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Markos Moulitsas: 2020 battle begins now

If Republicans truly believed this was a center-right nation, they’d be fighting to make voting universal. But their actions betray their words.

Unable to win on the strength of public opinion, Republicans have resorted to procedural mechanisms to retain power — from trying to limit voting access with onerous voter ID laws and other suppression methods to drawing aggressive legislative district gerrymanders.

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It’s easy to forget that while Republicans enjoy a 35-seat majority in the House, it was actually Democrats who won the House national popular vote in 2012. A Daily Kos statistical analysis found that Democrats would have to win the House national popular vote by 5 points to have a 50-50 chance of winning the House, and by more than 8 points to have a near-guaranteed chance to do so. Call that what you will, but don’t call it democracy.

Thus, the battle to control the 2020 redistricting process will be critical, and it will be brutal. And it begins this year.

In short, if Democrats can wrestle key state governorships from Republicans, they will be incumbents in 2018, with all the benefits and advantages that entails. With those governorships secured through 2020, Democrats would have a strong hand reversing the GOP’s structural advantages.

The point here isn’t to control the redistricting process, although that would be nice. Rather, the goal is to block the GOP’s unfettered ability to draw lines. They may be terrible at governance, but Republicans can sure whip up a mean map.

Take Pennsylvania, for example. Mitt Romney lost the state by 5.5 points in the 2012 presidential race, yet Republicans currently hold 13 of its 18 House seats. The state legislature crafts a map, and the governor then signs or vetoes it. Republicans had free rein to draw the current maps following the 2010 GOP landslide, and they maximized their chances. Democrats don’t need the trifecta to undo the damage — the governor alone could deadlock the process, kicking it over to the courts. Anything a judge draws will be an improvement. A fair map is always a good map for Democrats. And if recent polling is any indication, Democrats will be celebrating this pickup in November.

How about Michigan? Romney lost the state by almost 10 points, yet Republicans hold nine of its 14 congressional districts. Like Pennsylvania, the legislature draws the new maps, and the governor either signs or vetoes. The incumbent Republican is in better shape than his counterpart in Pennsylvania, but it’s a real race.

In Wisconsin, Republicans hold five of eight seats despite Romney’s 6-point loss. In North Carolina, Republicans hold nine of 13 seats despite Romney’s narrow 2-point victory. In Ohio, Republicans hold an astonishing 12 of 16 seats despite Romney’s 3-point loss. And in Florida, Republicans hold 17 of 27 seats despite narrowly losing the state in 2012.

Governorships aren’t the only game in town. Democrats also have the possibility, over the next several cycles, to claw back the GOP’s 2010-fueled legislative majorities in several of these states, including Pennsylvania and Ohio. Again, the key is to either negotiate fair lines or to get a judge to do it. Either way, Democrats win.

The stakes are high. If just the states of Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin apportioned their congressional districts in a 50-50 fashion, that alone would net Democrats 19-20 seats — enough to retake the majority. Of course, 50-50 would be too generous for Republicans. They deserve far less.

Moulitsas is the founder and publisher of Daily Kos.