How Republicans Lost the Vote and Won the House

President Obama got 51.4% of the popular vote and won essentially every swing state. Democrats probably picked up two votes in the Senate, even though more Democrats had to defend their seats. Yet Republicans will likely end up with a 35-vote majority in the House, in spite of the fact they got less than 50% of the votes that were cast for major party candidates.


Nationally, Republican candidates for the House probably got 500,000 fewer votes than Democrats. That’s just 49.7% of the major party vote. Republicans still managed to win a majority in the House in part because that vote total doesn’t really account for all the races. More Republicans ran unopposed, presumably because Democrats didn’t think they could win in those districts. If those uncontested seats had been real races that people voted on, Republican candidates for the House probably would have won the national popular vote.

In other words, by not contesting as many races, Democrats essentially started Election Day five seats down. If Republicans had just won 49.7% of the contested races, they would have picked up enough seats for a two- to three-seat majority in the House. In that sense, Republicans probably deserved to win the House, even though Democrats won a majority of the votes that were cast in the competitive races.

But Republicans also benefitted from the way the districts were drawn in large swing states. There were four states without any uncontested races—Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—where the Democratic candidates received a majority of the votes but Republican candidates won a majority of the seats. Republicans got just 49% of the vote in those four states, but won 36 seats while Democrats won just 17. That's about 10 more seats than Republicans would have been expected to win on the basis of the vote totals alone. There were no states where Republicans received a majority of the votes but Democrats won a majority of the seats. In Ohio and Virginia—states that went for Obama—Republicans did manage to win a slight majority of the votes cast in House races. But they also managed to win around 6 more seats than would have been expected to on the basis of the state vote totals alone.

In each of those six states, the districts were effectively gerrymandered—drawn so that Democrats were concentrated into just a few districts, while Republicans were spread in a thin majority through the rest of the state. Taken together, those six states account for the entire difference between the number of seats Republicans actually won and the number of seats they should have won on the basis of the popular vote.

The bottom line is that, as a group, Republican candidates for the House outperformed Democrats by enough to earn them a very small majority in the House. The enormous amount of Super PAC money that was spent this year may have had diminishing returns in the presidential race, but it likely made a real difference in the House races. But Republicans probably still wouldn't have had more than a few seat majority in the House, if congressional districts weren't rigged in their favor in key states.

Folllow me on Twitter: @rdeneufville

John Boehner image from Gage Skidmore

3D printing might save your life one day. It's transforming medicine and health care.

What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.

Northwell Health
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
  • Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
  • Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
Keep reading Show less
Big Think Edge
  • In some fundamental ways, humans haven't changed all that much since the days when we were sitting around communal fires, telling tales.
  • Although we don't always recognize them as such, stories, symbols, and rituals still have tremendous, primal power to move us and shape our lives.
  • This is no less true in the workplace than it is in our personal lives.

Has a black hole made of sound confirmed Hawking radiation?

One of Stephen Hawking's predictions seems to have been borne out in a man-made "black hole".

Image source: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Surprising Science
  • Stephen Hawking predicted virtual particles splitting in two from the gravitational pull of black holes.
  • Black holes, he also said, would eventually evaporate due to the absorption of negatively charged virtual particles.
  • A scientist has built a black hole analogue based on sound instead of light.
Keep reading Show less
Big Think Edge
  • The word "creative" is sometimes waved around like a badge of honor. We speak of creativity in hushed tones, as the special province of the "talented". In reality, the creative process is messy, open, and vulnerable.
  • For this reason, creativity is often at its best in a group setting like brainstorming. But in order to work, the group creative process needs to be led by someone who understands it.
  • This sense of deep trust—that no idea is too silly, that every creative impulse is worth voicing and considering—is essential to producing great work.