WASHINGTON, April 12 (UPI) -- Republicans are using the power of redistricting to shore up support for current members of Congress, rather than make inroads in new areas, observers say.
While Democrats and Republicans alike have used the redistricting process to increase their respective numbers in Congress, the GOP is making a calculated move to reshape districts in a way that solidifies the position of current members, especially the Tea Party-backed freshman members who some say could face a backlash in November, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
With the GOP presidential nomination all but wrapped up -- former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is the likely standard-bearer against President Barack Obama -- the Republican Party is bent on protecting its majority in Congress by making red districts redder, the Journal said.
Given the slowly improving economy, Obama's popularity and low ratings for congressional Republicans, the GOP is pulling out the stops to keep Democrats from gaining the 25 seats they need to take control of the House. And with a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll indicating voters would like to see Democrats retake the House by 46 percent to 41 percent, GOP-controlled state houses have made 20 to 25 once-vulnerable incumbents likely shoo-ins for re-election, the Cook Political Report's David Wasserman told the Journal.
"When you can take about half of the freshmen that you elected and make the seats better, that's good," said Rep. Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia, the House Republicans' redistricting point man. "The odds are very slim of the Democrats taking the House back."
The wave of GOP freshman elected in 2010 from Florida, Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania put the redistricting levers of power in key swing states into the hands of Republicans. However, it's no surprise Democrats have a different take on things.
"The reality and the bravado when it comes to redistricting are often very different things," said Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y. "The redistricting game is almost over, and at the end of the day it will be a tie: no runs, no hits, no errors for either side."
Dominic Pileggi, leader of the Pennsylvania state Senate Republicans, acknowledged redistricting isn't everything.
"A lot depends on the quality of the candidates and the national and statewide climate," he told the Journal.