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The Obama Republicans

Can Democrats hope to re-claim House control in 2012? Bloomberg photo

The silver lining of the 60 seat (and counting) loss by House Democrats in the 2010 election is that they are likely to have a fair number of targets on friendly ground come 2012.

All told, 63 Republicans in the 112th Congress will hold seats that President Obama carried in 2008 and, of that group, 13 will hold seats that Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) also won in the 2004 presidential race. (The full list of seats is after the jump.)

Those five dozen seats are where Democrats will begin their campaign to take back the majority in 2012 -- and perhaps beyond. The party -- as of today at least -- needs a 21-seat pickup to reclaim the majority; in each of the last three elections the winning party has picked up more than that number.

The bulk of what we call "Obama Republican" seats are in large states -- several of which President Obama is nearly certain to carry in 2012.

Obama's home state of Illinois will have a whopping nine Republicans sitting in districts -- the 6th, 8th, 10th, 11th, 13th, 14th, 16th, 17th and 18th -- he won in 2008 including five GOP members who won their office in 2010.

Similarly in the Democratic redoubt of California, there are eight seats -- the 3rd, 24th, 25th, 26th, 44th, 45th, 48th and 50th -- held by Republicans and won by Obama in 2008.

Other states with a large number of Obama Republican districts include: Michigan (six), Pennsylvania (five), Florida (four) and Wisconsin (four).

Simply holding a district carried by the presidential nominee of the other party isn't sure-fire sign that you will lose; incoming Republican members in places like Kansas 3rd district and Virginia's 2nd district represent areas that are very unlikely to go for Obama in 2012, for example.

And, the decennial redistricting process, which will be controlled by Republicans in many of the largest and most important states, is also sure to complicate Democrats' attempts to turn some of these seats as the lines will be redrawn to shore up some of the shakiest 2010 winners.

That said, history suggests these Obama Republicans will be in the Democratic crosshairs as the party tries to rebuild after what was a devastating election at the House level.

One needs only look back to the 2010 election for evidence of how endangered these sorts of members can be.

In the wake of the 2008 election, there were 49 Democratic House Members in districts carried by Sen. John McCain (Ariz.). That number dropped to 48 when Alabama Rep. Parker Griffith switched from Democrat to Republican. (He subsequently lost a Republican primary.)

On Election Day, the remaining four dozen Democrats were absolutely decimated; a stunning 36(!) of the seats went to Republicans with a 37th -- held by Kentucky Rep. Ben Chandler (D) -- still up for grabs. (A great recap of how the 48 "McCain Democrats" fared is here.)

Go back four more years and the numbers are even more staggering. Of the 84 Democrats holding districts won by then President George W. Bush in 2004, just 22 survived the 2010 election. That's -- roughly -- a 75 percent attrition rate.

Those numbers suggest that, ultimately, demographics are destiny.

Democrats won in a lot of places they probably shouldn't have in 2006 and 2008 thanks to a strong national wind blowing at their backs.

But, when the wind started blowing in the other direction, the underlying tendencies of seats like Bobby Bright's in Alabama or Walt Minnick's in Idaho meant that those incumbents simply couldn't hold on.

That fate almost certainly awaits some of the Republican class of 2010 -- particularly if 2012 is a more neutral political year than this year turned out to be. A good Democratic year nationally could see a widespread gains along the lines of what happened to Democrats representing McCain/Bush districts this year.

The large number of Obama Republican seats suggest opportunity for Democrats heading into 2012 and beyond. Whether they can take advantage of those opportunities depends on the nature of the cycle, the political strength of President Obama, the identity of the Republican nominee and any number of more-difficult-to-measure intangibles.

Obama Republican districts
California's 3rd
California's 24th
California's 25th
California's 26th
California's 44th
California's 45th
California's 48th
California's 50th
Florida's 8th
Florida's 10th
Florida's 18th
Florida's 22nd*
Illinois' 6th
Illinois' 8th (race not called but GOP candidate leads)
Illinois' 10th*
Illinois' 11th
Illinois' 13th
Illinois' 14th
Illinois' 16th
Illinois' 17th*
Illinois' 18th
Iowa's 4th
Kansas' 3rd
Michigan's 1st
Michigan's 4th
Michigan's 6th
Michigan's 7th
Michigan's 8th
Michigan's 11th
Minnesota's 3rd
Minnesota's 8th*
Nebraska's 2nd
Nevada's 3rd
New Hampshire's 1st
New Hampshire's 2nd*
New Jersey's 2nd
New Jersey's 3rd
New Jersey's 7th
New York's 1st (race not called but GOP candidate leads)
New York's 19th
New York's 20th
New York's 24th
New York's 25th (race not called but GOP candidate leads)
North Carolina's 2nd
Ohio's 1st
Ohio's 12th
Ohio's 15th*
Pennsylvania's 6th*
Pennsylvania's 7th*
Pennsylvania's 8th*
Pennsylvania's 11th*
Pennsylvania's 15th*
Texas' 23rd
Texas' 27th (race not called by GOP candidate leads)
Virginia's 2nd
Virginia's 4th
Virginia's 10th
Washington's 3rd
Washington's 8th*
Wisconsin's 1st
Wisconsin's 6th
Wisconsin's 7th*
Wisconsin's 8th

* indicates a seat carried by Obama in 2008 and Kerry in 2004

By Chris Cillizza  | November 11, 2010; 12:43 PM ET
Categories:  House  
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