Previously: New State House map
We will now take a look at how the districts of interest in the new Congressional map have changed over the past decade. Same basic idea, looking at the closer districts from 2020 to see how they got there. You can find all of the data relating to the new Congressional map here, and the zoomable map here.
I’m not going to tally how many seats were won by each side in each year, for the simple reason that there just wasn’t any real movement like there was in the State House. You can browse the middle years, I’m just going to focus on 2012 and 2020.
Dist Obama Romney Obama%Romney% Biden Trump Biden% Trump% ==================================================================== 03 67,799 153,969 30.1% 68.3% 152,288 204,514 41.9% 56.3% 07 101,379 82,810 54.1% 44.2% 179,334 96,259 64.2% 34.4% 10 73,300 150,282 32.1% 65.8% 134,799 198,754 39.7% 58.5% 12 73,392 141,316 33.6% 64.8% 130,111 188,548 40.1% 58.2% 15 82,049 64,589 55.3% 43.6% 109,172 115,719 48.1% 50.9% 21 87,795 195,130 30.5% 67.7% 164,243 246,188 39.4% 59.1% 22 64,502 149,023 29.8% 69.0% 138,243 191,927 41.2% 57.3% 23 85,081 107,169 43.7% 55.0% 134,574 155,579 45.8% 52.9% 24 87,716 206,535 29.4% 69.2% 168,176 216,381 43.0% 55.4% 26 60,849 148,265 28.6% 69.8% 144,834 212,009 40.0% 58.5% 28 103,701 66,693 60.1% 38.7% 131,699 114,156 52.8% 45.8% 31 63,054 139,030 30.5% 67.3% 132,158 201,379 38.8% 59.1% 34 95,897 42,597 68.5% 30.4% 116,930 85,231 57.2% 41.7% 38 70,264 186,032 27.0% 71.6% 143,904 208,709 40.2% 58.4%
I’m going to sort these into three groups. The first is the “don’t pay too much attention to the vote percentage gains” group. I explained what I mean by that, with the help of a sports analogy, here. I’d put districts 21, 23, and 31 as canonical examples of this, with districts 10, 12, and 31 being slightly less extreme. All of them saw a net decrease in the Republican margin of victory from 2012 to 2020, but the rate is so slow that there’s no reason to believe that any continuation of trends would make them competitive in this decade. (With the possible exception of 23, which is reasonably close to begin with but always finds a way to disappoint.) Maybe things will look different after the 2022 election – these districts do still include places with a lot of Democratic growth – but they’re not the top priorities.
The next group is, or should be, the top priorities, at least from an offensive perspective, because they did have real movement in a Democratic direction. I’d put CDs 24, 03, 22, 38, and 26 in this group, in that order. This of course assumes that trends we have seen since 2016 will continue more or less as before, which we won’t really know until 2022 and beyond, but those numbers do stand out. I know the DCCC is targeting both CD23 and CD24, at least so far in this cycle, but I’d make CD24 more likely to be truly competitive this year. CD03 now includes Hunt County while a big strip of Collin County was put into CD04, so it will take more than just turning Collin blue to make CD03 flippable, but it will help. CD38 is if nothing else the biggest non-Commissioners Court prize on the board for Harris County Democrats.
Finally, there are the districts Dems need to worry about. CD15 is already going to be a tough hold, and even if Dems manage to keep it in 2022, there’s no reason to think it will get any easier, and may well get harder. If that happens, then CD28 could well be in peril as well. As noted before, it’s more like a 10-12 point district downballot, and whatever you think of him Henry Cuellar has shown the ability to outperform that level. Who knows how long those things can last if the trends continue? CD34 is almost as blue now as CD38 is red, but it was also almost as blue as CD38 was red in 2012. Again, I don’t like that trend. The main difference here is that the 2020 election was the sole data point in the new direction, whereas the trending-blue districts have been doing so since 2016. But the numbers are what they are, and until we see evidence that the trend isn’t continuing, we have to be prepared for the possibility that it will. Don’t take any of this for granted.
The bottom line is that right now, only a couple of districts look competitive. That was the case in 2012 as well, and we saw what happened there after a couple of cycles. That said, the reason for the big change was only partly about changing demography – the Trump effect and efforts to register voters, by Dems at first and by Republicans later, all played roles as well. We can extrapolate from existing trends, but it’s hard to know how much that will continue, and it’s really hard to know what exogenous factors may arise. And for all of the movement that the 2011/2013 Congressional districts saw, in the end only three districts were held by the opposite party in 2020 than in 2012 – don’t forget, Dems won CD23 in 2012, but only held it that one term. As much as that map looked like it could be a disaster for the Republicans at the end of the decade, it mostly held to form for them. Would it be a big surprise if the same thing happens this decade? Obviously, I don’t want that to happen, but the GOP built itself some big cushions into this map. Overcoming all that isn’t going to be easy, if indeed it is possible. We have a lot of work to do.