The 2012 election cycle served as a reminder that campaigns are unpredictable. In fact, some of the most pivotal points of the past two years were unforeseen events that quickly shaped the political landscape.
Today, we look back at the biggest turning points of the 2012 cycle in the battles for the White House, the Senate and the House. These are the most significant moments that left broad marks extending well beyond a single candidate or race.
There remains quite a bit of chatter about something we posted on last week: House Democrats winning more of the popular vote than Republicans, yet still remaining in the minority.
It turns out this has happened at least four other times in the last century, including as recently as 1996 -- another election after a big GOP wave in which Democrats won the popular vote but failed to gain a lot of seats. (Actually that year is pretty analogous for a lot of reasons, including a Democratic president being reelected and Democrats winning right around 200 seats.)
Democratic House candidates appear to have won more of the popular vote than their Republican counterparts on Tuesday, despite what looks as though it will be a 35-seat GOP majority.
According to numbers compiled by the Post's great Dan Keating, Democrats have won roughly 48.8 percent of the House vote, compared to 48.47 percent for Republicans.
Think Congress is too partisan? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
The once-in-a-decade redistricting process has taken the nation’s already-polarized congressional map and — you guessed it! — made it even more polarized, says a new study from the nonpartisan election reform group Fair Vote.
According to the group’s analysis, 89 of 435 congressional districts performed between 46 percent and 54 percent for each major political party in recent years. In other words, those were the real swing districts.
Some House seats are going to change hands in this November’s election; there is no doubt about this fact.
A volatile electoral environment has conspired with the once-in-a-decade redistricting process to create upwards of a dozen seats that are now expected to change parties. These seats were either so close in 2010 that they are expected to flip back in a more neutral environment, or were changed so significantly in redistricting that they now favor the other side.
Below, we look at the 10 most vulnerable seats in the country, with No. 1 being the most vulnerable and No. 10 the least. Don’t be surprised if all of these switch parties this November.
Beyond these seats is when the real battle for control of the House begins. (While these split 50/50 between parties, the next crop of vulnerable seats includes more Republicans seats.)
To the line!
10. Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.): With Barrow’s district getting about 15 points more Republican — perhaps the biggest shift in the country that made the district one that would have gone 59 percent for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008 — one might wonder why this doesn’t rank higher on our list. In short, it’s because Barrow is a survivor. Like Reps. Jim Matheson (D-Utah), Dan Boren (D-Okla.) and Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.), Barrow has shown he can survive in conservative territory in spite of the ‘D’ next to his name. The reason Barrow is on this list and the others aren’t is that his district just got so much tougher.
The map on which the battle for the House will be fought this fall came into better focus this week with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announcing that it is reserving $32 million worth of ad time in media markets spanning nearly three dozen competitive districts.
While reserving ad time doesn’t lock the committee into actually buying time, it does provide a good window into the Democrats’ early strategy for trying to take back the House — particularly as it related to which districts they see as crucial and/or close.
Democrats need to gain 25 seats in order to regain the majority, so if they’ve got a shot at it, this is likely just a precursor to a much larger ad buy that spans many more districts. And, most of the current ad reservations are focused on media markets that will likely be important to the presidential race. In markets where it’s unlikely the presidential campaigns will buy time, it’s much easier (and cheaper) to buy ad space later this year.
Don’t want to comb through the entirety of the Democratic ad buy? No problem. We did it for you. What you need to know is below.
No state in 2012 will be more crucial to Democrats ability to re-take the House than Illinois.
Democrats have a great shot at picking up four seats from Republicans under a new redistricting map drawn by the Democratic legislature, but they will also have to defend the seat of retiring Rep. Jerry Costello (D). In all, as many as six Illinois congressional seats could be competitive come November.
But first come Tuesday’s primaries, which will put the pieces on the board. Our recap of what’s at stake is below:
In the first member-vs-member primary of the cycle, Ohio Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur beat Rep. Dennis Kucinich for Ohio’s new 9th district.
It was a decisive victory; Kaptur winning 56 percent to 40 percent.
Kucinich’s defeat means the House will lose one of its most colorful characters, as well as one of the most vocal opponents to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
As the GOP presidential contest hits a fever pitch on Super Tuesday, the nation’s other 2012 races officially kick off as well, with Ohio holding the nation’s first congressional primaries.
That means Tuesday is the day that Republicans will start reaping the benefits of the once-in-a-decade redistricting process. Because of their big gains in the 2010 elections, Republicans control the legislature and governor’s mansion in so many states that they got to redraw four times as many congressional districts as Democrats.
But just how much of an advantage did they really have?
To answer that question, The Fix reviewed the 66 districts that Republicans won from Democrats last year.
A look at the changes to those 66 districts in this round of redistricting shows that Republicans do indeed come out of redistricting with a better map than they had before.
But the improvements in a lot of cases were slight, and most Republicans who were vulnerable before will continue to be at risk over the next decade.
We may finally have a Texas congressional map for the 2012 election.
After a series of fits and starts thanks to a long, drawn-out legal process, a three-judge panel in San Antonio on Tuesday released an interim plan for the coming election.
Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.) filed Tuesday to challenge Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) in a primary.
Carnahan’s 3rd district was decimated by redistricting last year, leaving him to choose between running against Clay in his St. Louis-based 1st district, in the open but Republican-leaning 2nd district, or for another office.
A court-appointed redistricting panel in Minnesota on Tuesday released a congressional map that could help Democrats pick off a seat or two in the coming elections.
The big headline coming out of the map was how Reps. Michele Bachmann (R) and Betty McCollum (D) had their homes drawn into the same Democratic-leaning 4th district. But Bachmann said Tuesday that she will remain in her current 6th district, which actually gets slightly safer for her.
(Bachmann has done a good job raising a fuss about the situation, which should help her raise money to retire the debt from her presidential campaign, but she actually has very little to worry about in the primary or the general election.)
The real news here is what the map does in the state’s more competitive districts.
Texas set to have its primary at the end of May, Obama above 50 percent in CNN polling, Hispanic Republicans upset and Santorym getting the Megadeth vote.
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Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) will not run for reelection after three terms in office.
“This was not an easy decision,” Shuler said. “However, I am confident that it is the right decision. It is a decision I have weighed heavily over the past few months. I have always said family comes first, and I never intended to be a career politician.”
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.)
Republicans enjoyed one of the fruits of their 2011 state legislative victories on Friday, when the new GOP-controlled Virginia state Senate passed a congressional redistricting map that should help Republicans hold on to eight of the state’s 11 districts for the next decade.
The map is the same one that the Republican-controlled state House had already passed, but with Democrats still controlling the state Senate, the two chambers were unable to reach an agreement last year.
Updated at 3:21 p.m.
Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.) will not seek reelection this year.
Hinchey will make the announcement official on Thursday at 1 p.m. eastern time, when he will speak at an historic sight in Kingston, N.Y., according to a release from his office.
Hinchey, 73, has received treatment for colon cancer and has been in poor health for some time. He had a second surgery this month, after which his spokesman declared that he was “cancer-free.”
California Republican Rep. Jerry Lewis will retire in 2012 rather than seek an 18th term.
“After months of consultation with loved ones and family, my wife Arlene and I have decided to retire from public life,” Lewis said in a statement released Thursday. “We are deeply grateful to so many who have provided their support over the years.”
Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.) is retiring in 2012 after 12 terms in Congress, he announced Saturday morning.
A new congressional map drawn up by the state’s independent redistricting commission significantly diminished Gallegly’s chances of reelection. His 24th district was drawn into the new 25th district held by the better-funded Rep. Buck McKeon (R), and his only other option was the 26th, which included part of his old territory but becomes more Democratic under the new map.
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.
Pennsylvania’s new 7th congressional district will henceforth be known as...
“Goofy kicking Donald Duck.”
The winner of our latest “Name that District” contest is Fix reader tmbjon, who came up with the above nickname for the tortured-looking district created for freshman Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Pa.).
Many of the entries suggested that the right half of the district looked as though it were kicking the left half, and many more suggested the right half of the district looked like Disney’s Goofy.
Members of Washington state’s bipartisan redistricting commission released a compromise map Wednesday that is expected to be pretty close to the (if not the) final version of the state’s new congressional districts.
The map creates a competitive district running from the Seattle suburbs in King County all the way up to the Canadian border, bringing in fast-growing Snohomish County. With the state gaining one seat, the commissioners agreed to give both sides a fair shot at winning the new district, which leans slightly Democratic, according to an early review of the map.
The back-and-forth battle that is redistricting swung in Republicans’ favor when a redistricting commission in New Jersey picked a map favored by the GOP over the holiday weekend.
The bipartisan commission’s tie-breaking chairman on Friday picked a map that is pitting Democratic Reps. Steve Rothman and Bill Pascrell against each other and should help Republicans keep their most vulnerable incumbents in Congress.
Freshman Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Pa.) should be quite a bit safer in his reelection bid, thanks to some very creative line-drawing by Pennsylvania Republicans.
Meehan’s Delaware County-based 7th district, which is currently a relatively aesthetically pleasing blob just west of Philadelphia, turns into a Rorschach Test of a district under a redistricting proposal released last week that shores up Meehan and other Philadelphia-area Republicans.
The district zigs and zigs around the area now — only several hundred feet wide at certain points — bringing areas of five counties into a relatively small suburban district that now includes both areas close to Philadelphia and rural Lancaster County.
But what does it look like to you? We want to know!
Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) is a little safer under a congressional map proposed by the state’s redistricting commission late Monday, but not as safe as he could have been.
And the embattled congressman has got his colleague to thank for that.
Rhode Island, despite having just two congressional districts, has undergone what has been one of the more contentious and openly hostile redistricting battles in the country.
Cicilline and fellow Democratic Rep. Jim Langevin have been at odds over what the map should look like, with Langevin accusing line-drawers of moving Democrats into Cicilline’s district in order to inoculate him from a competitive race in what should already be a very safe district.
In the end, the state’s redistricting commission voted Monday night to recommend a map with less drastic changes that still helps Cicilline somewhat.
Pennsylvania Republicans on Tuesday released a surprisingly strong proposed congressional map, on which the GOP could expand on its current advantage in the state’s delegation.
With the GOP controlling 12 of 19 districts in a nominally blue state, and the state losing a seat thanks to population shifts, it was assumed that the GOP would focus its power over redistricting on shoring up its current 12 members and likely not be able to add new opportunities. That likelihood was reinforced by the party’s overreach when it drew the map in 2001 and stretched itself too thin.
But along with shoring up several vulnerable members — most to a significant degree — the GOP was able to create a very winnable district in western Pennsylvania, where the winner of a primary between Democratic Reps. Jason Altmire and Mark Critz will face another battle in the general election.
For the second time in five years, Texas’s new congressional map is headed for a date with the Supreme Court.
And the results could be very significant, both in Texas, in the 2012 election, and for the future of the congressional redistricting process.
So, for those who aren’t versed in legalese, redistricting, or the Lone Star State generally (it’s not all about Texas Gov. Rick Perry), here’s what you need to know
With its recent decisions to take up a trio of major cases, the U.S. Supreme Court has signaled that it will become a major player in the 2012 election.
The court’s decision Monday to review Arizona’s controversial illegal immigration law was just the latest addition to what many see as its most important and politically charged docket in recent years.
The court also said late Friday that it would review a contentious redistricting situation in Texas, and perhaps most importantly, a few weeks ago it said it would examine President Obama’s health-care bill.
All three rulings, on their surface at least, favor Republicans, as the GOP had been seeking to get the high court to tackle those issues.
But even as we don’t know how the cases will pan out, simply raising the issues to such prominence could have a major impact on the 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
At the same time, it’s not exactly clear which party will benefit.
The U.S. Supreme Court has again thrown Texas’s new congressional map into a state of flux, temporarily blocking a court-drawn redistricting map late Friday and announcing that it would rule on the constitutionality of the map early next year.
The ruling is a win for Republicans who had sought to hold up the map of the state’s 36 congressional districts. The map was drawn by a three-judge panel after a map drawn by Texas Republicans got caught up in the courts.
This is the latest in a regular Fix series that focuses on the decennial redistricting process in key states. We call it “Mapping the Future.” The series aims to look forward to how the maps in these states could be drawn and what the best and worst outcomes for each party might be. Today we take on Kentucky. (And make sure to check out the previous installments: Texas, Indiana, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio, California, Nevada, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Florida, Utah, North Carolina , Wisconsin, Maryland, Michigan, Louisiana, New Jersey, Colorado, Minnesota, South Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, New York, Arizona and Washington.)
Democrats had a good election year in Kentucky in 2011; the question now is how much that translates into redistricting.
With the race for governor as well as five other statewide downballot post now over (Democrats won five of the six), attention in the state capitol has turned to the drawing of new congressional districts.
A new interim redistricting map in Texas would give Democrats a good shot at winning three of the state’s four new House districts and could help them win the battle to create new Democratic-leaning congressional districts nationwide in the decennial round of redistricting.
Republicans had drawn a Texas map that would likely net them three seats and Democrats one, but a long-term court battle over that map meant a three-judge panel in San Antonio was tasked with drawing an interim map for the 2012 election.
The map the judges produced should swing at least two seats in Democrats’ favor, and possibly more, compared to the GOP map. And those two seats tip the scales toward Democrats when it comes to the nationwide battle to create new districts they will be favored to win in 2012.
The Post’s Redistricting Scorecard now shows Democrats with a net gain of at least two new House seats they should win nationwide, while Republicans are losing at least one seat, according to projections.
With just less than a year to go until the 2012 election and most states having wrapped up their once-a-decade redistricting process, we’re starting to get a good sense about where the key House battles will take place.
A combination of an unpopular Congress, a volatile electorate, and changes resulting from redistricting mean there could be dozens of competitive races in just a handful of states.
Republicans control many more states than Democrats when it comes to the decennial redistricting process, but when the line-drawing has fallen to a commission or the courts so far this year, the results have often been good for Democrats.
The latest example of that trend is Colorado, where the courts drew a map late last week that imperils Rep. Mike Coffman (R) and makes freshman Rep. Scott Tipton (R) more vulnerable.
In a boost to Democrats’ chances of retaking the House next year, federal judges in Texas will draw a map for the state’s 2012 congressional races.
A Washington, D.C., federal court on Tuesday declined to sign off on redistricting plan spearheaded by the state Republican Party. The D.C. court ruled that the Republican line-drawers “used an improper standard or methodology to determine which districts afford minority voters the ability to elect their preferred candidates of choice.”
Legislators in Massachusetts have released a proposed congressional map that would eliminate retiring Rep. John Olver’s (D-Mass.) seat and could force a tough decision by the delegation’s newest member.
The new map shifts the state’s Western districts further west in order to eliminate Olver’s district, as expected. But perhaps more interesting, it puts Reps. Bill Keating (D) and Stephen Lynch (D) into the same district south of Boston, while creating a new Cape Cod district where there is no incumbent.
At a briefing with reporters Friday morning, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) responded to the unfolding redistricting war in Arizona by suggesting that residents attempt to impeach Gov. Jan Brewer (R).
“I think Arizonans should consider impeaching Jan Brewer,” Israel said today, adding that he knew the situation well because he has family in the state.
This is the latest in a regular Fix series that focuses on the decennial redistricting process in key states. We call it “Mapping the Future.” The series aims to look forward to how the maps in these states could be drawn and what the best and worst outcomes for each party might be. Today we take on Washington state. (And make sure to check out the previous installments: Texas, Indiana, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio, California, Nevada, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Florida, Utah, North Carolina , Wisconsin, Maryland, Michigan, Louisiana, New Jersey, Colorado, Minnesota, South Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, New York and Arizona.)
Washington’s bipartisan redistricting commission is wrestling with where to put the state’s new 10th congressional district, and the decision it makes will have significant bearing on the politiical future of the state’s most vulnerable member: Republican Dave Reichert.
The commission last month produced four proposals – two from the two Democratic members of the commission and two from the Republican members – and the two sides will soon release one final proposal each. (Yes, that’s a lot of proposals.)
From there, the sides will have to negotiate a compromise that can get at least three of the four commissioners to support it.
Republicans and Democrats are still locked in a tight battle to create new congressional districts that they can win. But Republicans have used their control over the once-a-decade redistricting process in most key states to shore up many vulnerable incumbents.
The Post’s freshly updated Redistricting Scorecard shows that we now have a good idea about the amount of seats that could change hands in 27 of the 43 states that have to draw new maps (seven other states have just one congressional district and thus don’t have to draw new lines).
With the process now more than half over, we can project that Republicans would gain one congressional seat from the process, while Democrats wouldn’t lose or gain any seats.
Since the 1990s, black Democrats and Republicans have been in an “unholy alliance” when it comes to redistricting. While it still holds in some cases, that alliance may be ending as manipulation of majority-minority districts threatens Democrats chances of retaking the House majority.
As African-Americans overwhelmingly vote Democratic, Republicans want to cram the Democratic vote into as few House districts as possible. There are two ways to dilute that influence in the redistricting wars: “cracking,” or spreading black voters out across multiple House districts, and “packing,” or putting as many black voters as possible into the fewest number of districts.
Every 10 years, incumbents are forced to face off with one another thanks to the reshuffling of congressional districts known as redistricting.
And with a little more than half of states now done drawing their new maps, we’ve got a pretty good idea about where those incumbents will be dueling.
Below, we look at the top ten districts where it looks like incumbents will fight one another, review their just-filed third quarter fundraising numbers, and try to give you a sense of where their races are going.
Earlier this week, we asked Fix readers to coin a nickname for the newly gerrymandered 3rd congressional district being proposed by Maryland Democrats as part of our ongoing “Name that District” contest.
And, despite lots of great entries, we think one stood head and shoulders about the rest: “The Praying Mantis.”
Our winner is Fix reader “pcbutterman,” who first submitted the name. If you are “pcbutterman,” please send your name, address and t-shirt size to chris (dot) cillizza (at) wpost.com to claim your official Fix t-shirt.
Unfortunately (for this contest, at least), the “Praying Mantis” district may not last as black politicians led by Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) are fighting against the map.
But if the district looks anything like it does now when Maryland Democrats are done with it, it will heretofore be known as “The Praying Mantis!”
Thanks as always for your ideas and stay tuned for future “Name that District” competitions.
The Marylander Gerrymander? The Maryland Blue Crab?
Those were the best names The Fix’s Twitter followers came up with when we tweeted the district below last week.
But we think The Fix’s readers can do better.
So, for the next installment in our occasional “Name That District” contest, we’re asking you to come up with the best name for the new 3rd district that Maryland Democrats are proposing.
Here’s the tortured district (which according to a local reporter took NINE hours to traverse by car — in the NINTH-smallest state in the country)
So what does it look like to you?
The person who can come up with the best name wins a Fix t-shirt. So head to the comments section below and give us your best.
(Updated at 11:16 a.m. Wednesday with news that Schweikert may challenge Quayle in a primary for the 6th district.)
The bipartisan redistricting commission in Arizona appears to have given Democrats a big break.
A draft map released by the commission late Monday shores up Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ GOP-leaning district, forces the state’s Republican incumbents into some tough decisions and creates a new 9th district that Democrats will be slightly favored to win.
As many as one-quarter of the members of the Congressional Black Caucus could face significant primary opposition in their new House districts in 2012, a development that could significantly change the face of the CBC and/or reduce its membership heading into 2013.
With nationwide redistricting slightly more than halfway done, at least 10 of the 41 members of the CBC already have well-known politicians eyeing their new districts.
Members of Congress all over the country are dealing with change – and not the good kind.
The decennial redistricting process, which amounts to a nationwide redrawing of all 435 House districts, means many Members of Congress are faced with wooing new constituents, losing their districts altogether or confronting tough choices about where and whether to seek reelection in 2012. And with more than half of the states already done with redistricting, those career-changing decisions are being made every day.
Illinois Republican Rep. Joe Walsh, who has emerged as perhaps the most high-profile tea party freshman in the House, will seek reelection in a new district that will likely pit him against another Republican in a primary.
Walsh announced the decision in an e-mail to supporters Wednesday, opting for Illinois’ newly drawn 14th district over the 8th, which he currently represents. Under an aggressive Democratic redistricting plan, Walsh’s home was drawn into the more-Republican 14th with Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.), but the Democratic-leaning 8th contains much of his current territory.
The Justice Department has ruled that the congressional redistricting plan passed by Texas Republicans violates minority voting protections--a ruling likely to create a contentious legal battle.
The Texas attorney general last week filed in court to get the maps approved, but a Justice Department filing Monday indicates the federal government will fight the case. It said the plan wouldn’t “maintain or increase the ability of minority voters to elect their candidate of choice.”
A proposed congressional map in Ohio would draw six of the state’s House incumbents into districts with each other, but would leave Republicans with an advantage in 12 of the remaining 16 districts.
The new map, which is set to be released Tuesday, comes courtesy of the state Republican Party, which controls all levers of the redistricting process in the Buckeye State.
Despite that power, the GOP already holds virtually every competitive district in Ohio, and with the state losing two of its current 18 seats thanks to the new Census numbers, Republicans were essentially forced to eliminate one of their districts in order to keep the other districts winnable.
In the end, the state GOP created what it hopes will be a map in which it can lock down 75 percent of the districts over the course of the next decade — giving he GOP a major advantage in one of the biggest swing states in the country.