Just days before 2020 voting begins, the Census Bureau released its latest state-by-state population projections, numbers that give us a pretty clear sense of what the electoral and congressional maps will look like after the official counting of the population this year.
And the news is very good for the Southwest and South and not at all good for the industrial Midwest and Northeast.
Texas is projected to be the biggest gainer post-2020, adding three more congressional districts due to massive population growth over the past decade. Florida, too, continued to grow at a gangbuster pace and is expected to gain two seats prior to the 2022 midterm elections.
Arizona, Colorado, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon are also projected to each gain another congressional seat.
The losers? Ten states – all of which are expected to lose a congressional district due to slower-than-average growth over the decade. That list: Alabama, California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia.
Which is interesting! But not nearly as interesting – or telling – as what you see when you take a step back and look at the longer-term population trends.
Since the 2000 census – so from 1990 to these late 2019 estimates – here are the biggest seat-gainers:
Texas (+9 seats)
North Carolina (+2)
And the biggest losers:
New York (-5 seats)
That 30-year trend is unmistakeable. The South and Southwest are growing increasingly powerful. The Rust Belt is getting rapidly weaker.
So what does this all mean for future elections – and the fates of the two parties?
Of the six biggest gainers of seats (and the potential Electoral College votes that go with them), five are states where Donald Trump won in 2016. Of the five biggest seat-losers, Trump won three in 2016 (Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan), while Hillary Clinton won the other two.
But Michigan and Pennsylvania have long been blue states in presidential elections prior to 2016 – and polling in both suggests that they may be returning to the Democratic fold in 2020.
Advantage Republicans. The one big “if” that could change that calculation? The rising competitiveness of Democrats in Texas. If the population behemoth suddenly becomes a jump ball in presidential politics, all of the smaller, more incremental gains for Republicans from population movement over the last few decades disappear.
The Point: The Northeast is the past. The Southwest is the future. Politically speaking, that is.