There are three significant things to say about the US House results in the South in the 2012 elections. First, Republicans showed continued strength in the region, making a net gain of seven Southern seats over their already large majority of Dixie’s House delegation. Second, combined with Republican House losses in the rest of the nation, the South now accounts for a larger share of the GOP’s majority in the Capitol’s lower chamber. And third, Republicans will be on the hot seat in 2014 in Dixie, with far more vulnerable incumbents on the ballot. All of these developments have implications for the future of American politics, and for the future of the Republican Party in particular.

First, before November 6, Republicans held 102, or 72%, of the South’s 142 seats in the US House of Representatives, to 40 for the Democrats. The GOP gained seven seats in the 2012 elections (for the time being giving two disputed contests to the Democrats, who are currently leading in both). Thus the South gained all seven of the seats added by population growth in the 2010 Census. That means a new Dixie House delegation of 109 Republicans to the Democrats’ 40. Nationwide, Democrats gained nine seats. Simple arithmetic tells you that Republican losses outside the South amounted to 16 seats. The GOP gains in the South helped offset the party’s losses elsewhere.

Second, the GOP’s gains in the South give the region 47% of the Republicans in the new House, compared with 42% in the old House. Put another way, in the old House, Southerners accounted for just over 40% of House Republicans; in the new House, they amount to just under 50%. To the extent that the GOP majority in the House has a significant role to play in the coming budget wars and other key national issues, as they surely will, the South’s Republicans almost surely must sign on to any agreements. In addition, if House Republicans help determine the future ideological course of the GOP, any amelioration of the party’s right wing stance on hot-button social issues, from abortion to gay rights, must also past muster with Dixie GOPers elected in districts that are mostly configured to put conservatives in office.

With this increased influence, however, Southern Republicans face some sobering responsibilities. If they stick to the same ol’, same ol’ no-compromise stances on tax hikes and social issues, they may find the South relegated to something like the dog-in-the-manger role it played in the old days when the Solid South was Democratic. Southern Democrats, from the end of Reconstruction until the Nixon and Reagan eras, wielded enormous power in Congress, particularly when it came to blocking civil rights legislation. But the region was virtually ignored in presidential politics – everyone knew which way it was going to go. Moreover, almost no political figure with presidential ambitions would risk his – or today, her – national following by adopting the South’s views on racial segregation.

Third, in two years, Southern Republicans will have a particular tough row to hoe when it comes to defending their share of Dixie’s House delegation.  The rule of thumb is that when a member of Congress is elected with 55% of the vote or less, then he or she is likely to face a strong challenge in the next election. In 2014, eleven Southern Republicans who fall in that potentially vulnerable category will face the voters, to only six Democrats. Five of the Republican’s vulnerable seats are held by freshmen, who are usually at greater risk of defeat than more entrenched lawmakers. On the Democratic side, four of the five at-risk House members are freshmen.

This is not to say there will not be other districts that get targeted by one party or the other. In Tennessee’s 4th District (Columbia, etc.), for example, freshman Scott DesJarlais (R), a physician, is facing new, post-election allegations about his own family’s use of abortion and is likely to face a serious battle in two years, with serious contests in both the GOP primary and the General Election. And in South Carolina’s 5th District (Rock Hill, etc.), sophomore Mick Mulvaney (R) just passed the vulnerable threshold, winning reelection with 56%, only one percentage point higher than his 2010 share of the vote. That might tempt Palmetto State Democrats.

Southern Republicans in the US House elected with 55% or less of the vote

Arkansas 2 (Little Rock, etc.) Tim Griffin (R) – 55%

Florida 2 (Tallahassee, etc.) Steve Southerland (R) – 53%

Florida 10 (Orlando, etc.) Daniel Webster (R) – 52%

Florida 16 (Sarasota, etc.) Vern Buchanan (R) – 54%

Kentucky 6 (Lexington, etc.) Andy Barr (R), freshman – 51%

North Carolina 8 (Concord, etc.) Richard Hudson (R), freshman – 54%

North Carolina 9 (Charlotte, etc.) Robert Pittenger (R), freshman – 52%

South Carolina 7 (Myrtle Beach, etc.) Tom Rice (R), freshman – 55%

Texas 14 (Galveston, etc.) Randy Weber (R), freshman – 53%

Virginia 2 ((Norfolk, etc.) Scott Rigell (R) – 54

Virginia 5 (Charlottesville, etc.) Robert Hurt (R) – 55%

Southern Democrats in the House elected with 55% or less of the vote

Florida 18 (Port St. Lucie, etc.) Patrick Murphy (D), freshman – 50%

Florida 22 (West Palm Beach, etc.) Lois Frankel (D), freshman – 55%

Florida 26 (Miami, etc.) Joe Garcia (D), freshman – 54%

Georgia 12 (Augusta, etc.) John Barrow (D) – 54%

North Carolina 7 (Lumberton, etc.) Mike McIntyre (D) – 50%

Texas 23 (San Antonio, etc.) Pete Gallego (D), freshman – 50%

–Hastings Wyman, Southern Political Report