Will Wilson is a former GOVERNING correspondent.E-mail: email@example.com
Recent thrashings at the ballot box have many Republicans as well as other political commentators wondering about the health of the party. Has the party shifted too far to the religious right? Or not far enough? Does the party need to get back to conservative basics? Or does it need new intellectual blood?
As often happens in American politics, the policy and philosophy questions might be informed, even upstaged, by outside factors. In this case, the salve for the GOP might come from demographics rather than reinvention.
New census estimates suggest that eight states (Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania) may lose seats in the House of Representatives, as well as electoral votes. Of those states, only Louisiana will send more Republicans than Democrats to the 111th Congress in January.
States that stand to gain following the 2010 census are Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, Utah (one seat apiece), and Texas (three seats). Of those states, Arizona and Nevada have more Democrats than Republicans among their representation. Texas currently has a 20:12 Republican to Democrat ratio.
Of course, it may be that the demgraphics shifts themselves could alter the political makeup of these states. Florida, after all, went for Bush twice, but plumped for Obama in November. surely some of that was new Floridians going the other way. That also seems a somewhat plausible explanation for Nevada's shift from red to blue in 2008, as its growth has been fueled in part by an influx of a Democratic-skewing populations. And Obama won young voters handily.
Still, it would be hard to imagine that a seat taken from New York (26-3, Democrats) or Massachusetts (100% Democratic in the House come 2009) wouldn't be more likely to go GOP in Utah or Texas.
Likely, though, the changing populations will have a feedback effect of sorts on the philosophy and policy priorities of whatever GOP makeover occurs.
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