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Update: I have revised the DPI values for the 2011 legislative redistricting charts after realizing that the vote totals provided by the General Assembly differ from the official results provided by the State Board of Elections. For my original chart I used the NCGA breakdown for individual districts along with the SBOE statewide vote totals in my calculation, which resulted in DPI values that were slightly too low. In other words, the correct values are somewhat more favorable for Democrats. While the NC Senate does not change significantly, three NC House seats drop from Likely GOP to Lean GOP and one NC House seat drops from Lean GOP to Toss Up. The 2008 election charts have not changed because for those I used only NCGA data to begin with.This is the long-delayed second part in a series examining the North Carolina redistricting maps that were enacted by the Republican General Assembly during the last week of July. The first part, examining select aspects of the illegality of the initial Rucho-Lewis proposal is here.
The reason why this second part has been so delayed is because, whereas the original proposal more closely adhered to the previous districts, the revised map enacts more radical changes to a number of districts. Obviously enough, that makes analyzing the new districts considerably more challenging in several respects. More specifically, I wanted to have 2008 and 2010 congressional vote figures on hand for most of the districts before I commented on them in greater detail.
In any case, I'll cover each of the thirteen new districts in turn and then take a brief look at the ramifications of the legislative maps as well. I suspect some will regard the following remarks as overly (if not wildly) optimistic. To be clear, I think the odds are at least even that North Carolina will end up with a 10-3 GOP delegation as that the state will end up with an 8-5 GOP delegation after the 2012 elections (with McIntyre & Shuler as the likeliest holds). That said, I think there is at least an opening for Democrats in a number of districts that are currently being written off by most observers. So, while I would certainly not be surprised if the Republican maps achieve what they intend, I also think that the Democratic situation is not quite so grim as widely described, and naturally I hope that the new maps turn out to be a 'dummymander' that fails to result in the lopsided delegation that the Republicans are aiming for.
Here is the new congressional map that was enacted in late July:
A few quick caveats are in order before I continue.
1) The maps below have been created in DRA which does not permit splitting precincts. Where precincts are split, I've generally placed them in the district that takes most of the population (often nearly all of it). In a few cases I've instead gone with what better approximates the geographic shape of the district. The differences should be minor and the purpose is mainly a visual depiction of how districts have changed from the preceding districts.
2) This commentary clearly presumes that these districts will be operative in 2012 as enacted. Since I think the odds are better than even that there will be further modifications for legal reasons, this analysis is obviously contingent. I will not be discussing the legal ramifications of these districts in this diary. Rather, I plan to post another installment within the next few days looking at additional legal issues related to the maps that were enacted. That diary will take another look at the reconfigured NC-01 district, while also examing retrogression in other parts of the state, and will revisit the Shaw issues with regard to the NC-12 district.
3) At several points in the comments below I'll be discussing Obama figures. In short, and unlike some analyses, I regard the Obama performance as the floor, not the ceiling, for what one might reasonably expect from a credible in-state Democratic contender in North Carolina. I think the 2008 results support this view in two ways: (a) Of the 11 statewide Democratic candidates running in 2008, nine exceeded the Obama percentage, with two falling barely short against Republican incumbents; (b) Democratic contenders exceeded the Obama percentage in 10 of the 13 congressional districts, the exceptions being NC-03 (Jones), NC-06 (Coble), and NC-09 (Myrick) all of which featured entrenched GOP incumbents with little more than token opposition. In the newly enacted maps, the Democratic congressional vote in NC-06 also exceeds the Obama percentage, leaving only NC-03 and NC-09 where Obama outperformed.
So, in part, the point of the comments below with regard to several districts is what more would a Democratic congressional candidate need to do to win a district that Obama would've lost, and how plausible is it that this will happen in 2012. Now one common argument, of course, is that Obama brought a lot of new minority and college student voters to the polls, who then voted for the other Democrats in a sort of rising-tide-lifts-all-boats effect. To whatever extent this is true, the Republicans have largely sequestered such voters in the three heavily Democratic districts anyhow, thereby minimizing the significance of the effect in analysis of the 10 McCain districts.
4) The congressional vote figures have been compiled by adding together what the candidates in the 2008/2010 districts received in the precincts that are in the new district. Where there were Libertarian votes, I added them to the Republican total, so this is the Dem percentage of the total vote, not the two-party vote. Besides that, some of the totals include split precinct figures. These are of course problematic but in no case would excluding them shift the Dem percentage by more than a few tenths of a percent in either direction.
OK, the district-by-district comments will follow after the jump.
Old NC-01 vs. New NC-01
Obama: 62.8% ... 70.6%
Perdue: 70.0% ... 73.8%
Hagan: 65.0% ... 71.7%
D Registration: 67.8% ... 69.8%
R Registration: 16.6% ... 14.2%
White VAP: 46.9% ... 40.5%
Black VAP: 48.1% ... 52.0%
Quite clearly the NC-01 district will not be competitive in a general election, barring a '90 grand in the freezer' type of scenario, and perhaps not even then.. The parts of the 2001 district that were shed, mostly along the eastern periphery, voted about 55% for McCain and for the most part, though not entirely, include heavily white precincts. The district returns to being majority-black and the most interesting issues are on the legal side, which isn't the topic at hand. From a political standpoint, it'll be interesting to see what happens whenever the seat comes open. I suspect that the more politically organized African-American community of Durham will exert a disproportionate influence and is quite likely to produce Butterfield's successor.
Old NC-02 vs. New NC-02
Obama: 52.5% ... 43.3%
Perdue: 55.1% ... 45.2%
Hagan: 55.4% ... 46.8%
D Registration: 50.6% ... 37.8%
R Registration: 28.2% ... 36.1%
White VAP: 62.8% ... 74.0%
Black VAP: 28.1% ... 15.9%
2008 Congress: 48.96% Dem
2010 Congress: 37.60% Dem
If Bob Etheridge wants to return to Congress from this district then 2012 is surely the best time to run. Only 25% of the 2008 vote in the new NC-02 district came from the old NC-02 district. The rest is an incoherent mash-up of pieces from the old 4th, 6th, 7th, and 8th districts. The center of gravity obviously shifts to the west, but there's no clearly dominant component: About 20% of the vote comes from Wake County (mainly the old 4th), about 20% comes from areas around Fayetteville that were in the 7th and 8th, and just over 30% comes from the longtime conservative strongholds of Randolph and Moore that were in the old 6th. Since Renee Ellmers will be new to 75% of her constituents, this almost borders on an open-seat and so clearly the best opportunity to oust her will be before she can become an entrenched incumbent.
Is there a path to victory for Etheridge? To begin with, having served two terms in statewide office and 14 years in Congress, Etheridge is surely better known in the new NC-02 district than is Ellmers. Moreover, the 2008 congressional vote was 49% Democratic, which hardly suggests insurmountable odds. However, that included both Democratic and Republican incumbents running against token opponents in the 2nd, 4th, 6th, and 7th as well as the ouster of Robin Hayes by Larry Kissell in the 8th. In the 2010 elections, Etheridge received only 39.8% of the vote in the NC-02 areas that remain in the district, which is hardly promising to say the least. This was almost the reverse of 2008 when Etheridge received 62% of the vote in these precincts against some random nonentity from Johnston County (Dan Mansell).
In short, if Etheridge were to match Kay Hagan's 39% in the parts of the NC-02 district coming from the old NC-06 (Randolph & Moore) then he would need roughly 55% in the remainder of the district. This is quite reasonable in the Wake & Cumberland portions of the district, as it would be in line with 2008 results (slightly outperforming Obama in the Wake portion and slightly under the Dem performance in the Cumberland portion), so it seems the key then would be in Etheridge persuading his old constituents that they screwed up. I'm not saying it would be easy, by any stretch, but it's also not wildly out-of-reach in my view. There seems little doubt that a 2012 Etheridge-Ellmers rematch presents the most promising opportunity for Democrats to retake the Second in the foreseeable future. To say the least, I'm all for it.
Old NC-03 vs. New NC-03
Obama: 37.8% ... 42.8%
Perdue: 49.0% ... 53.4%
Hagan: 41.6% ... 46.1%
D Registration: 40.9% ... 43.1%
R Registration: 34.5% ... 31.0%
White VAP: 77.7% ... 76.5%
Black VAP: 15.9% ... 17.8%
2008 Congress: 43.29% Dem
2010 Congress: 32.72% Dem
The new NC-03 district would be an obvious target for a McIntyre-type conservadem, were it not for Walter Jones of course. The new district pulls out of the Inner Banks region to take in parts of the NC-01 district nearer to the coast as well as a sizable bite out of the eastern NC-07 district, most notably downtown Wilmington. The Democratic performance generally goes up about 5%, and the district voted 53.4% for Perdue in 2008. It should be clear enough that ballot-splitting is quite common in this part of the state and substantial parts of the northern and southern end of the district customarily send Democrats to the state legislature.
But then, there's still that Walter Jones issue standing in the way. The most optimal scenario for Democrats, of course, and really the only viable scenario, is that Jones gets primaried by the Tea Party, who have issues with some of his more-moderate stances (in 2008, a primary challenger running to Jones right received 41% of the vote). In fact, if Jones sensed that he would lose a GOP primary, I suspect that he may very well return to his roots by just switching back to the Democratic Party (Jones Sr. held office as a Democrat and Jones Jr. switched parties in 1994). That would probably be the best-case scenario of all. Short of that, the only plausible hope for Democrats is a Jones retirement; an open-seat scenario should be a 'toss-up' at worse.
The 2008 and 2010 congressional votes are not particularly helpful, as Jones rolled to 65% and 74% landslides in those respective elections. It's worth noting, however, that the Democratic candidates won the new parts of the NC-03 district in both elections, with about 64% of the vote in 2008 and about 52% of the vote in 2010.
Old NC-04 vs. New NC-04
Obama: 62.1% ... 72.1%
Perdue: 56.2% ... 67.2%
Hagan: 61.1% ... 70.9%
D Registration: 45.7% ... 55.1%
R Registration: 25.9% ... 18.6%
White VAP: 68.8% ... 56.6%
Black VAP: 19.0% ... 30.7%
2008 Dem Primary:
41.2% from old NC-04
28.4% from old NC-13
21.9% from old NC-02
5.9% from old NC-08
2.5% from old NC-07
I'd be curious to know if it's possible to draw a 72% Obama white-majority district anywhere else in the South. I didn't bother to calculate the general election congressional vote (I'll just venture to guess the Republicans lost) since any excitement in the NC-04 district will take place in what seems an increasingly likely primary battle between congressmen David Price and Brad Miller. That being the case, I did calculate where the Democratic primary vote came from in the 2008 presidential preference results. Although the district is almost evenly drawn from Price's old NC-04 (33.3%) and Miller's old NC-13 (31.1%), the primary electorate unsurprisingly tilts more toward the old Fourth, with its Democratic strongholds of Chapel Hill and the parts of Durham that aren't going to the NC-01 district.
The rather compact 2001 version of the Fourth is radically altered in the new map, and barely qualifies to be known as "The Triangle District" any longer. Durham is primarily in the 1st, Wake County now has far more people in the 13th (458,433) than it has in the 4th (315,307), and Fayetteville has more claim on the 4th than does Chapel Hill (142,549 vs. 112,883). Both Price and Miller are very well-regarded by the Democratic base, so it's tough to draw much conclusion on that basis. If a primary stand-off does come to pass, then I think the main battleground will be who can prove more effective in Congress. The biggest points in Price's favor would seem to be his seat on Appropriations and his long period of service; the biggest points in Miller's favor would seem to be his initiatives on financial sector reforms, his high #4 ranking on the Science, Space, Tech Committe (which includes energy & environment policy), and his greater future prospects, at the very least due to his younger age.
If one or the other takes command of the primary, then the components of the electorate will be irrelevant since the leader will likely cut into the other candidate's base. However, if Price and Miller each hold roughly equal parts of their respective constituency, let's say 75%, then Miller needs to win the remaining portion of the district by about 60% to 40%. In my view that is quite likely considering Miller's deeper ties to the Fayetteville and eastern Raleigh areas, combined with the fact that Price will be 71 and is thought to be nearing retirement. The lower Price drops below 75% in his part of the new Fourth, the less ground Miller needs to make up outside his current constituency. Ultimately, I think Miller will be favored to win a primary if need be.
Disclaimer: Though my intent is an objective analysis, I support Miller in the regrettable event of a Price/Miller primary battle, so it's possible that I'm biased in my electoral assessment. By all means I'd encourage anyone to post a counter-argument in favor of a Price win.
Old NC-05 vs. New NC-05
Obama: 38.1% ... 42.0%
Perdue: 41.7% ... 44.0%
Hagan: 42.9% ... 45.9%
D Registration: 33.6% ... 35.3%
R Registration: 43.4% ... 41.5%
White VAP: 87.5% ... 81.9%
Black VAP: 7.5% ... 11.8%
2008 Congress: 45.16% Dem
2010 Congress: 36.67% Dem
The "Mayberry" district of the northern Mountains no longer includes Andy Griffin's hometown (Mount Airy, in Surry County) but it's hardly any more promising for Democrats. Even FDR was unable to crack the Republican core of this district, and if I'm not mistaken the last time a Republican failed to carry Wilkes County was when Teddy Roosevelt won as a Progressive in 1912. That said, the new NC-05 district does become a bit less Republican as it picks up some Winston-Salem suburbs and the Democratic leaning towns of Hickory and Salisbury; Democratic congressional candidates actually carried 52% of the 2008 vote in the new parts of the district (but these new areas provide only 25% of the new NC-05 district vote). Virginia Foxx did run a few points behind McCain in 2008, so Democrats should at least try to field a credible challenger to test the underbelly of the beast, but expectations should remain exceedingly low.
It's worth noting, however, that in 2006 Democrats picked up a state senate seat that covered the most GOP core of the NC-05 district as well as two state house seats within the old district. Sadly enough, Virginia Foxx faced only token opposition that year and won with 57%. The new NC-05 district is notably less Republican than were those legislative seats.
Old NC-06 vs. New NC-06
Obama: 36.0% ... 43.3%
Perdue: 37.9% ... 45.9%
Hagan: 41.4% ... 48.3%
D Registration: 32.4% ... 41.7%
R Registration: 44.0% ... 35.9%
White VAP: 84.3% ... 80.1%
Black VAP: 9.9% ... 14.4%
2008 Congress: 45.69% Dem
2010 Congress: 36.64% Dem
The NC-06 district changes drastically under the new map, exchanging the GOP bastions of the central Piedmont for swingier counties along the Virginia border. About 56% of the vote will be new to Howard Coble and Democrats actually carried these areas with 54% of the congressional vote in 2008. This was more than counterbalanced, of course, by Coble's 65% in the areas of the Sixth that he retains. If a credible Democratic challenger were to hold the 2008 Democratic vote in the new areas and were to match the Obama vote in the parts from the old NC-06 (40.4% vs. 35.2% for Teresa Sue Bratton), then that would bring him or her to 48%. Winning would require reaching at least 45% in these Greensboro suburbs and that's a rather tall order. If the seat were to come open and the stars align then perhaps Democrats will have a shot, but the odds would still be decidedly against Team Blue. If the Triad suburbs shift away from Republicans to the same extent as has been the case in Charlotte and the Triangle, then this may well become a 'toss-up' seat, but even if that happens it's surely several election cycles down the road.
It's worth noting that Howard Coble will be 81 on Election Day 2012 and may very well retire. If anything, Republicans will probably be better off with either likely successor: Rockingham County D.A. Phil Berger, Jr. or Guilford County GOP Chair Bill Wright.
Old NC-07 vs. New NC-07
Obama: 47.0% ... 41.6%
Perdue: 53.9% ... 48.5%
Hagan: 53.0% ... 48.2%
D Registration: 48.9% ... 43.3%
R Registration: 28.2% ... 33.3%
White VAP: 67.4% ... 74.8%
Black VAP: 19.9% ... 17.0%
2008 Congress: 61.53% Dem
2010 Congress: 45.32% Dem
Obama seriously underperformed in this part of the state, as should be evident in comparing his figures to those of Perdue and Hagan. The reason is because this has arguably been the most racially polarized region of North Carolina since Reconstruction. Consequently, I do not think the new NC-07 district is nearly as problematic for McIntyre as the McCain figures would indicate.
That said, the GOP is tackling McIntyre from four different angles, which if nothing else shows how formidable his crossover appeal has been over the years. The redrawn district takes out both his home base in Robeson County and Democratic downtown Wilmington. Besides that, McIntyre loses the swiftly Dem-trending Fayetteville suburbs, where he's long tended to Fort Bragg interests; and, finally, the GOP shafts him with the relatively conservative Raleigh exurbs of Johnston County. In short, the new NC-07 district shifts 5% toward the GOP.
All that said, in my view McIntyre's path to reelection is not nearly as challenging as it seems widely held to be the case. To begin with, the Democratic vote for Congress in the new NC-07 was over 61% in 2008, though that's not especially helpful since both McIntyre and Etheridge rolled to lopsided 65% and 60% victories in these areas against token opposition. On the flip-side, Walter Jones took an even more landslide 74% of the vote in his parts of the new Seventh. The 2010 McIntyre figure against Ilario Pantano is far less promising, as he barely lost the parts of NC-07 that he retains with 49.5% of the vote.
So why then am I rather optimistic about McIntyre's odds to hold on in 2012? By my calculation, if McIntyre were simply to match Obama's percentage in the parts of the new NC-07 district that he gains from Etheridge & Jones, then he would need about 54.5% of the vote in the parts of the old Seventh that he keeps. If he matches Hagan, that drops to about 52.5% that he would need to carry in the old Seventh; if McIntyre matches Perdue in the new areas, he needs just a mere 51.4% in the parts of NC-07 that he retains.
Finally, the Republican nominee is now evidently expected to be NC Senator David Rouzer of Johnston County; in my view, the appeal of a Republican nominee from the Raleigh exurbs will be relatively limited in the Southeast Coast region that McIntyre will have represented for 16 years. It's worth noting that Rouzer himself barely carried Johnston County with 141 votes over Democrat Kay Carroll in the 2008 state senate election.
Considering all of the above, I think this would be a near 'toss-up' even in an open seat race with another conservadem nominee. With McIntyre running for reelection here, I think the new NC-07 starts off with a Leans Dem rating.
Old NC-08 vs. New NC-08
Obama: 52.4% ... 41.7%
Perdue: 51.1% ... 43.2%
Hagan: 55.9% ... 46.5%
D Registration: 49.3% ... 45.9%
R Registration: 27.5% ... 33.1%
White VAP: 61.8% ... 69.0%
Black VAP: 27.2% ... 17.9%
2008 Congress: 47.60% Dem
2010 Congress: 43.32% Dem
By contrast to the NC-07 situation for McIntyre, I think the prospects are rather grim for Larry Kissell in the reconfigured NC-08 district. Kissell loses the strongly Democratic Charlotte and Fayetteville parts of his district (where Obama took about 76% and 56% respectively), gaining rabidly Republican central Piedmont areas from Coble's Sixth district and Charlotte exurbs in Union County from Myrick's Ninth district (where Obama took 27% and 32% respectively). The silver lining, of course, is that Kissell gains most of strongly Democratic Robeson County where Obama and Hagan both took about 56.5%, but where Perdue and McIntyre received a whopping 70% and 86% respectively.
So, is there a reasonable path to victory for Kissell? To begin with, unlike the other Democratic targets, Kissell's 55% in 2008 against incumbent Robin Hayes and his 53% in the hostile 2010 environment provide a much more reasonable baseline for assessment. So to start off, let's keep Kissell's 2008 figures (48.5% in the area he retains; in 2010 it was 47.8%) and then adjust the former NC-09 Union County vote to match the Obama performance (about 32.3%). That nudges Kissell up to 48.1%. Using the Hagan numbers for the Rowan, Davidson, and Randolph areas is the most optimistic (which isn't saying much at 31.7%, 37.4%, and 27.6% respectively, though that's still better than what the hapless Coble challenger got), but this still leaves the Kissell projection short at 49.2%. Even pushing the newly acquired Union County precincts up to match Hagan's 36.8% still leaves Kissell just shy at 49.6%, and remember that we haven't adjusted Robeson down from McIntyre's whopping 86%. Now taking Robeson down only to Perdue's 70% drops the Kissell projection back to 47.6%. Ouch.
The bottom line is that Kissell evidently will have to outperform all reasonable expectations to win in 2012. He must exceed the Hagan numbers in the areas he gets from NC-06 and NC-09, at minimum match the Perdue figures in Robeson County, if not the McIntyre percentage, and/or significantly improve on his 2008 48.5% showing in the parts of NC-08 that are retained in the new version. If Kissell manages to thread that needle, it'll be impressive to say the least. I didn't think Kissell was favored to win reelection under the first proposed redistricting, and the enacted version just puts him 2% further in the hole.
Neither of Kissell's likeliest GOP challengers make the electoral math any easier. Jerry Dockham, a 22 year veteran of the NC House from Davidson County, or Justin Burr, a freshman NC House Rep. from Stanly County, should have little problem consolidating the GOP vote in the heavily conservative western parts of the new NC-08 district.
Old NC-09 vs. New NC-09
Obama: 44.7% ... 45.0%
Perdue: 33.5% ... 31.9%
Hagan: 46.1% ... 46.1%
D Registration: 33.6% ... 31.8%
R Registration: 39.4% ... 40.0%
White VAP: 77.8% ... 80.0%
Black VAP: 14.2% ... 11.9%
2008 Congress: 37.90% Dem
2010 Congress: 31.98% Dem
Sue Myrick is not going to lose this district under any foreseeable circumstance. Fortunately she's 70 years old which at least provides a glimmer of hope that she might be contemplating retirement. That said, an open-seat contest would not provide all that much of an opening for a Democrat either, at least not anytime soon. While the Charlotte suburbs are gradually trending blue, the vote tends to be very stable - this is not swing territory. A statewide Democratic contender can safely aim to hit 45% or so, but that is more of a ceiling than a floor (and of course the bottom dropped out for Perdue here, running against Charlotte mayor Pat McCrory). On top of that, the new NC-09 district sheds parts of Union County and all of Gaston County, which are trending slightly bluer, for a substantial chunk of Iredell County, which is not.
Old NC-10 vs. New NC-10
Obama: 35.6% ... 42.0%
Perdue: 34.7% ... 41.5%
Hagan: 41.2% ... 46.7%
D Registration: 34.6% ... 39.3%
R Registration: 41.3% ... 35.6%
White VAP: 86.6% ... 84.4%
Black VAP: 8.4% ... 10.8%
2008 Congress: 46.69% Dem
2010 Congress: 37.88% Dem
While I had thought all along that the GOP would split Buncombe County to target Shuler, this isn't the way I expected them to do so. For reasons that I'll explain further below, I think the more effective way to arrive at the same percentages for GOP candidates would've been to wrap the Tenth over the Eleventh, and not the other way around as in this map. In any event, Patrick McHenry ends up trading four stalwart Republican counties in the foothills and part of ruby-red Iredell for a hostile Asheville electorate and slowly blue-trending Gastonia. At least one credible Democratic contender is reportedly considering a run in 2012: Assemblywoman Patsy Keever who was also the 2004 nominee against Charlie Taylor in the NC-11 district.
While I'm not entirely convinced that the Asheville area is the best place to look for a successful challenger to McHenry, the electoral math looks suprisingly easier than I imagined. In short, what a Democrat would need to do is hold the 66% Shuler vote in his parts of the new district, take about 40% in the parts coming from Sue Myrick (which is 2.5% more than Obama), and take about 45% in the parts retained from the old NC-10 district (which is a mere 1.5% more than that received by McHenry's 2008 challenger and equivalent to the Hagan vote).
This is of course far easier said than done. I don't think it's at all unreasonable for a well-funded Democratic challenger from the eastern end of the district to hit these marks in Gaston County and the old Tenth, but I suspect the Shuler vote would be tough to hold on to. Conversely, while a Buncombe County Democrat would have a much easier time hitting the target vote in the old Eleventh, he or she would obviously have a more challenging time hitting the marks down east. Regardless, I would very much like to see the NC Democratic Party field a serious challenger in 2012 while McHenry is still new to half the voters in the reconfigured NC-10 district.
Old NC-11 vs. New NC-11
Obama: 46.5% ... 40.4%
Perdue: 51.0% ... 45.0%
Hagan: 50.2% ... 45.1%
D Registration: 39.2% ... 36.0%
R Registration: 32.6% ... 37.4%
White VAP: 90.8% ... 91.5%
Black VAP: 3.9% ... 3.0%
2008 Congress: 55.67% Dem
2010 Congress: 46.65% Dem
As noted above, the more effective way in my view to target Heath Shuler would've been to run the NC-11 district along the South Carolina border all the way to Gastonia, effectively trading Asheville for the Charlotte suburbs. Shuler's crossover appeal would've been steadily diminished anywhere east of Henderson County. Instead, the GOP chose to exchange Asheville with four far-less 'culturally' dissimilar counties in the northern Mountain foothills. Whatever the case may be, the route to Shuler's reelection is clear enough in looking at the 2008 and 2010 congressional vote for the new NC-11 district.
While losing liberal Asheville obviously hurts, Shuler still won the parts of the Eleventh that he retains with 52% of the 2010 vote. Meanwhile, McHenry rolled to a 71% landslide in the four new counties against a token 2010 opponent. Shuler will most likely face a stiffer challenge in 2012 from longtime Henderson County D.A. Jeff Hunt than what he dealt with in 2010, but the broader presidential-year electorate should not be nearly as hostile. If Shuler were to hold on to his 2010 vote share in the old Eleventh and then match the 42% received by McHenry's 2008 challenger in the new counties then he should win the district. To state the obvious, the more that Shuler can outperform in the old Tenth, the more ground he can give up in the old Eleventh.
So, in my view, the 2012 battle starts with Shuler at no worse than a 'toss-up' for reelection, and I would actually give the new NC-11 a slight 'Lean Dem' rating.
Old NC-12 vs. New NC-12
Obama: 70.3% ... 78.1%
Perdue: 66.4% ... 73.2%
Hagan: 70.8% ... 77.9%
D Registration: 58.4% ... 63.9%
R Registration: 21.3% ... 16.1%
White VAP: 45.6% ... 36.8%
Black VAP: 42.9% ... 49.6%
This majority-coalition seat actually manages to become even more carefully gerrymandered to pack black voters. The new NC-12 district stops just short of becoming outright majority-black in a somewhat strange yet transparent attempt to avoid a Shaw violation. Whether it succeeds in doing so is a topic for another time. From a political standpoint this is obviously an über-safe Democratic district, and so I didn't bother to calculate the congressional results.
Old NC-13 vs. New NC-13
Obama: 58.9% ... 45.0%
Perdue: 57.3% ... 44.1%
Hagan: 60.2% ... 46.7%
D Registration: 51.0% ... 40.2%
R Registration: 25.5% ... 35.8%
White VAP: 63.0% ... 76.2%
Black VAP: 27.5% ... 16.6%
2008 Congress: 50.52% Dem
2010 Congress: 40.23% Dem
The drastically reconfigured NC-13 district will quite likely be an open seat in 2012, as Rep. Brad Miller seems far more inclined to instead run in the NC-04 district where he's double-bunked with Rep. David Price. While the 2008 Democratic congressional performance superficially might seem promising, this is rather inhospitable territory for a Democrat. This district is now dominated by the Raleigh suburbs which provided 65% of the 2008 vote and that in many ways resemble the Charlotte suburbs of the NC-09 district. In short, while the suburban vote is gradually trending blue, the baseline is very stable. In other words, although a Democrat in a competitive race can probably hit 45% easily enough, securing much beyond that is a rather daunting task.
As if the electoral math were not problematic enough, the Republican nominee will almost surely be Paul Coble, a former Raleigh mayor and the current chairman of the Wake County Board of Commissioners. If a Democrat were to make a play for this district, then the most viable route would be to match the Obama figures in the areas outside Wake County (adjusting the figures in the Jones & Etheridge precincts is basically a wash) while getting at least 53% or so in the areas inside Wake County. This would be roughly 5% more than the Obama percentage. In 2008, Price outperformed Obama by about 3% in his part of the new NC-13 and Miller outperformed Obama by about 7% in his part, both running against weak opponents. This would roughly produce what a Democrat would need - assuming he or she matched Obama in the rest of the district - which would be much more challenging against a strong GOP contender. I don't see it.
North Carolina Senate
In seeking to analyze the legislative redistricting I drew much inspiration from Catawba College professor J. Michael Bitzer who categorized the new districts according to a PVI model based on Charlie Cook's congressional district ratings. His NC Senate ratings are here and his NC House ratings are here. However, I think that this approach is misguided for two reasons:
(1) This utilizes Kerry and Obama numbers. The mere inclusion of a Kerry component makes this model borderline useless in my view. This is not simply because Kerry did not campaign in North Carolina but, more importantly, because Kerry's performance was extremely erratic. Where in some regions his vote totals were about 5% below the Democratic baseline, in others they were over 15% below. This naturally produces quite a few oddities in the resulting PVIs.
(2) State legislative elections do not behave like federal elections and it is a mistake to treat them as such. The Cook PVI model is designed explicitly with regard to congressional elections, and even then is not especially well-suited to North Carolina. Translating it to the legislative elections produces even more anomalous results.
So, I instead devised my own model which I'm calling the "Democratic Performance Index" or DPI for short. My DPI Model is based on an average of how much the Democratic candidate outperformed or underperformed his or her statewide total in five elections: the 2004 Senate race; the 2008 races for President, Senate, and Governor; and the 2010 Senate race. While there are still some issues here (most notably, it's still weighted toward campaigns for federal office) the resulting scale is far more coherent in my view, whether looking at the 2008 & 2010 composition of the General Assembly under the old maps or whether in examining the new redistricting maps that were enacted for the 2012 elections.
Below is the map of the newly enacted Senate districts that will be in use for 2012 barring any legal setbacks for the GOP. The chart that follows then ranks the seats from most Republican to most Democratic, and classifies them accordingly. The seats are shaded red for Republican or blue for Democratic based on which party currently holds the seat. Bold red text indicates that the new district is an open seat. Districts that double-bunk a Democratic incumbent with a Republican incumbent are in bold with exclamation marks. The red line is the 'Line of Control' where the chamber would be evenly divided (25-25 for the NC Senate).
In my view the Democrats are clearly more likely to retake the state senate than to retake the state house. The 'line of control' has obviously shifted into Lean GOP territory, yet as recently as 2008 Democrats held all but one 'toss-up' seat (using my DPI model) along with two seats that leaned about 6 points GOP and two seats that leaned about 10 points GOP. The margin of Senate control had remained relatively stable from 2002 through 2008, but here are the DPI values for seats that switched in each of the past four elections:
-5.77, -0.98, 12.37*
(Sen-50, Sen-09, Sen-40*)
* Note that Sen-40 was redistricted in 2003 to be about 15% more Dem.
-9.93, -5.55, -2.72
(Sen-45, Sen-47, Sen-24)
-11.08, -9.93, -5.77, -5.55, -2.77, -2.72, -0.98, 1.75, 1.99, 2.99, 3.61
(Sen-43, Sen-45, Sen-50, Sen-47, Sen-08, Sen-24, Sen-09, Sen-10, Sen-19, Sen-05, Sen-11)
In 2010, the Democrats clearly had a rough time on the Coast, where they lost a number of marginal seats, and in the Mountains, where they lost ordinarily conservative districts. Five of the eleven seat losses included all the seats that Democrats had picked up in 2004 and 2006 besides Sen-40 which had been redistricted from a GOP lean to a strong Dem seat. The broader point that I want to convey is that, in the decade before 2010, the battleground was well into the GOP side of the spectrum. While the Republicans picked off two conservative districts on the Outer Banks, the Democrats picked up three conservative Mountain seats, a north Piedmont district with a slight GOP lean, and the near-even Wilmington seat.
What are the most-obvious shifts due to redistricting? To begin with, Democrats will no doubt pick up the new heavily-Dem Sen-05 and Sen-22 open seats. Meanwhile, they will all but surely lose the Sen-07 seat, which is essentially the reconfigured Sen-05 seat from the old map. The Sen-27 seat goes from being a heavily-Dem minority-influence Greensboro district to being a GOP leaning suburban open seat. Though I think Democrats will have an uphill struggle to hold that one, I think the Sen-25 seat in the Sandhills that also becomes more Republican will be a probable hold. So far, that's a wash in my view.
So, where do the Democrats look to attempt to win back a majority in the state senate? First, they will clearly want to challenge the GOP freshmen in the swingy Cape Fear region Sen-08 and Sen-09 districts. (Note that Sen-09 looks the same on the statewide map but becomes slightly more GOP as a couple of heavily-black downtown Wilmington precincts have been plucked out into the Sen-08 district). The Sen-19 district in Fayetteville will also be a prime target, and may very well become more Democratic if the ridiculous Sen-21 district is struck down by the courts as I expect (it's a flagrant Shaw violation in my view - see a closeup view here).
There are three other sets of seats where Democrats can look for pickup opportunities.
(1) The Democrats should at least make an attempt at retaking some of the Mountain districts that have proven to be swingy over the past decade despite their conservative leanings. The most obvious target is the far-western Sen-50 district which had the closest contest in 2010 and actually becomes nearly 2% more Democratic.
(2) I think Democrats should also make a run at a couple districts along the Fall Line that were lost in 2010 (Sen-10 & Sen-11) as well as the open Sen-12 district that is certainly within the range wherein Democrats have been able to compete. To be sure, none of these will be easy picks, though Sen-10 has had some relatively close races at the statewide level (e.g., Perdue narrowly won). The best time to test the waters though is before the GOP incumbents can become entrenched under the new lines
(3) Finally, I hope that Democrats take a shot at some of the suburban seats that either have relatively slight GOP leans (Sen-15 & Sen-17 in the Triangle), have become somewhat less Republican (Sen-26 in the Triad), or are new, open seats (Sen-41 in Charlotte). Once again, none of these will be easy picks and these are not notably swingy areas. However, these NC suburbs have been evidencing a gradual Dem trend and the only one of these seats to see a competitive race in recent cycles was Sen-15 where incumbent Neal Hunt took 53% in 2008 (albeit with a Libertarian taking 4%). Moreover, Sen-26 is not just several points more Dem but also features a double-bunking of Republican Phil Berger, Sr. and Democrat Don Vaughan.
The bottom line is that Democrats will obviously have a challenge to retake the state senate, but it's worth noting that either Perdue or Hagan (or both) won 29 of these districts, so by that measure it's not beyond reach. If I had to guess right now, the current political environment would give Democrats about 22 seats, but if a 2006/2008 type wave resulted in a scattering of unexpected pickups then Democrats could regain a narrow majority, or at least build toward it.
For comparison, the below NC Senate map was in use from the 2004 to the 2010 elections. The chart shows which party controlled each seat after the 2008 election when Democrats held a 30-20 majority. In 2010, the GOP basically swept all but two seats through the most marginal "Lean Dem" Sen-11 seat; pretty much exactly what you'd expect a 'wave' to look like.
North Carolina House
Below is the map of the newly enacted NC House districts that are planned for use in 2012. What might immediately jump out at a casual glance is the ridiculous shape of a number of districts, including H-07, H-25, H-48, and H-66. Another prize is H-10; since it's tough to make it out on the map below, to get a better view check that one out up close. This map will undoubtedly be subject to legal challenge under both the 'Whole County Provision' of the NC Constitution and under the federal Voting Rights Act. Whatever that outcome might be, this is what we have to work with for the time-being, so here goes.
Once again, the chart below ranks the new districts from most Republican to most Democratic based on my DPI Model. Seats are shaded red or blue based on current control and open seats are indicated by bold red text. The three districts that double-bunk Democrats with Republicans are in bold with exclamation marks. Once again, the red 'Line of Control' is where the chamber would be evenly divided 60-60.
It's worth noting that two of these double-bunkings (H-06 & H-46) involve Tim Spear and Dewey Hill, respectively; two of the five Democrats who voted with Republicans to override Perdue vetoes. A third traitor, Jim Crawford, gets double-bunked with Democrat Winkie Wilkins in H-02; and yet another gets shafted with a district made 5 points more GOP (Bill Owens in H-01). Even William Brisson, who seems to get an H-22 district with about the same DPI, shifts from blue-trending Cumberland toward red-trending Sampson. The GOP obviously made rather little effort to reward its moron 'allies' on the other side of the aisle.
By comparing the chart above to the chart of the 2008 results below, it should be fairly evident why I think retaking the NC House will be a much tougher proposition than will be retaking the NC Senate. While the 'line of control' in the latter is within the range of seats that the Democrats have been able to routinely win in recent election cycles, the NC House 'line of control' is several seats beyond the comparable level. In 2008, Democrats held all but three seats that were up to a -4 DPI (in other words, leaning four points GOP). If they were to hold an equivalent number under the new maps, that would bring them to only 49 seats. The 2008 election also gave Democrats a scattering of four additional strongly GOP seats, but adding those in would leave Democrats at 53 seats - seven short of control.
I do think that in the 2012 election Democrats will rebound from the 2010 disaster back to their typical baseline, and therefore I'm projecting 48-54 Democratic seats, but getting from there to a majority would require that they essentially run the table on every district plausibly within reach. I'm certainly not suggesting that Democrats can't compete in 'GOP territory'; the DPI values of seats that switched parties in the past four elections, listed below, evidence as much. However, what I'm suggesting is that the new district lines expand this GOP ground to a nearly insurmountable degree, at least so far as reaching 60 is concerned.
That said, I would point out that, much as in the NC Senate elections, the GOP surge in 2010 followed a very predictable pattern. The GOP picked up all but a single Dem-held seat with a negative DPI, and then picked off three 'toss-ups' beyond that. The Democrats were still able to hold 8 of the 19 'toss-ups' in addition to all the Lean Dem and Likely Dem districts. So, if there's a glimmer of hope for Democrats it follows from the basic premise that downballot races tend to shift in tandem, and so a strong enough Democratic wave could conceivably push them into a majority in the NC House. Were that to happen, then Democrats would all but surely hold the NC Senate as well, and it only takes one cycle of control to do a mid-decade redistricting.
-7.97, 2.58, 5.24, 6.20, 9.55, 12.48
(H-03, H-34, H-66, H-50, H-39, H-57)
* All of these seats changed significantly between 2002 and 2004 due to the 2003 redistricting that replaced the interim court map used for 2002 elections. This was necessary after the NC Supreme Court partially reimposed the 'Whole County Provision' of the NC Constitution which had been defunct since 1981 when the US DOJ ruled that it was inconsistent with the Voting Rights Act.
-10.36, -5.54, -4.03, -2.35, 1.65
(H-88, H-10, H-93, H-51, H-41)
-10.36, -10.03, -7.97, -5.54, -4.03, -3.11, -3.04*,
-2.64, -2.59, -2.35, -2.25, -1.50, -0.98, 1.11, 1.65, 2.23
(H-88, H-112, H-03, H-10, H-93, H-25, H-65*,
H-06, H-04, H-51, H-81, H-116, H-77, H-46, H-41, H-49)
* The H-65 incumbent Democrat was defeated by an independent who joined the GOP caucus.
So then, is there anything for Democrats to pin their hopes on besides the vague prospect of a rising-tide-lifts-all-boats type of scenario? If there's any reason for optimism then it's the fact that the seats which stand between them and a majority are either in recently Dem-trending areas or, more importantly, have a history of ballot-splitting. The latter is reinforced by the fact that either Hagan or Perdue won 64 of these districts; though, the problem of course, is that the Democrats would need all these ballot-splits to go their way in the same election cycle.
To begin with, let's presume that Democrats are strongly favored to hold all the seats that are classified Lean Dem or better, including the technically Republican H-11 open seat which is a new downtown Raleigh district. This is a safe enough assumption considering that even the 2010 wave was not enough for the GOP to crack into the Lean Dem category.
Beyond that, let's say that Democrats hold on to all their current seats in the 'Toss Up' category; if that's not the case, then we aren't discussing a scenario where control of the NC House is remotely in contention anyhow. Looking then at the 'toss-ups' currently held by Republicans, we have two double-bunked districts (H-46 & H-41) and two open seats (H-92 & H-49). H-46, which includes Lumberton, should be an easy takeover as Perdue received 62% and Hagan received 54%. Obama's 42% is what drags down the DPI. Then, H-41 and H-49 are Raleigh-area seats won by both Obama and Hagan; Perdue was the underperformer in Wake, and even more so in the Charlotte area H-92 district where Obama received 53% and Hagan received 54%.
This much just puts Democrats at 50 seats, which is still short even of the 52 seats that they currently hold. Beyond that, the seats plausibly within reach that Democrats would need to challenge for control fall into several broad categories:
(1) Coastal seats with a history of ballot-splitting: H-06 and H-03. Democrats have the benefit of running an incumbent in the double-bunked H-06 seat and just lost the H-03 seat in 2010, which now becomes several points more Democratic.
(2) Suburban seats in Raleigh (H-35 & H-36), Greensboro (H-62), and Charlotte (H-88).
(3) The Triad exurbs of Alamance County (H-63 & H-64) and Rockingham/Caswell (H-65).
(4) A couple of Mountain seats with vague swing tendencies; one near Asheville (H-116) and a Boone seat (H-93) that elected a Democrat in 2006 and 2008.
Even further out, you have a couple more Raleigh suburb seats (H-40 & H-37), another suburban Triad seat (H-59), and three more Coastal seats (H-01, H-19, H-20).
The bottom line in my view is that, while it would be unsurprising for Democrats to pick off a scattering of these seats, it would take a major wave to shift enough of them all at once. To be sure, with their current record-low 33% approval ratings the Republicans in the legislature may very well face a generalized revolt at the polls in 2012, but at this juncture I certainly don't foresee anything on a scale that would overcome their new inbuilt advantages. This redistricting scheme is simply a bridge too far for Democrats in my view (actually, more like several freeway exits, a couple draw-bridges, and a ferry boat ride).
What Democrats really need is a favorable legal outcome to shift the numbers in their direction in at least a half dozen Lean GOP seats. Were that to happen, then majority control might just come within reach just by returning to the pre-2010 baseline. Short of that, however, only a marked shift in the underlying electorate seems liable to put the NC House back into play.
Once again, I've included the previous maps and district stats for comparative purposes. The 2009 House map below was essentially the one in use from 2004 through 2010, except for a modification of H-16 and H-18 in Pender County to comply with the 2009 Bartlett v. Strickland ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court.