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Posted at 1:41 PM ET, 02/11/2011

Who's on offense in the House?

By Aaron Blake and Chris Cillizza

After a historic 63-seat pickup in the 2010 midterm election, House Republicans would be expected to be on defense in the 2012 cycle -- doing everything they can to minimize their losses and keep their 48-seat majority.

And, to a large extent, they are. A look at the map shows Republicans have plenty of seats to hold on to. They hold 61 districts that President Obama carried in 2008, while Democrats hold just 12 districts that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) carried.

But, Republicans have something going for them that they haven't had, well, ever. And that is a major advantage in redistricting.

Many of the most vulnerable Republicans elected in 2012 will be running in districts that are being redrawn by their own party. For instance, control of the line-drawing process could help as many as five or six vulnerable Republicans in both Pennsylvania and Ohio alone -- members that otherwise would have been seriously endangered.

Democrats don't get much help from redistricting. The party controls the process in only one state where it could draw a map that endangers multiple Republicans: Illinois. Republicans, meanwhile, get to shore up their members and create new opportunities for themselves in many states, including most of the big ones.

But, as we've discussed, redistricting edges can only go so far.

Pennsylvania Reps. Lou Barletta (R) and Pat Meehan (R), for example, can only be shored up so much. And two Republicans in Ohio are likely to be drawn into the same district with the state set to lose a pair of seats.

So, while there are definitely limits to the Republicans' redistricting advantage, the party as a whole is definitely better off having it. And control of the line-drawing process should help the GOP reduce the amount of defense it will be playing in 2012.

Because of that redistricting advantage, the list below includes six Republican seats and four Democratic seats. Without the GOP's redistricting advantage, the split would be closer to eight Republican seats and two Democratic ones.

And now, without further ado, to the Line!

Off the line: Reps. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jason Altmire (D-Pa.) and Charlie Bass (R-N.H.).

10. Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah): Matheson won less than 51 percent in 2010 against a candidate with no money, and he weathered a scare in the Democratic primary before that. The state is adding a fourth seat through reapportionment, so there will be significant changes. Republicans control the process and have to decide whether they want to pack Matheson's district with Democrats or try to make four Republican-leaning districts. Even if they pack his district with Democrats, though, Matheson could have primary trouble again. If it gets bad enough, Matheson could make a run for Sen. Orrin Hatch's (R) seat in 2012 instead. (Previous ranking: N/A)

9. Rep. David Rivera (R-Fla.): Republicans are already jockeying to replace Rivera, who has been plagued by ethics problems since he came into office. There's already some planning for a special election. Democrats are hoping they can flip the seat. Obama nearly won this district in 2008, but Democrat Joe Garcia lost to Rivera by 10 points in last year's wave election. (Previous ranking: N/A)

8. Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-N.Y.): Republican Ilario Pantano, who came closer than any challenger in years to taking down the conservative McIntyre, has declared that he will try again in 2010. But much rides on how Republicans decide to deal with redistricting in the state. If they decide not to target McIntyre, Pantano will have a much more difficult race assuming the political environment is not as favorable to Republicans as it was in 2010. (Previous ranking: 6)

7. Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.): With Missouri losing a seat to reapportionment, nearly everyone acknowledges that Carnahan is the most logical target. Carnahan is likely to be drawn into a district with either Rep. Todd Akin (R) or Rep. Lacy Clay (D). If he faces Akin, it will likely be in a GOP-leaning district, and if he faces Clay, it would likely be in a majority-black district. Either way, he's got problems. (Previous ranking: N/A)

6. Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.): After heavily targeting Rep. Melissa Bean (D) in past elections, Republicans largely wrote off Walsh in 2010. But, with a GOP wave sweeping the country, Walsh took advantage of the Republican lean of the 8th district to eke out a 291-vote victory. The narrowness of that win, however, when coupled with the fact that Democrats control the redistricting process in the state could spell doom for Walsh. (Previous ranking: 7)

5. Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R-N.Y.): Like Walsh, Buerkle's victory was almost entirely unexpected by national Republican strategists. And like Walsh, the redistricting process could badly jeopardize Buerkle's chances of coming back to Congress. The process is split between Democrats and Republicans, but most experts expect a New York City Democrat and an upstate Republican to be targeted for elimination, with the state losing two seats. The decline and fall of former Rep. Chris Lee might help her, but we won't know until we find out who replaces Lee. (Previous ranking: 4)

4. Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.): Donnelly's South Bend-area district is likely to be significantly more Republican next time around. His best bet might be to run for statewide office -- either for governor or Senate. He would be an underdog in the governor's race against Rep. Mike Pence (R), but the Senate race could provide an opportunity if Sen. Richard Lugar (R) is unable to survive a primary. (Previous ranking: 5)

3. Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.): West will receive a hero's welcome tomorrow night when he delivers the keynote address to close out CPAC 2011. But the conservative activists who revere him at the national level won't do West much good as he seeks to hold on to the very competitive 22nd district in 2012. West has displayed some uneven judgment during his first few months in office; the latest example was having disgraced former Rep. Mark Foley (R) introduce him at the opening of his West Palm Beach office. (Previous ranking: 3)

2. Bobby Schilling (R-Ill.): Schilling's victory in the 17th district in 2010 may be short-lived, as Democratic redistricters already have their eye on the downstate district. Schilling's current district leans significantly toward Democrats --- Obama won it by 15 points in 2008 -- so Democratic line-drawers may not need to do all that much to draw him out of a seat in 2012. (Previous ranking: 1)

1. Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas): In 2010, Farenthold won a 70 percent Hispanic district that generally leans toward Democrats. As a white Republican, he faces a very tough fight to keep the seat. Farenthold's best opportunity is to get a better district through redistricting, but even if he does, it's likely to include a lot of new territory and will still be a tough hold. Farenthold isn't particularly close to the GOP establishment, so don't expect them to do him any favors. (Previous ranking: 2)

Rachel Weiner contributed to this report.

By Aaron Blake and Chris Cillizza  | February 11, 2011; 1:41 PM ET
Categories:  The Line  
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