Pennsylvanians and Americans Voted For a Democratic U.S. House—So Why Do Republicans Still Hold Huge Majorities?
In spite of misleading polls released before the election which showed the race close or even tied, President Obama easily won the state of Pennsylvania on Tuesday night. The same cannot be said, however, of the commonwealth’s Democratic Congresspeople. Democrats will hold only five of the state’s 18 congressional district seats in the 113th Congress. Meanwhile, Democrats Bob Casey, Kathleen Kane, Rob McCord and Eugene DePasquale all won statewide races. “I’m thrilled to be celebrating not only the reelection of President Obama, but the historic victories of all of our statewide candidates,” wrote Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman Jim Burn by email today.
So why the long faces in Pennsylvania’s U.S. House delegation? Well, as it turns out, U.S. Congressional candidates in Pennsylvania received a majority of the popular vote, too. And that may have been more reflected in 2012 if not for the 2010 elections and subsequent redistricting that took place after the U.S. Census.
First, the numbers: According to the Pennsylvania Department of State, with 99.58 percent of districts reporting, Democrats held a 2,701,820 to 2,626,995 vote lead over Republicans, based on Congressional votes alone, in the state. Sure, that’s less of a pure number lead than President Obama, who beat Mitt Romney, 2,887,221 to 2,595,174; or the Casey-Smith Senate race, which ended 2,921,798 to 2,430,995; but it’s significant, and probably for the same reasons all the races are.
The 2010 Elections were some of the most important for statewide candidates in some time. That year would decide the state Legislature which would help draw, and decide upon, new puzzle maps for the state’s U.S. Congresspeople and the Legislature itself. While the Legislature does not rise and fall in numbers based upon population, the state’s Congressional delegation does. And in light of that, one U.S. House seat in Pennsylvania was eliminated while the increasingly Republican legislature re-wrote several districts to become more partisan so conservative candidates would have a better shot at winning classic ‘swing’ districts and be able to write off Democratic districts in cities.
For example, U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick won the 8th District in 2010, from former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy. Murphy had won it four years earlier after winning huge majorities in Democratic Northeast Philly, which was then part of the district. In re-writing the Eighth, the portions of Northeast Philadelphia were eliminated and conglomerated into U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz’s 13th District (7 percent of the 13th District was formerly part of the 8th District, according to Ballotpedia). This gave Fitzpatrick a better chance of retaining his seat while solidifying Schwartz’s already-Democratic seat.
So while Democrat Allyson Schwartz beat Republican Joe Rooney by a tally of 205,287 to 92,415 and Bob Brady beat John Featherman 226,189 to 39,752, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State, would-be swing districts like the 12th saw Republican Keith Rothfus beat Democrat Mark Critz 51.5 percent to 48.5 percent.
At the time the Congressional map was re-written, many from around the state referred to the process as gerrymandering—though there was nothing to do about it, because Republicans had won huge majorities in the state and around the country in 2010, as backlash toward the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the so-called Tea Party resurgence. The state Legislature maps, however, were delayed due to their unfairness. Democrats actually took five new seats in the Pennsylvania legislature, despite this.
And as went Pennsylvania, so went the rest of the country. Democrats made gains in all closely-watched U.S. Senate seats—including seats in deeply-red North Dakota, Indiana and Missouri.
An analysis at Think Progress notes that of all ballots counted as of 21 hours ago, 53,952,240 were cast for a Democratic House candidate and 53,402,643 were cast for a Republican. And yet, Republicans still hold a 233-192 advantage over Democrats. Ohio was the big state to win this year—and Obama won it—but Democrats will hold only four of that state’s 16 House seats. In Virginia, which Obama won, Democrats enjoy only three of their 11 seats. But don’t fret. There’s a chance to realign the map again. After the 2020 Census.