Why Republicans OK Conceding Schwartz’s Pennsylvania District

Photograph by Matt Rourke/AP Photo

Rep. Allyson Schwartz in Philadelphia.

Republicans don’t have much of a chance at winning the Philadelphia-area congressional district that Democratic Rep. Allyson Schwartz plans to give up to run for governor next year.

And that’s just fine by Republicans.

That’s because Republicans who redrew district lines before the 2012 elections packed Democrats in Schwartz’s 13th district, taking in parts of Philadelphia and inner suburban Montgomery County, as part of a strategy to draw and concede a few overwhelmingly Democratic districts as a small price to pay for helping Republicans win more districts by smaller but consistent margins.

The plan worked. Republicans won 13 of 18 Pennsylvania districts even as they lost the statewide House vote by 2.8 million to 2.7 million votes. Republicans won their districts with an average of 59 percent of the vote compared with 76 percent for the five Democrats. In the presidential balloting, the districts also broke 13 to 5 in favor of Republican Mitt Romney even as he lost Pennsylvania by more than 5 points and 309,000 votes to President Barack Obama.

In Montgomery, Republican line-drawers gave almost all of the strongly Democratic areas to Schwartz and Democrat Chaka Fattah while shifting competitive and Republican-leaning precincts to the districts of the three Republicans who represent part of the county. Obama won 63 percent of the vote in the Montgomery precincts in Schwartz’s district, compared with 57 percent countywide.

An analysis of the precinct-by-precinct vote in Montgomery underscores how Democratic voters are more heavily clustered than Republican voters who are spread out more efficiently.

Obama won at least 75 percent of the vote in 48 Montgomery County precincts, of which 38 are in Schwartz’s district and seven in Fattah’s Philadelphia-centered district. Romney didn’t win 75 percent in any Montgomery precinct that cast more than 20 votes. Of the 113 precincts that Romney did win, usually with less than 60 percent of the vote, 90 are in districts represented by Republicans.

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