Nov. 2, 2915 — Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI-1), the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee, became the Speaker of the House late last week, but what are his long-term prospects for remaining in the newly attained position? Ryan replaces Ohio’s John Boehner (R) who resigned from Congress Friday.
The vote of 236-184 represented all but 10 Republicans supporting the nine-term Wisconsin representative who was first elected at age 28 and a veteran chairman of two House committees (Budget; Ways & Means). Considering the fractured nature of today’s House Republican Conference, the vote was a show of strong unity for Ryan, which provides him a better mandate than Boehner had during his final term.
Ryan’s 1st District of Wisconsin stretches from his hometown of Janesville all the way to Racine, Kenosha, and Lake Michigan in his state’s southeastern corner. The 1st is a marginal district, but the new speaker long ago made it a safe seat for him. He is the first Wisconsin representative to become speaker and now the region’s most historically prominent congressman. Previously, the late Les Aspin (D), who held the 1st District for 22 years before becoming Defense Secretary under President Bill Clinton, was the most notable southern Wisconsin Representative.
With the Republican majority now standing at 246-188, with Boehner’s vacant OH-8 seat going to special election early next year, the GOP stands in strong position to hold the majority into the next redistricting period, which will occur before the 2022 elections. This gives Ryan time to set a longer-term policy agenda, one that will be enhanced should the Republicans win the Presidency next year.
In terms of the 2016 House elections, Republicans are currently favored (Safe; Likely; Lean R) in 233 seats, with Democrats having the advantage (Safe; Likely; Lean D) in 178. Counting Boehner’s newly vacant seat, there are 25 open seats, 14 Republican seats and eleven Democratic.
Once candidate filing deadlines begin to loom next year, the number of open seats will likely grow somewhat, but a cycle with 30 or fewer incumbent-less district is certainly possible. This contrasts with 2012 when a whopping 62 House seats were open, and 2014 when the election cycle featured 47. The average per-cycle open seat count tends to hover around 35.
Right now, seven seats are rated as pure toss-ups with an additional two Republican seats already trending Democratic: NH-1 — Rep. Frank Guinta (R), NV-4: Rep. Cresent Hardy (R). Four of the toss-ups are open: AZ-1 (Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick-D, running for Senate); FL-18 (Rep. Patrick Murphy-D, running for Senate); MN-2 (Rep. John Kline-R, retiring) and PA-8 (Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick-R, retiring).
Four toss-ups are Republican-held, three Democratic. Therefore, with so few seats in this politically volatile category, and with an opportunity advantage of only a net of one, the Democrats have virtually no path to winning the majority in 2016.
Another 17 seats not projected in the overall House count are currently in redistricting limbo. Ten of the affected seats are Republican-held, the remaining seven in Democratic hands. The districts are from the states of Florida, Texas, and Virginia. All are under court-ordered redraws, which should be completed before the end of the year. At that point, we can re-assimilate the seats into the full House count.
Based upon early projections as to what may happen during the mid-decade redistricting process, we would likely see the Republican advantage seats grow from 233 to at least the 240 range once the new district boundaries become final.
Speaker Ryan called for “wiping the slate clean” in his acceptance speech. In terms of House majority security, it appears he will have the leeway to truly begin anew.