Ashift­ing po­lit­i­cal land­scape

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - Don­ald Lam­bro

Demo­cratic con­trol of Congress may be thin­ner and more ten­u­ous, es­pe­cially in the long run, than post­elec­tion an­a­lysts thus far have been will­ing to ac­knowl­edge.

Democrats have a 233-to-202 ma­jor­ity in the House, but many of them picked up Repub­li­can­held seats by pa­per-thin mar­gins in a very dis­mal en­vi­ron­ment for the GOP.

For ex­am­ple: Democrats gained a to­tal of 14 House seats by less than 10,000 votes each, or roughly by a mar­gin of 5 per­cent­age points or less. Most if not all of th­ese gains were in Repub­li­can-heavy dis­tricts that, with a more fa­vor­able po­lit­i­cal cli­mate and good can­di­dates, could be back in the GOP col­umn in 2008 and likely will be.

Longer term, though, Democrats face an even big­ger elec­tion prob­lem: the on­go­ing pop­u­la­tion shifts from the North to the Sun­belt states that will ben­e­fit Repub­li­cans more than Democrats in the next decade and could also en­large the GOP’s elec­toral count in pres­i­den­tial elec­tions.

While de­mo­graphic and po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts cau­tion that Democrats have off­set the GOP’s Sun­belt ad­van­tage with new gains in the North­east and have made gains in parts of the South and South­west, they say the sheer size of the mi­gra­tion by the end of this decade will help Repub­li­cans more.

“I think on bal­ance the Republi- cans will ben­e­fit from the large num­ber of seats in the Sun­belt re­gion. They won’t get 100 per­cent of it, but more than the Democrats do,” said Merle Black, a vet­eran his­to­rian and an­a­lyst in South­ern po­lit­i­cal re­align­ment at Ge­or­gia’s Emory Univer­sity.

The sig­nif­i­cance of this con­tin­u­ing re­align­ment was re­ported this month in a study by Elec­tion Data Ser­vices, a firm that an­a­lyzes how pop­u­la­tion move­ments af­fect re­dis­trict­ing changes un­der reap­por­tion­ment.

Its pro­jec­tions of the num­ber of Amer­i­cans mov­ing from the Demo­cratic North­east to the more Repub­li­can-friendly South­ern and West­ern states “showthat seven con­gres­sional seats in 13 states have al­ready changed at this point in the decade.”

EDS fore­casts that th­ese seven — Mas­sachusetts, Penn­syl­va­nia, New York, Ohio, Iowa, Mis­souri and Louisiana — will lose House seats, and six will gain them: Florida, Ge­or­gia, Ari­zona, Ne­vada and Utah gain­ing one each and Texas get­ting two.

But in a sep­a­rate anal­y­sis, Pol­i­data, a Wash­ing­ton-area de­mo­graphic and po­lit­i­cal re­search firm, sees a larger “prob­a­ble” shift in seats from the North to the Sun­belt re­gions.

Un­der th­ese “prob­a­ble changes, there could be 13 seats shift­ing amongst 19 states, eight gain­ers and 11 losers. All the gain­ers are in the South and West and all the losers are in the East and Mid­west ex­cept Louisiana, Pol­i­data said.

The “big­gest gain­ers” would be Texas, with four ad­di­tional seats, and two each in Florida and Ari- zona. Ge­or­gia, Utah, Ne­vada, Ore­gon and Wash­ing­ton state­would each gain one.

The big­gest losers: New York and Ohio, los­ing two seats each, while Mas­sachusetts, NewJersey, Penn­syl­va­nia, Michi­gan, Illi­nois, Min­nesota, Iowa, Mis­souri and Louisiana would lose one.

Since each state’s elec­toral votes are based on its rep­re­sen­ta­tion in Congress, the shift in House seats to the Sun­belt, where Repub­li­cans are strong­est in pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, would mean in­creased clout in the Elec­toral Col­lege, too.

“Over­all, given a 2004 elec­toral vote of 286 Bush to 252 Kerry, the vote count based upon th­ese 2010 pro­jec­tions would have been 292 Bush, 246 Kerry, a gain of six for the Repub­li­can ticket,” Pol­i­data said.

How­ever, an­a­lysts who have stud­ied th­ese pro­jec­tions say that while there would be GOP House gains in the South and South­west, they note that last year’s elec­tion re­sulted in a de­cline in Repub­li­can strength in the South and a Demo­cratic in­crease in the North­east.

Mr. Black points out that the num­ber of South­ernRepub­li­can House seats fell from 82 to 77 seats, while Democrats sawtheir num­bers rise from 49 to 54.

“That dropped the Repub­li­can sur­plus in the South to 23 seats,” he said.

In the North­east, 68 House seats were held by the Democrats and only 24 by Repub­li­cans, the re­sult of a rash of GOP losses from New Hamp­shire to Penn­syl­va­nia — giv­ing Democrats a 44seat sur­plus in the re­gion.

“So for the first time in mod­ern Amer­i­can pol­i­tics, the Democrats’ lead out of the North­east is larger than the Repub­li­can lead in the South. If that con­tin­ues, it would be a ma­jor struc­tural change in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics,” he said.

An­other caveat in all this is “We don’t re­ally know the de­mo­graph­ics that are driv­ing the in and out mi­gra­tion,” says elec­tion an­a­lyst Rhodes Cook.

“Some of them could be af­flu­ent white con­ser­va­tives but they might be His­pan­ics who tend to vote more Demo­cratic.” Of course, that’s what re­dis­trict­ing can even out when the new lines are drawn, and the Repub­li­cans will be in charge of draw­ing them in states like Texas and Florida.

The bot­tom line: Democrats won in the short-term in 2006 be­cause of an un­pop­u­lar war and a spate of scan­dals, a com­bi­na­tion they will not have go­ing for them in the 2012 elec­tions. But the longer term pop­u­la­tion trend lines are work­ing to the GOP’s ad­van­tage well into the next decade and per­haps be­yond that.

Don­ald Lam­bro, chief po­lit­i­cal correspondent of The Wash­ing­ton Times, is a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.