Ten years ago, Pennsylvania Republicans got ambitious in drawing new congressional district lines, spreading their target voters too thin in an effort to pick up more seats. It worked, for a while, but later in the decade the blue-trending swing state snapped back to its partisan baseline.
Initial news reports about the new decennial redraw, dropped by GOP legislative leaders in Harrisburg last week, called it a “coup” and a “strong map” that would set the Republicans up to build on their 12-7 edge in the congressional delegation even as the number of House districts drops to 18 because of slow population growth.
The party did manage to strengthen a pair of Republican freshmen in northeastern Pennsylvania – Rep. Lou Barletta in the 11th District, and Rep. Tom Marino in the 10th District, particularly by putting Scranton and Wilkes-Barre into a new 17th District, now represented by Democratic Rep. Tim Holden.
But the key swing districts in suburban Philadelphia and the Lehigh Valley don’t look to get much more Republican in performance, based on recent election returns.