Things change fast in politics. After months of political pundits predicting doom and destruction for Democrats in November, the narrative may be beginning to change. Redistricting doesn’t appear to be the disaster that so many people, me included, expected. A poll released last week has Democrats leading Republicans in the Congressional generic ballot for the first time in months. Not a bad start for 2022 if you’re a Democrat.
Most people expected that with GOP control of so many legislatures, Republicans would be able draw themselves enough safe districts to give them a solid majority in Congress. However, Dave Wasserman, redistricting guru at Cook Political Report with Amy Walter, notes that the Congressional map will be “slightly less biased in the GOP’s favor than the last decade’s.” He goes on to say, “Biden would have carried 161 of 293 districts over Donald Trump in 2020, an uptick from 157 of 292 districts in those states under the current lines (nationwide, Biden carried 224 of 435 seats). And if Democrats were to aggressively gerrymander New York or courts strike down GOP-drawn maps in North Carolina and/or Ohio, the outlook would get even better for Democrats.”
In an interview with the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent, Wasserman explains demographic shifts forced Republicans to shore up GOP-held districts in several states, preventing them from adding more GOP-favored seats. North Carolina’s gerrymanders also featured prominently in the conversation. Wasserman tells Sargent, “Look, let’s be clear. If there were nonpartisan processes in Texas and Georgia and North Carolina, we’d be talking about much more equitable maps than the ones Republicans passed.” The courts might force fairer maps, putting North Carolina front-and-center in the fight for control of Congress again.
Wasserman still says Republicans are favored to win control of Congress this year, but Democrats have a chance at maintaining a majority. In addition to good redistricting news, they would need for Biden’s approval rating to increase to closer to 50% than 45%. While Biden’s numbers seem mired, the Congressional generic ballot is improving. According to a USA Today/Suffolk University poll, Democrats have regained the edge by two points. It might not hold but it shows significant improvement from the dismal numbers just a month or so ago.
As 2022 dawns, Democrats still have a fighting chance to hold onto Congress. They will need a lot of good news in the coming months. In particular, pandemic disruptions need to abate, gas prices need to continue to go down, and inflation needs to subside a bit between now the summer. Still, the news is better now than in the fall. Democrats need to have a good spring if they hope to be competitive.