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GOP wins back the suburbs by biggest margin in a decade

Republican big gains at the ballot box Tuesday were boosted by one key, and growing, portion of the electorate: suburban voters.

According to exit polls, Republicans won the suburbs by 55 percent to 42 percent -- a 13-point edge and the largest margin for either party in any election over the past decade.

Suburban voters are also making up an increasing amount of the electorate: according to exit polls, suburbanites have grown from 45 percent of the electorate in 2004 to 47 percent in 2006, 49 percent in 2008 and 50 percent in 2010.

In 2000, Republicans carried the suburbs 49 percent to 47 percent; in 2004, the GOP increased that margin, winning suburbanites 52 percent to 47 percent.

The 2006 and 2008 elections saw the suburbs swing the other way; in both elections, Democrats won them 50 percent to 48 percent.

In 2006, Democrats picked up nine suburban seats in 2006 and picked up another 16 in 2008, although they also lost one (Texas' 22nd) that year, giving them a net gain of 24 suburban seats since 2006.

In a conference call with reporters Wednesday morning, National Republican Congressional Committee Executive Director Guy Harrison said that those suburban gains were a large factor in the GOP's victory on Tuesday, noting that the GOP had won back 16 of 24 suburban seats that they'd lost to Democrats since 2006, with a handful of other races still being counted.

The 16 suburban districts the GOP has reclaimed include Arizona's 5th; Florida's 8th, 22nd and 24th; Illinois' 11th and 14th; New Hampshire's 1st; New Jersey's 3rd; Nevada's 3rd; New York's 13th and 19th; Ohio's 1st and 15th; Pennsylvania's 7th and 8th; and Virginia's 2nd.

Democrats hung onto five hotly contested suburban districts on Tuesday: Colorado's 7th; Connecticut's 4th and 5th; Michigan's 9th; and Pennsylvania's 4th.

Races in California's 11th and Virginia's 11th are heading into recounts, and ballots are still being counted in Illinois' 8th district.

A Democratic official on Friday noted that even in this year's wave election, Republicans failed to win suburban districts that they'd drawn to their advantage, won in 2004 and that President George W. Bush carried such as Pennsylvania's 4th, Michigan's 9th and (potentially) Virginia's 11th.

Back in 2007, Democratic Congressional Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) said he was confident that Democrats' gains in the suburbs were going to be for the long haul.

"Democrats are perceived to be much more attuned to the concerns suburban voters have now," Van Hollen said in an interview with The Post, contending that Democrats were winning with suburban voters on issues such as education and the economy.

Tuesday's results are the latest indication that the suburbs remain a pivotal battleground heading into 2012, and a portion of the electorate that both parties are likely to pay plenty of attention to over the next two years.

By Felicia Sonmez  | November 5, 2010; 2:00 PM ET
Categories:  House  
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