Breaking down the Florida GOP’s redistricting map

at 03:29 PM ET, 01/26/2012

Florida Republicans have apparently settled on a new congressional map they hope will help them cement their overwhelming majority in the state’s delegation for a decade to come.

While the state’s GOP lawmakers have been tossing around a series of proposals for the past few weeks, sources tell The Fix that they have settled on a map that is expected to pass out of the state legislature in the coming days. (The map can be viewed here.)

We stress that this is not the final product, and whatever the GOP winds up passing will be subject to review under the state’s new redistricting laws, which Democrats hope will invalidate the GOP map. But it’s worth a look at what the GOP is trying to do.

Here’s a brief recap. (And be sure to check out our updated Redistricting Scorecard.)

* Open seats

With the state gaining two seats thanks to population increases, the map creates one solidly Republican seat (the 17th) in the Everglades region and one Democratic-leaning seat (the 9th) just south of Orlando.

The Democratic leaning seat would have gone 60 percent for President Obama in the 2008 election but also would have gone narrowly for President Bush in 2004, suggesting it’s not unwinnable for the GOP.

In addition, Rep. Connie Mack’s (R-Fla.) decision to run for Senate left his seat open. Formerly labeled the 14th district, it is now the 19th and is safely Republican.

* Who gets help?

The winners on this map are Republican Reps. Dan Webster, Sandy Adams and Mario Diaz-Balart. All hail from competitive districts but are looking safer now.

Webster and Diaz-Balart’s districts (renumbered the 10th and 25th) both get about five points more Republican and should be tough for Democrats to pursue.

Adams is drawn into the 7th district with Rep. John Mica (R), but the two have already worked it out, and Mica will run in the neighboring 6th district instead. Adams’s district gets one or two points better for the GOP.

* Who gets hurt?

Because the GOP has such a huge majority of seats in a swing state — 19 of 25, to be exact — shoring up all 19 of those members was a difficult task. And that means some Republicans see their districts get tougher under the new map.
Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) gets a tougher district under a new redistricting plan crafted by his fellow Florida Republicans. (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

Case in point are Reps. Tom Rooney and Allen West. Both of their South Florida districts got about four points more Democratic, which should make life significantly tougher for each of them. Rooney now has a more compact swing seat (the 18th) north of West Palm Beach, while West’s already Democratic-leaning 22nd district just south of Rooney’s became even more Democratic and will be tough for him to hold.

West has been a very outspoken tea party freshman and has raised huge money, but line-drawers don’t appear to have done him many favors. His district, as constructed, would have gone about 43 percent for the last two Republican presidential nominees.

Both men appear to have options, though. Rooney could run in the new 17th, which includes much of his current territory in the Everglades, while there has been some talk of West running across the state in Mack’s district. (Though West has shown no interest in this.)

Other Republicans who see their districts getting slightly less friendly include Reps. Steve Southerland , Vern Buchanan and David Rivera. Buchanan actually gains registered Republicans and retains the vast majority of his current district — both positives for him — but the performance of his district moves about a point towards Democrats.

All three are still districts that voted for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008, though.

* Other decisions

We mentioned above that Adams and Mica need to sort things out, and they’re not the only ones.

Republican Reps. Rich Nugent and Cliff Stearns need to figure out who will run in the 11th, where they both live, and who will run in the 3rd. The 3rd is the safer seat.

Meanwhile, Rivera technically lives in the 25th district and Diaz-Balart technically in the 26th, but they are expected to swap districts to run in areas that more closely reflect their current districts. In addition, Rivera’s new 26th will pick up the Florida Keys from the third Cuban-American Republican in South Florida, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

* Bottom line

Republicans have crafted a map on which they at least have a chance to win both new seats and hold all of their current seats, which would give them a 21 to 6 advantage in the delegation.

That would require of a lot of things breaking their way, though.

Winning the new 9th district south of Orlando will be very hard, and West’s reelection — despite his very strong fundraising — will be difficult as well.

In addition, Republicans still have to defend swing seats held by Rooney and Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.) when Young retires. And several other seats won’t be completely safe, including Southerland’s, Adams’s, Buchanan’s and Rivera’s. Rivera, in particular, has struggled with ethics problems and could pay a price.

Indeed, Democrats have a good chance to pick up seats in 2012 in Florida despite the GOP drawing the map, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them narrow the gap in the state’s delegation come January 2013.

Is this the final map?

All of the above should have a giant asterisk next to it, because all of it is subject to review and must comply with the state’s new redistricting laws (mentioned above).

Democrats are likely to challenge the map in court, and if they’re successful and the courts find that the Florida GOP violated the new laws, they could blow the map up in a way that might allow Democrats to win several seats.

So keep an eye on the legal battle. The GOP’s overwhelming advantage in the state’s delegation — and, by extension, its majority in the U.S. House — may depend on it.

 
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