Some analysts who track population shifts believe the gradual relocation of Northerners to the South and West means good things politically for Republicans in those destination states. I’m not so sure.
United Van Lines released its respected annual migration study Monday, based upon the movements of its customers during the previous 12 months. The company ranks the states according to the highest numbers of inbound and outbound moves, and last year found that eight of the top 10 receiver states were in the South or West. North Carolina topped the list for new addressees, as 64 percent of United’s moves related to the Tar Heel state were inbound.
Also in a Monday story on population shifts, the Washington Times reported that some believe “Democrats have offset the Republicans’ Sun Belt advantage with gains in the Northeast and parts of the South and Southwest, but that the size of the migration by the end of this decade likely will give the edge to Republicans.”
Among others, the Times cited findings by demographic and political research firm Polidata, which projects a net transfer of 13 House seats from Northern states to Southern states (except Louisiana, where the Hurricane Katrina fallout is expected to cost it one seat) after the 2010 Census.
“I think on balance the Republicans will benefit from the larger number of seats in the Sun Belt region,” said Merle Black, an Emory University expert on Southern politics, to the Times. “They won’t get 100 percent of it, but more than the Democrats do.”
There are two ways (maybe a real political scientist would find more) to look at these migratory patterns: either the increased Southern population will inflate the existing regional advantage held by Republicans, or the transplants from the North will carry their Democrat allegiances to their new homes. There is probably more nuance to it than that, but the effective result I believe will more likely lead to the latter.
The 2006 election isn’t a clear indicator, but the signs aren’t encouraging for Republicans. Some advances by Democrats were made in the South and West (eight of the 31 seats that switched from the GOP came from those territories), but those don’t necessarily reflect the population shifts. The congressional overhaul, concentrated on vulnerable Republicans in the Northeast and Midwest, was more evidence of anger towards the GOP rather than geographical change.
But there is definite Democrat seepage into former Republican strongholds. New Hampshire, with many transplants from Massachusetts, is now a blue state. Stalwart GOP Reps. Nancy Johnson of Connecticut and Jim Leach of Iowa lost. A Virginia Senate seat regarded as a Republican lock was taken by Democrat James Webb.
Some of that Democrat leak bled into the “pure” South and West also. As the Wall Street Journal‘s Brendan Miniter notes, Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico and Wyoming all have Democrat governors now. Among the eight House switches to Democrat were North Carolina’s 11th District, in which Heath Shuler overtook eight-term Republican Rep. Charles Taylor. Seven-term Rep. Henry Bonilla lost in Texas’s 23rd District in a run-off. And J.D. Hayworth, a product of the 1994 Republican revolution, lost Arizona’s 5th District to his Democrat opponent.
True, the congressional losses aren’t automatically attributable to a transformation in the political philosophy of those districts. Even though those incumbents rarely had serious challenges in the past, this year the palpable dissatisfaction with Republicans overwhelmed their power base.
But combined with adjustments made by Democrats, who found some appealing (and less liberal) candidates in key districts, the new geographical alignment could pay greater dividends for them come 2012 — after new redistricting.
Polidata projects Texas to gain four House seats; Florida and Arizona two each. Georgia, Utah, Nevada, Oregon and Washington are expected to gain one each. None of those states, save maybe Utah, has shown an aversion to the election of Democrats at times. The migration of this decade could solidify Democratic prospects and change their outlook in the South and West.
Meanwhile New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, all population powerhouses from the North, are expected to lose House seats by 2012. And intrusive government policies such as anti-smoking legislation, global warming alarmism, and minimum wage hikes are trickling geographically downward and leftward.
Have the Yankees regulated, taxed, and governed themselves out of their own livability? They may have set their sights on those of us in sunnier climes, seeking new prey to devour with their nanny-statism. Watch 2012 (more than 2008) to get a real measure of how successfully they have spread their meddlesome worldview and politics.