As a result of gerrymandering and the increased concentration of the Democrats’ coalition, estimates from DailyKos Elections suggest that Mitt Romney bested Obama in 226 congressional districts, and that 217 House Republicans hail from districts Romney won. In other words, a majority of House members represent constituencies that voted for their party’s nominee. The upshot is that the president’s job approval in even the most Democratic of these “Romney districts” is almost certainly under 50 percent with adults and is likely upside-down with the electorate.
Moreover, the median Republican hails from a district that gave Romney 57.9 percent of the vote, about 11 points more than his national average. The president’s approval-unapproval ratings in these areas are likely to be upside down. In other words, even if we concede that the country as a whole supports the president’s approach, a majority of the majority is responsible to electorates that do not.
The Senate picture is even more vivid. Only one Republican senator up for re-election in 2014, Susan Collins of Maine, hails from a state Obama carried in 2012. Indeed, there’s only one other seat, the one in Georgia, where the president received as much as 45 percent of the vote. The rest of the Republican caucus isn’t up for re-election until 2016 at the earliest; three-and-a-half years is a lifetime in politics. There are also five Democratic senators up for re-election from states where the president failed to reach 45 percent of the vote in 2012.
Overall, sequester probably works to Republicans’ benefit in 2014. Taken together, these factors suggest that no one is really coming out of this fight looking particularly strong. But Republicans have an advantage in that the congressional playing field is tilted to their advantage, meaning that even losses in the court of public opinion can work to their advantage so long as they are not massive.