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Tea Party's House Seats Might Not Be All That Safe

GOP districts are full of volatile independent voters
Tea Party member Ron Kirby stands in support of “defunding of Obamacare” outside the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 25
Tea Party member Ron Kirby stands in support of “defunding of Obamacare” outside the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 25Photograph by The Washington Post via Getty Images

Before the budget fight, the widespread assumption in Washington was that conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives could do more or less whatever they wanted (like, shutting down the government), because many come from safe districts Republicans specifically drew to squeeze out Democrats. So even if a majority of the country disapproved of the Tea Party’s tactics, the voters who sent them to Washington would stick with them.

Those seats may not be so safe after all. At the beginning of each decade, states redraw the boundaries of their congressional districts. It’s a chance to catch up with changing demographics in light of new U.S. Census numbers, and, since the early days of the nation, an opportunity for the political party that controls the state legislature—with help from national Democratic and Republican leaders—to improve their chances of winning more seats in Congress. A few states, including California and Washington, try to limit partisan tinkering by giving the job of redrawing the lines to independent commissions. In most others, it’s a purely political operation.