The bigger story may not be that one party or the other won seats, but rather that the number of contested seats fell by 17, part of a decade-long trend of polarization among voters and consolidation of power by political parties.
As it stands, just 34 of the 435 seats — less than 10 percent — are competitive districts, down 17 from when the maps were used in 2020.
For the purposes of this CNN analysis, which applied 2020 election results to new districts, “competitive” refers to districts won by either President Joe Biden or former President Donald Trump in 2020 by 5 percentage points or less .
The competitive landscape of 34 districts in CNN’s analysis is more than enough to swing control of the 435-member House of Representatives, and a wave in either direction could put districts that were not competitive in previous elections into play.
Commas are capitalized in specific positions
But there are 10 fewer competitive seats in Texas.
Democrats there won two seats.
This is also the case in states like Georgia, Missouri and Nebraska.
The process is changing for the better nationwide
Princeton professor Samuel Wang, who directs Princeton’s Gerrymandering Program, contributes multiple recent elections to his analysis, rather than just the 2020 Biden vs. Trump data. He also notes a decline in contested seats between 2020 and 2022, but an increase in contested seats from 2012, which he sees as a “banner year for upsets” for Republicans, though their advantage has gradually faded nationally.
“A big reason is improvements in the redistricting process,” Wang told me, pointing to independent commissions and nonpartisan map-drawing processes that have dominated key states and what his organization considers better congressional maps in states like Pennsylvania, Michigan . Virginia, North Carolina and New York.
Fewer competitive areas. But there will be competition
Professional handicappers use many factors to determine which races may actually be played.
“There may be fewer swing districts, but that doesn’t mean there are fewer competitive races,” Inside Elections editor Nathan Gonzales, a CNN analyst, told me in an email.
Added more safe Republican districts than Democratic districts
There are marginally fewer districts that are very safe for Democrats and more districts where Biden won by between 2 and 7 percentage points. That suggests Democrats, more than Republicans, will be on the defensive in the new maps, perhaps even in races that aren’t on the competitive list.
A wave could reach deep into Biden territory
There is a difference between competitive positions, which decrease, and competitive races, of which there may be many.
“Which areas are actually ‘competitive’ changes from cycle to cycle,” Kyle Kondik, editor-in-chief of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, told me in an email. “For example, there will likely be several Biden double-digit seats that Republicans end up having a good chance of flipping this year, particularly if the wind is at their back in the fall (we’ll see if that happens).”
He also made the important point that what looks like a safe district for Republicans or Democrats today may look very different an election or two away.
KONDIK: Many districts gravitated to go safely Republican in places like Georgia and Texas became much more competitive during the 2010s as Donald Trump pushed away many traditional suburban Republican voters. Likewise, Trump has made several typically Democratic districts in places like Ohio and Pennsylvania more competitive after rising to the top of the GOP and unsettling many Barack Obama voters. Voter coalitions change over time and can change in ways that are difficult to predict.
The region is more liked in the country
Parties change control of Congress more often
Which way is the wind blowing?
Suddenly Democrats may have some reason for optimism in what is still expected to be an extremely tough political environment when control of Capitol Hill is on the line in November.
- In the Senate, they are on the verge of fulfilling promises on climate and health care legislation that were left for dead earlier this year.
- They have worked with Republicans to implement bipartisan gun legislation and prop up the semiconductor industry.
- In the states, support for abortion rights in the red state of Kansas suggests the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade could be a strong election issue.
- Stronger-than-expected employment data suggests Americans who want jobs can find them.
But beyond all that, persistent inflation that has made American life more expensive and helped build a deep pessimism about the economy has helped keep Biden’s job approval at or below 40%, which is indicative as more and more districts become more solidly partisan.