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Redistricting Helped Limit GOP’s House Losses

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
Redistricting helped National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions work the House map in his favor.

Incumbents such as Reps. Larry Kissell (D-N.C.) and Ann Marie Buerkle (R-N.Y.) were voted out of seats where the Member’s party didn’t match the majority of their constituents. That’s part of the reason New England won’t have a single Republican House Member in the 113th Congress.

Regional routs like that would have given Republicans a real scare, had the party not been on offense.

The Democratic Members whom GOP challengers unseated gave Republicans a firewall of sorts.

The NRCC also had genuine success in inoculating its candidates against the DCCC’s standard Medicare attacks, which tied Republican candidates to Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s controversial budget blueprint.

Noteworthy: Two special election victors, who were substantially boosted by that Medicare messaging in those mid-cycle contests, appeared headed for defeat. Democratic Rep. Kathy Hochul (N.Y.) lost on Tuesday and Rep. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.) trailed his challenger, though the race wasn’t called by press time Wednesday.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, meanwhile, trumpeted in a memo that it rolled “back the Tea Party wave of 2010, winning at least 25 Republican held or newly created seats.”

That’s one way of looking at the results. Another is that Democrats are still a long way from retaking the House.

Still, some Democratic insiders were genuinely pleased with the results.

Pollock remembered how bad things looked for House Democrats after Obama’s dismal first debate — with the looming specter of a net loss of seats — and said, “I feel pretty good for our guys.”

But top Republicans insisted that despite the small Democratic gains, the road back to the Speaker’s gavel remains limited for them.

GOP pollster Glen Bolger said that the NRCC would have a strong pitch to make when recruiting candidates, given that 2014 would be the president’s second midterm — the year of the “six-year itch,” traditionally a strong election cycle for the party not in the White House.

And, Republicans said, if Democrats couldn’t do better than netting a single-digit number of seats in a favorable presidential year, it might be some time before they win the chamber.

“If Democrats had a real desire to take control of the House majority, they would have had to row the boat a lot farther with that kind of wind at their back,” said top Republican strategist Brad Todd.

Democrats will need to expand their map further into the South and further into seats in the Philadelphia media market, among other areas, in future cycles. With redistricting behind both committees, the time devoted to recruiting will increase.

Indeed, it’s starting even now, a sign that the 2014 House cycle has already begun.

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