LANSING, Mich. — Michigan's 14th congressional district looks like a jagged letter "S" laying on its side.
From Detroit, one of the nation's most Democratic cities, it meanders to the west, north and east, scooping up the black- majority cities of Southfield and Pontiac while bending sharply to avoid Bloomfield Hills, the affluent suburb where 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was raised.
Its unusual shape is intentional. Michigan Republicans, seeking to maximize their political strength, drew the district lines — and the residential patterns of Democratic voters made their job easier.
Michigan's 14th district underscores how Democrats nationwide are bunched in big metropolitan areas, resulting in the party's House candidates often winning by wide margins on Election Day while Republicans capture more seats because their voters are spread out.
It's a prime reason Democrats fell 17 seats short of winning a House majority in 2012, even as their congressional candidates drew about 1.4 million more votes than Republicans nationwide, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News. And it will hinder the Democrats from regaining control of the chamber in 2014. The House now has 232 Republicans and 200 Democrats, with three vacancies.
"A big part of why Republicans are able to win a majority of congressional seats, even in swing states, is because of very inefficient geographic concentration of Democratic voters, particularly in urban areas," said Jowei Chen, a political scientist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
The election results mean House Republicans will have the power to block or demand amendments to President Barack Obama's agenda.
That tension between a White House controlled by one party and a House run by another will be on display during the deficit reduction talks in coming months as Obama advocates a combination of spending cuts and new revenues. That position was favored by 67 percent of Americans in a CNN/Orc International poll conducted Nov. 16, two weeks after voters re-elected Obama. Republican House members this month unveiled a budget that would eliminate the deficit in 10 years by cutting $4.6 trillion and using no new tax revenue.