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It's the money, stupid

The Washington Post carries the following letter, "No Fault of Redistricting," today:

The Aug. 11 front-page story "Democrats Unlikely to Retake House" implied that congressional redistricting dramatically reduced the number of competitive seats in the House in 2002. This is not true.

Based on presidential voting patterns, the number of potentially competitive House districts (those in which the Democratic share of the major party vote was between 45 percent and 55 percent) was almost unchanged: 118 before redistricting, 114 after redistricting.

Blaming redistricting for the lack of competition in House elections is an oversimplification. A more important problem is the huge financial advantage enjoyed by incumbents, which contributed to a record 99 percent reelection rate in 2002.