If elections for the US House of Representatives were held today, polling averages suggest Democrats would get a little bit over 54 percent of the vote.
That would be a big win. For context, Barack Obama won just under 53 percent of the vote in 2008, and George H.W. Bush got a smidge over 53 percent of the vote in 1988. Neither of those were close elections by any stretch of the imagination.
But here’s the thing. According to Elliott Morris’s model for Decision Desk HQ, 54 percent of the vote won’t deliver Democrats a landslide House majority. In fact, it won’t deliver them a majority at all. Morris thinks 54 percent of the vote will translate to 206 seats, leaving Republicans with 229 seats and the majority.
There is a somewhat tedious debate involving political scientists, journalists, and election analysts as to whether we should characterize this situation — in which 54 percent of the vote wins Democrats 47 percent of the seats — as the result of “gerrymandering” or just “clustering” into an inefficient geographical pattern.
But whatever you call it, it’s an ugly number.
And it’s a huge driver of present-day politics.
Donald Trump’s approval ratings are bad, and congressional Republicans’ approval ratings are also bad. But so far, the GOP shows little sign of running scared on substance, and, critically, there’s little sign that they need to be running scared on substance. If you take the polling at face value, they will get a lot fewer votes than the other party and retain their majority anyway. And the same pattern exists in the vast majority of state legislatures up and down the country.