A map of an average congressional district would be - if one could channel the Founders’ intention - a fairly straightforward geometrical thing. But politics has distorted the geometry of modern congressional districts in a big way.
"Goofy kicking Donald Duck," is how one observer described a map of Pennsylvania's 7th congressional district - just one of several gerrymandered districts that Republicans are pinning their hopes on as a firewall against a Democratic run on November 8.
Having lost the White House and Congress in 2008, Republicans undertook a complex plan to win control of state legislatures around the country in the 2010 mid-terms. The first step was redrawing congressional districts.
Christopher Jankowski, a GOP strategist and former Executive Director of "Red Map," was one of the architects of the plan.
"The GOP has a built-in advantage from 2010 that continues to pay dividends and that advantage is going to prevent the House from flipping, certainly this year," he told Fox News.
In 37 of the 50 states, it is the legislature's role to draw congressional districts based upon population shifts recorded by the once-in-a-decade census. In those states, the party that controls the legislature can shape congressional districts in whatever way it sees fit, no matter how geometrically or geographically challenged they may appear.
North Carolina's 12th District is another case in point. That state's Republican-controlled legislature redrew the 12th into an amorphous shape that straddles and roughly parallels Interstate 85. The district is not much wider than the highway itself in some areas. One critic quipped, "You could drive down I-85 with both doors open and kill everybody in the 12th District."
But the bizarre shape effectively consolidated a big chunk of the state’s minority population into one district - ensuring minority representation in Congress, but also helping white, conservative GOP candidates in adjacent districts to win races by big margins - virtually guaranteeing their re-election through several cycles.
In Michigan’s 7th District, GOP redistricting sealed Democrat Mark Schauer's fate as a one-term congressman. "They drew a seat they expected to win and sort of took me out of the picture, just like they did with dozens, literally dozens of people just like me around the Congress," he told Fox News.
Schauer didn’t get mad over his loss, but he got even. He is now heavily involved with a super PAC, Advantage 2020, which is helping Democrats try to retake control of state legislatures before the 2020 census. Schauer has plenty of company.
In a swing through the West last week, President Obama told a Las Vegas crowd, "We gotta have more Democratic members of Congress in the House of Representatives."
To that end, the President is working with former Attorney General Eric Holder to develop the National Democratic Redistricting Committee to do what Republicans did in 2010 - take back the House and the statehouses and to preserve what they hope to win.
Doug McKelway joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in November 2010 and serves as a Washington-based correspondent. Click here for more information on Doug McKelway.