The bigger story may not be seat gains for one party or the other, but a loss of 17 contested seats, part of a decades-long trend of voter polarization and parties consolidating power.
As it stands, only 34 of the 435 seats (less than 10 percent) are competitive zones, down 17 from the last time the map was used in 2020.
For the purposes of CNN’s analysis (applying 2020 election results to new constituencies), “competitive” refers to President Joe Biden or former President Donald Trump winning by 5 percentage points or less in 2020 constituency.
The competitive landscape in the 34 constituencies in the CNN analysis is enough to shake control of the 435 House members, and a wave in either direction could even bring into play constituencies that were not competitive in previous elections.
capitalized parties in certain places
But Texas has 10 fewer contested seats.
Democrats there won two seats.
The same goes for states like Georgia, Missouri and Nebraska.
The process is getting better across the country
Princeton University professor Samuel Wang, who directs the Princeton Constituency Project, considered multiple recent elections in his analysis, not just the 2020 Biden-Trump data. He also noted that contested seats have declined between 2020 and 2022, but have increased since 2012, which he sees as a “banner year for gerrymandering” for Republicans, even as their edge fades at the national level .
“A big reason is the improvement in the redistricting process,” Wang told me, noting that independent commissions and neutral mapping processes have taken over in key states, as well as what his organization believes are better congressional maps in states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and others, Virginia, North Carolina and New York.
There are fewer areas with intense competition.But there will be competition
Professional handicapers use a variety of factors to determine which races may actually be in the race.
“There may be fewer swing zones, but that doesn’t mean less competitive play,” CNN analyst Nathan Gonzales told me in an email.
Increased Republican districts are safer than Democratic districts
There are slightly fewer districts that are very safe for Democrats, and more districts won by Biden by 2 to 7 percentage points. That suggests Democrats will be more defensive in the new map than Republicans, possibly even in games that aren’t on the contending list.
A wave could go deep into Biden’s territory
Contested seats have been dwindling, and contested seats can be plentiful.
“Which regions are actually ‘competitive’ change from cycle to cycle,” Sabato Crystal Ball’s executive editor Kyle Condick told me in an email. “For example, there could be a couple of double-digit Biden seats this year, and Republicans have a good chance of flipping those eventually, especially with headwinds in the fall (and we’ll see if that happens). ”
He also made an important point that what appears to be a safe area for a Republican or Democrat today may look very different in an election or two.
Condick: In the 2010s, many of the districts drawn to be safe Republicans in places like Georgia and Texas became more competitive in the 2010s as Donald Trump drove away many traditional suburban Republican voters . Likewise, Trump has made several typical Democratic districts in places like Ohio and Pennsylvania more competitive after rising to the top of the GOP and shaking up many Barack Obama voters. Voter coalitions change over time, and in unpredictable ways.
most like the country
Political parties switch congressional control more frequently
Where is the wind blowing?
Suddenly, as control of Capitol Hill looms in November, Democrats may have reason to be optimistic about what will remain an extremely difficult political environment.
- In the Senate, they’re on the verge of delivering on climate and health care legislation pledges that were shelved earlier this year.
- They worked with Republicans to create bipartisan gun legislation and support the semiconductor industry.
- Among states, Kansas’ support for abortion rights suggests the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade’s decision could be a powerful electoral issue.
- The stronger-than-expected jobs data suggested that Americans looking for work could.
But in all of these cases, persistent inflation has made life more expensive for Americans and helped generate deep pessimism about the economy, which has helped keep Biden’s job approval rating at or below 40%, which is a persuasive indicator as more and more districts become more staunchly partisan.