GOP Struggling to Find Opportunities for Pickups in U.S. House Races

Yesterday’s blog entry detailed how the Democratic Party has become increasingly competitive on a number of dimensions in challenging GOP-held U.S. House districts from 2002 to 2006. Today Smart Politics examines how Republicans have fared along these same measures—is the GOP becoming more or less competitive in Democratic-held districts?

Overall, the numbers are not good for the Republican Party. To begin with, the number of districts in which the GOP failed to even field a challenger was at a post-redistricting high in 2006 (45 races — more than four times as many districts in which Democrats failed to run a candidate).

Additionally, an increasing number of Republican challengers are flailing in “blow out” races decided by between 50 and 99 points: rising from 32 districts in 2002, to 36 districts in 2004, to 42 districts in 2006.

Similarly, more and more Republican challengers are losing in “very uncompetitive” races decided by between 30 and 49 points: from 70 in 2002, to 73 in 2004, to 83 in 2006.

Democrats are also facing fewer and fewer Republicans breathing down their neck in Democratic-held districts on the cusp of being competitive — those races decided by between 11 and 29 points — dropping from 51 in 2004 to 27 in 2006.

Lastly, the number of Democratic districts that are only narrowly-held have fallen from 17 in 2002, to 7 in 2004, to 6 in 2006.

In sum, the Republicans are facing two big problems when looking at trends in party competitiveness:

1. The universe of competitive and near competitive Democratic-held districts has fallen noticeably, providing fewer and fewer good opportunities for GOP pickups in 2008.

2. Secondly, as outlined yesterday, the opportunities for Democratic pick-ups in competitive and near competitive Republican-held districts have risen greatly in the past four years.

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