Michael Barone

This would be an even better redistricting cycle for Republicans than the one following the 2000 Census, which was their best in 50 years. It could move one to two dozen House seats into the Republican column.

But a few caveats are in order.

First, optimistic scenarios don't always come true. If Republican Meg Whitman is not elected governor in California, Democrats will be able to draw the lines of its 53 districts. That could offset Republican gains elsewhere. And it's not a sure thing that Republicans will make the gains they need to control the process in several states.

Second, redistricting doesn't lock up seats for one party forever. A few years ago pundits were lamenting that it did -- and then Democrats won dozens of seemingly safe Republican seats in 2006 and 2008. This year, Republicans may win many seemingly safe Democratic seats.

The last redistricting cycle came during a period of stable partisan alignments that persisted from 1995 to 2005. Redistricters could pretty well count on voters voting the same way they had last time and the time before.

Now we seem to be in a period of very unstable partisan alignments. What looks like a safe seat based on 2008 numbers may not look safe under 2010 numbers. And those numbers may not be etched in stone. No one I know is predicting confidently how Americans will vote in 2012.

In the end, the voters get a say. But in an otherwise close election, redistricting can determine control of the House. And that can make an enormous difference in legislative outcomes, as it has during the past decade.

The unpopularity of the Obama Democrats' policies seems sure to hurt the party this year. Redistricting seems likely to extend the pain for several more election cycles.


Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM