The following is an excerpt of edited transcript of an interview with David Wasserman, the House Editor of The Cook Political Report. Mr. Wasserman is Cook’s resident redistricting expert and the author of “Better Know a District,” the The Cook Political Report’s 2012 redistricting outlook. (Readers might also want to check out Cook’s redistricting scorecard for background).
MC: Can you just talk generally, for someone who is not following redistricting at all, about what we should expect?
DW: Democrats are poised to gain a handful of seats. The imitable Stu Rothenberg put out a great column outlining why the pendulum has swung in a minor way toward Democrats, and why they’re poised to pick up a handful. And I agree with his assessment.
If you take what Democrats need to get to the majority, they need 24 more seats after picking up New York 26. Their best case scenario is a gain of 4 to 5 seats total from redistricting – assuming things go their way in court in Florida and some of the other big states where there’s a lot on the line. Then they need 20 more seats after that to get to a majority.
But the effect of redistricting is to make those 20 seats a little more difficult for Democrats to gain, because Republicans will be able to shore a lot of them up. There are 61 Republicans – including many, many freshman – who are sitting in districts carried by President Obama in 2008. A third or 40 percent of those Republicans stand to benefit from redistricting and will get better seats. Whether it’s enough for some of them to stave off Democratic challenges is a question we’ll have to answer next year. But those next 20 seats get harder for Democrats as a result of redistricting.
Republicans have unprecedented control over the state legislatures that will draw the lines. They control the process in states with 202 house districts compared to just 47 for democrats. But the irony is that Republicans made so many gains in 2010 that they don’t have a lot left to gain. They simply have a lot left to shore up.
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