and bolts of their redistricting effort, putting them in a better position to adapt to the new rules.

The Democratic effort will utilize a divide-and-conquer strategy, covering the electoral, analytical and legal battles of the redistricting war.

A new entity is forming to head up the party’s legal strategy. According to multiple Democratic sources, it’s likely to be called the Redistricting Trust.

Final details and paperwork for the organization are still being worked out but former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Political Director Brian Smoot will be the executive director and a number of high-level DCCC veterans will be involved as well. The group will focus on developing national and state-specific legal strategies, according to Smoot, who is also a partner with 4C Partners.

The new group will be able to accept non-federal dollars, placing the funding burden squarely on outside groups.

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