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Republicans unveil new Tennessee map

at 04:27 PM ET, 01/06/2012

Tennessee Republicans sought to shore up freshman Rep. Stephen Fincher (R) in a draft congressional redistricting map released Friday.

Rather than targeting potentially vulnerable Nashville Rep. Jim Cooper (D), the GOP instead moved to solidify its gains from the 2010 election. Republicans gained three seats in Tennessee in 2010 and, under the proposed map, should have little trouble holding on to their newfound 7-to-2 majority in the state’s congressional delegation over the next decade.
(Tennessee state Senate proposed Congressional map)

That shoring-up process starts with Fincher, whose western 8th district was the most vulnerable to takeover. The GOP moved all of Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s (R) territory in the Shelby County (Memphis) suburbs into Fincher’s district, taking it from a seat that went 56 percent for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the 2008 presidential race to one that would have gone 64 percent for McCain, according to performance numbers obtained by The Fix.

In the process, Blackburn’s district picked up plenty of Democrats, but she should be fine in a 62 percent McCain district.

In fact, under the new proposal, all seven of the state’s GOP-held districts would have been won by McCain in 2008 with at least 62 percent and by George W. Bush in 2004 by 59 percent.

Republicans did less to shore up the other two GOP freshmen who won Democratic-held districts in 2010: Reps. Diane Black and Scott DesJarlais. But they both come from central Tennessee districts that are more conservatives than Fincher’s.

Black’s 6th district gets about two points better for the GOP while DesJarlais’s 4th appears to perform about the same as it does now. Both underwent significant changes, though, as the GOP sought to move some conservative Democrats out of DesJarlais’s district and rein in some of the sprawling central Tennessee districts crafted by Democrats in recent decades.

DesJarlais’s district, which currently stretches from near the Virginia border to near the Mississippi border, becomes more of a south-central Tennessee district, based in Murfreesboro, which is currently in Black’s district. Black shifts east to pick up the northern parts of DesJarlais’s district, which could have given DesJarlais trouble against the right Democratic opponent.

DesJarlais may not be able to rest easy, though; state Sens. Bill Ketron and Jim Tracy are threatening to run against him in a primary, and both remain in the new district.

Democrats also believe they have a strong candidate against DesJarlais in state Sen. Erik Stewart. But Stewart’s task is tall in a 64 percent McCain district.

In order to get what they wanted with Fincher and DesJarlais, though, the GOP had to give Cooper a pass.

Some Republicans had hoped the GOP would carve up Nashville and try to win one more seat, but in the end, Cooper gets a couple points safer. His Nashville-based district is largely intact, and he moves from a 43 percent McCain district to a 41 percent McCain district.

The plan is just a proposal for now, but Republicans control the state legislature and the governor’s mansion, so the map isn’t expected to change much, if at all.

 
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