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Race Ratings: GOP Shores Up Freshmen in Competitive Michigan

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Rep. Gary Peters (above) will seek re-election in the 14th district after redistricting put him in the same district as Rep. Sander Levin.

Michigan Republicans held the pen during their map redraw that found one Member of the Congressional delegation on the chopping block because the state is losing a seat because of population decline.

As anticipated, the redistricting ax fell on Democratic Rep. Gary Petersí 9th district, and heíll instead seek re-election in the 14th district.

The Wolverine Stateís GOP caused some chaos for Democrats but didnít get greedy in its redraw ó mostly because it couldnít. Republicans shored up the partyís three freshman Members.

But most of the state is competitive, so Republicans could only finagle so much creative line-drawing for their nine Members. Even GOP Rep. Thaddeus McCotterís 11th district ó the seat that benefited the most from this round of redistricting ó could still be competitive in a bad year for Republicans.

Republicans did the most damage around Detroit. They dismantled Petersí suburban district, spreading it out into several nearby districts and forcing Peters to run against a colleague. The GOP exchanged territory between the heavily Democratic 13th and 14th districts, forcing two Democrats to run in districts where they do not currently live.

Republicans wonít pick up any seats in 2012 from redistricting, but theyíll probably manage to hold on to the seats they have.

1st district
Incumbent: Dan Benishek (R)
1st term (52 percent)
Rating: Leans Republican

Republicans tried to shore up the freshmanís district, knowing Democrats would target the seat that former Rep. Bart Stupak (D) easily held for the 18 years.

But Republicans managed to make this sprawling, coastal district only slightly safer for Benishek. The GOP drew minor geographical changes to the district by shifting it to the west. The district picked up Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Leelanau and Manistee counties.

In other words, there will be more 1st district football fans rooting for the Green Bay Packers than for the Detroit Lions by 2013. Thatís significant because the biggest change to this district has nothing to do with geography ó but rather with television markets.

The current 1st spreads across six small media markets. That makes it a very expensive district for campaigns to run in ó especially for challengers with minimal name identification. But the new 1st district no longer includes one of its largest media markets, the city of Flint, slightly lowering the barrier to entry.

For Democrats to have a shot, their candidate would preferably be a Packers fan from the western part of the district with financial means. The 2010 Democratic candidate, former state Rep. Gary McDowell, is trying again for the seat he lost to Benishek by 11 points in November.

2nd district
Incumbent: Bill Huizenga (R)
1st term (65 percent)
Rating: Safe Republican

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