Republicans tout new redistricting outlook

As the national environment continues to trend toward the GOP a little more than a month before the midterm elections, Republican strategists say it's putting more and more state legislative chambers in play with major implications for the upcoming round of redistricting.

The Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), led by former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie, released a new report Thursday that predicted Republicans could take control of another 10 legislative chambers after this fall's elections. 

One chamber the party thinks is now in play on the state legislative level — the Illinois House. 

"That's a pretty good indication of the kind of year we're looking at," Gillespie said on a conference call with reporters. 

The new REDMAP report from the committee, which was set up to focus exclusively on state-level races, pointed to vulnerable Democratic incumbents in at least 30 legislative seats across Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan that were won by President Obama in 2008.

Those states are key for both parties this fall since the current census projections show all three likely to lose at least one congressional seat in the upcoming round of redistricting.  

Republican strategists said Thursday that economic anxiety and concerns over taxes and spending at the national level are trickling down to races, particularly in those three states, and making widespread gains for Republicans increasingly likely this fall. 

"The national environment is definitely reinforcing that messaging," said Gillespie.

The RSLC's Democratic counterpart — the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) — points out that despite the national electoral environment, Democrats have made gains on the state legislative level in a handful of special elections this year. But the committee admits that Democrats hold tenuous majorities in at least 10 states.   

The DLCC is also pressing the argument that Democratic stakeholders need to invest heavily in this year's state-level elections to prevent Republicans from making significant inroads right on the cusp of a redistricting. 

Republicans are boasting that if their projections prove true, it could mean a gain of as many as 25 congressional seats in the long run. 

"Anyone who cares about the long-term well-being of the Democratic Party knows that this fall, the smart money is in state legislative races," read a DLCC e-mail from earlier this week. The DLCC has pledged to spend some $20 million this fall, while the RSLC claims it will spend even more.  

Thursday's Republican report does come with one caveat. It notes that the positive outlook "assumes that REDMAP is fully funded," which the report called "increasingly likely."


Daniels: Redistricting could end partisanship

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) recently offered his own solution for ending the partisan rancor in Washington -- redistricting.
The process traditionally has been used to gain an advantage over the opposing party. But Daniels, who was in Washington preaching political civility, says it could be used to push members into the center of the political spectrum.
"If we got rid of gerrymandering and districts were really drawn not to protect incumbents but on a demographic, and geographic and common sense basis, I think we all know, we'd have a lot more competitive districts and you'd have more places where people compete for the center and not the edge," the potential 2012 presidential contender said at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast on Tuesday. "I've already told my own party, which got shafted in the last redistricting Congressionally and in the state House, I will not sign a politically drawn redistricting plan."
In Indiana, redistricting is overseen by the state Legislature, with the governor holding veto power over their proposal.
Daniels said he is pushing state lawmakers to pass legislation to create redistricting guidelines that would make the process more transparent. "As it happens, it would give us a fairer shake than today," he said.
Indiana Democrats, meanwhile, are worried that Daniels' prolific fundraising abilities will help his party reclaim the state's lower chamber in November. He has a PAC that donates to state politicians. If the GOP takes the state House, it would give the party complete control over redistricting, which will begin after the Census is complete in December.
Still, Daniels brushed aside the suggestion he was concerned about his party's political future. His desire to reclaim the state House, he said “is not about redistricting.”
“We've got several more things I'd like to do on my watch and I've about run out the string of things we can get done with our opponents in control of the House," he said.