Consider Pennsylvania, where President Obama won 52 percent of the votes cast, and Democratic Sen. Bob Casey defeated his Republican rival, 53 percent to 45 percent. Yet Democrats won just five of that state’s 18 U.S. House seats. They carried both districts in the Philadelphia area — by 85 percent and 89 percent, respectively — and three other districts, by 77, 69 and 61 percent. Of the 13 districts where Republicans prevailed, GOP candidates won seven with less than 60 percent of the vote; in only one district did the Republican candidate’s total exceed 65 percent of the votes cast.
Why such lopsided numbers? Because Republican-controlled redistricting after the 2010 Census packed Democratic voters into a handful of imaginatively shaped districts around Pennsylvania’s urban centers and created a slew of GOP districts in the rest of the state. The overwhelming Democratic margins in the two heavily African American Philadelphia districts didn’t require constructing oddly shaped districts, but carving up the rest of the state to minimize districts that Democrats might win required politically driven line-drawing of the highest order.
So it went in several other swing states. Obama won Ohio by two points, and Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown won by five, but Democrats emerged with just four of Ohio’s 16 House seats.
In Wisconsin, Obama prevailed by seven points, and Democratic Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin by five, but their party finished with just three of the state’s eight House seats.
In Virginia, Obama and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Tim Kaine were clear victors, but Democrats won just three of the commonwealth’s 11 House seats. In Florida, Obama eked out a victory and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson won by 13 points, but Democrats will hold only 10 of the Sunshine State’s 27 House seats.