CiteNow!

Pennsylvania was typical of those states where Republicans benefited in 2012 from the decennial redrawing of congressional district lines. Democratic candidates drew more than half of the total votes cast statewide for the U.S. House last fall, but Republicans won nearly three–quarters (13 of 18) of Pennsylvania’s congressional seats. The GOP–controlled state government approved a map that packed Democratic votes into the five districts that they carried, where the party’s candidates posted winning percentages ranging from 60% to 89% of the total vote. Meanwhile, the Republican vote was spread more broadly, with nine of the GOP winners drawing less than 60% of the vote in their districts.

Source: Rhodes–Cook Letter, Feb. 2013

How to: This table shows the GOP and Democratic victories in Pennsylvania by how much of the vote the winning candidates won. Vote percentages are based on total votes cast.

Use the Race Competitiveness tool to look at House winners with various vote ranges from 1968 to 2010. You can also choose other offices.

Document Outline
Republicans Win Fewer Votes, but More Seats than Democrats

Republicans Win Fewer Votes, but More Seats than Democrats

Republicans controlled the post–2010 redistricting process in the four states, and drew new lines that helped the GOP win the bulk of the House delegation in each. Republicans captured 13 of 18 seats in Pennsylvania, 12 of 16 in Ohio, nine of 14 in Michigan, and five of eight in Wisconsin. Added together, that was 39 seats for the Republicans and 17 seats for the Democrats in the four pro–Obama states.

The key to GOP congressional success was to cluster the Democratic vote into a handful of districts, while spreading out the Republican vote elsewhere. In Pennsylvania, for example, Republicans won nine of their 13 House seats with less than 60% of the vote, while Democrats carried three of their five with more than 75%.

One of the latter was the Philadelphia–based 2nd District, where 356,386 votes for Congress were tallied. Not only was it the highest number of ballots cast in any district in the state, but Democratic Rep. Chaka Fattah won 318,176 of the votes. It was the largest number received by any House candidate in the country in 2012, Democrat or Republican. If some of these Democratic votes had been “unclustered” and distributed to other districts nearby, the party might have won a couple more seats in the Philadelphia area alone.

As it was, Democrats scored a moral victory of sorts by winning the aggregate nationwide House vote by nearly 1.4 million. Normally, it is a number that does not have much currency, a matter of interest only to academics and political mavens. But in 2012, the Democrats’ “popular vote” victory in the House balloting helped to undermine the contention of congressional Republicans their majority was as much a mandate as President Obama’s 5–million vote, 26– state, 332–electoral vote reelection victory.

The challenge now for House Democrats is to turn moral victories into actual triumphs. It will not be easy. The Republicans head toward 2014 offering little in the way of “low hanging fruit.” Only 15 House Republicans are in hostile terrain, representing districts that also voted for Obama last fall. And few GOP representatives give the appearance of electoral weakness, as just a dozen were elected in 2012 by a margin of less than 5 percentage points.

The list includes erstwhile Republican presidential candidate, Michele Bachmann, who won reelection in her Minnesota district last fall by a margin of barely 1 percentage point. It was her narrowest congressional victory since she first won the seat in 2006. But few other Republican winners in 2012 were so hard pressed as Bachmann. Democrats would need a strong wind at their back to score a breakthrough in the House anytime soon, an unlikely occurrence for the party of the president in a midterm election. More likely, little will happen in 2014 to disturb the Republicans’ title as “the congressional party.”

If Democrats in 2014 could just win the dozen House seats that they lost last fall by a margin of less than 5 percentage points, they would be on the verge of a House majority. On the other hand, the GOP has plenty of targets of their own, with Democrats holding 17 House seats that they carried in 2012 by less than 5 points.

The Closest House Races of 2012

NARROW DEMOCRATIC WINNERS

Winner

Winner's Status in ‘12

% of Vote

Victory Margin (in % points)

Mike McIntyre

(D-N.C. 7)

Incumbent

50.1%

0.2%

Jim Matheson

(D-Utah 4)

Incumbent

48.8%

0.3%

Patrick Murphy

(D-Fla. 18)

Challenger

50.3%

0.6%

Ron Barber

(D-Ariz. 2)

Incumbent

50.4%

0.8%

Brad Schneider

(D-Ill. 10)

Challenger

50.6%

1.2%

John Tierney

(D-Mass. 6)

Incumbent

48.3%

1.2%

Bill Owens

(D-N.Y. 21)

Incumbent

50.1%

1.9%

Elizabeth Esty

(D-Conn. 5)

Open Seat

51.3%

2.6%

Ami Bera

(D-Calif. 7)

Challenger

51.7%

3.4%

Scott Peters

(D-Calif. 52)

Challenger

51.2%

3.4%

Ann Kirkpatrick

(D-Ariz. 1)

Open Seat

48.8%

3.7%

Carol Shea-Porter

(D-N.H. 1)

Challenger

49.8%

3.8%

Sean Maloney

(D-N.Y. 18)

Challenger

51.9%

3.9%

Krysten Sinema

(D-Ariz. 9)

Open Seat

48.7%

4.1%

Pete Gallego

(D-Texas 23)

Challenger

50.3%

4.7%

Ann Kuster

(D-N.H. 2)

Challenger

50.2%

4.9%

Tim Bishop

(D-N.Y. 1)

Incumbent

52.4%

4.9%

Source: Based on official results posted on the web sites of state election authorities.

NARROW REPUBLICAN WINNERS

Winner

Winner's Status in ‘12

% of Vote

Victory Margin (in % points)

Rodney Davis

(R-Ill. 13)

Open Seat

46.5%

0.3%

Dan Benishek

(R-Mich. 1)

Incumbent

48.1%

0.5%

Michele Bachmann

(R-Minn. 6)

Incumbent

50.5%

1.2%

Jackie Walorski

(R-Ind. 2)

Open Seat

49.0%

1.4%

Lee Terry

(R-Neb. 2)

Incumbent

50.8%

1.6%

Chris Collins

(R-N.Y. 27)

Challenger

50.8%

1.6%

Mike Coffman

(R-Colo. 6)

Incumbent

47.8%

2.0%

Daniel Webster

(R-Fla. 10)

Incumbent

51.7%

3.4%

Keith Rothfus

(R-Pa. 12)

Challenger

51.7%

3.4%

Thomas Reed

(R-N.Y. 23)

Incumbent

51.9%

3.8%

Andy Barr

(R-Ky. 6)

Challenger

50.6

3.9%

Jim Renacci

(R-Ohio 16)

Incumbent

52.0%

4.0%

Source: Based on official results posted on the web sites of state election authorities.
 
Document Citation
Cook, R. (2013). Republicans win fewer votes, but more seats than Democrats. Retrieved from http://library.cqpress.com/elections/
Document ID: rcookltr-1527-84193-2523552
Document URL: http://library.cqpress.com/elections/rcookltr-1527-84193-2523552