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Republicans look for edge amid redrawn congressional maps

Shown here are maps and campaign signs at Republican headquarters in Wadsworth, Ohio.Office of Rep. Jim Renacci

The 2012 election has some familiar faces in Congress running in relatively new places thanks to redistricting following the 2010 census.

But this year, Republicans have the upper hand. Having captured majority control of state legislatures across the country in 2010, their party has been largely in the driver's seat as lawmakers redraw the political maps.

And the new maps could help the GOP in congressional elections come November.

Take Ohio. The election battleground lost two seats due to the population shift to the south and west of the country. The legislature eliminated Democrat Betty Sutton's district, so she is running in a redrawn district against freshman Republican Rep. Jim Renacci.

The new Ohio 16th features 50 percent of Renacci's old district, and only 20 percent of Sutton's constituents, which means the race is on to introduce themselves to those they'd like to represent in Congress.

"It's about getting out, getting people to know who I am, and we're doing that. We've been doing that.  The good thing for me is I started two years ago" Renacci told Fox News. "I still get back into the old district as much as I can, make sure they remember who I am and what I stand for."

The challenge for Sutton is the new district is less liberal than the one she has served, and she has never represented 80 percent of the people before.

Welcome to the world of redistricting in politics, where the party that gets to draw the map -- and in most cases this year, the Republican Party -- tries to protect its most vulnerable members, and can try to eliminate some members from the other party.

"Well, redistricting sets the table, if you will, for politics until the next census when we do redistricting again. And it doesn't mean elections are foreordained to go one way or another, it just puts a very heavy bias in favor of the party that drew the districts," John Green, from the University of Akron's Bliss Institute of Applied Politics, told Fox News in an interview. 

It works both ways. Republican legislatures tried to help their own in places like Ohio and North Carolina, while Democrats were able to draw favorable lines in Illinois and California. But those states are not expected to get Democrats the net gain of 25 seats they need to take back the House. 

In North Carolina, experts say the legislature created three safe seats for Democrats, and most likely 10 safe seats for Republicans. 

"Well if you had to pick a state that was six or seven beer goggles ugly for Democrats in redistricting, it was North Carolina," said David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report. "Long ago, North Carolina Democrats passed a law that the governor couldn't veto a legislature's redistricting plan." 

Now with a Republican legislature and a Democratic governor in the Tarheel State, the House delegation will most likely be quite red at least until the 2020 census leads to a new map.

Mike Emanuel currently serves as chief congressional correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC). He joined FNC in 1997 as a Los Angeles-based correspondent.

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