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In 98th Congress, they won't make coalitions the way they used to

By Richard J. CattaniStaff correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor / November 8, 1982



Washington

The economy wasn't the only major election factor that failed to deliver for the Republicans.

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Reapportionment - the shift of nine congressional seats from the East to the West, and eight from the Midwest to the South after the 1980 census - was as great a disappointment to the GOP.

The Republicans had been counting on at least 15 new seats in Congress as a result of redistricting, following the shift of 17 seats to the Sunbelt from the older industrial Midwest and Northeast.

Instead, a Monitor analysis shows, the Republicans lost a total of five seats in the South and West, while losing 21 in the Midwest and Northeast.

Thus, redistricting and the election eroded the party's former moderate GOP power base in the Midwest and East, shifting it to the conservative West.

The loss of moderate Republican strength means fewer GOP bridge-builders, forcing the Reagan team to deal more directly with moderate power-brokers in the Democratic Party. At the same time, the surviving GOP moderates, like Rep. Jim Leach of Iowa, will likely play a more assertive role in offering bipartisan solutions for the impending budget, defense, tax, and social security clashes in Congress.

The failure of reapportionment to deliver for the Republicans greatly weakens GOP hopes that the underlying movement in political power, resulting from population and employment drift, was in the GOP's direction. As the Republican strategist John Sears notes, it may have been unrealistic for Republicans to think voters' political preferences would change with their movement to new regions. The result could well be a strengthening of Democratic holds in the Southwest - and in 1982 that apparently happened.

In the South itself, now by far the nation's most powerful region in congressional and presidential voting with 141 House seats after reapportionment , the Democrats added 14 members and the Republicans lost six in the Nov. 2 balloting.

Of the 15 southern and border states, the GOP did best in Florida. Florida gained the most new seats (four) in the post-1980 redistricting - and the Republicans and Democrats each gained two of them. But the Democrats gained at least two of Texas's three new seats, and the new seat in Tennessee. Overall, the Republicans lost a total of six seats in the South, while the Democrats gained 14.

The Republicans were stunned to lose three seats in Virginia, the most conservative state in congressional voting. This offset GOP delight in the Senate victory of Paul S. Trible for the seat held by the Byrd family for a half century. The Byrd seat win netted the Republicans little, as retiring Sen. Harry Byrd, an independent, regularly voted with Republicans on key issues.

The Republicans lost two seats in North Carolina, despite a heavy investment of Republican National Committee firepower, a presidential visit, and the financial aid of Sen. Jesse Helms (R) of North Carolina, the New Right leader. The GOP had hoped to gain three to five seats in North Carolina to establish its credibility as a Southern force in the 1980s.

In the West, still the weakest congressional and electoral-college region with 85 seats after reapportionment, the Democrats' margin widened. The Democrats gained eight of the nine new seats in the West.

Ironically, the biggest blow came in California, President Reagan's home state and site of dramatic Republican wins in the governor and Senate races. California gained two seats after the 1980 census. Going into the election, the delegation was evenly divided, 22 Democrats and 21 Republicans. But the Democrats won at least six seats in California Nov. 2, while the Republicans lost at least four, giving the Democrats a dozen-seat margin in the next Congress.

The California losses largely offset single seat, scatter-shot GOP gains elsewhere in the West: in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington.

The Midwest remained the nation's second most powerful region in congressional and presidential electoral balloting after the census realignment, with 113 House seats in the next session.

The Republicans had been ahead of the Democrats in the region, 63 to 58, in House seats in the current Congress. But with the Democrats picking up four new seats in the Midwest, and the Republicans losing 12, the GOP has fallen behind 62 to 51. Republicans lost four seats in Illinois, two in Minnesota, two in Ohio , and single seats in Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, and South Dakota.

The whole nine-seat regional loss due to reapportioning in the Northeast came out of the GOP column. Democratic gains in Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania offset party losses in New York and Connecticut. New York gave up the most House seats (five) in the post-census House realignment. The Republicans lost three seats in New York, another three in Pennsylvania, two in New Jersey, and one each in Massachusetts and Delaware.

The East, with 96 House seats in the next Congress, holds onto its position as the third most powerful in congressional and presidential balloting. But the region is all the more sharply Democratic, with the Democrats holding a decisive 58-to-38 majority over the GOP.