Tuesday, December 21, 2010

2010 Census: Gains in GOP States (as expected), June Date Set for GOP Debate, Whirlwind Lame Duck Winds Down

Census -- The Count Is In
308,745,538. That's the count of all residents of the United States, according to the official 2010 census results.

Some quick background on the count for those less familiar. By constitutional mandate, every 10 years, the United States Government must conduct an "actual enumeration" (i.e. a real count) of all residents of a state. An important note is that the requirement is to count all residents and makes no mention of legality. Therefore, an attempt is made in each census to count illegal aliens and well as legal non-citizens and U.S. citizens. All residents are counted where they reside, which means that those in prison are counted in the location that the prison resides. The only somewhat exception to the "where they sleep" rule is members of the US military, who are counted in their declared home state of residence, since their military deployment (whether foreign or domestic) is not considered to impact residency.

Obviously, no count is perfect. Liberal groups have chronically complained that illegal aliens and the homeless population are chronically undercounted, and this is likely true, as these groups tend to be a combination of very difficult to locate and not particularly receptive to census-taking. In the past, liberals have proposed using a statistical sampling technique to attempt to more accurately portray the population, but the Supreme Court has ruled in the past that while sampling may be used to determine federal funding for programs (whose formulas are written by law and not constitutionally mandated), that the constitutionally mandated purposed of the census, namely the apportionment of congressional representatives and therefore electoral votes, must follow the strict "actual enumeration" process.

Congressional seats are apportioned based on the counts using a formula that is statistically complicated, but conceptually simple...each State gets at least one congressional seat and the balance are apportioned in the way that most equally distributes them relative to the population size of the states.

So with the caveat that 308.7MM people probably somewhat understates the population, let's dig into what the numbers mean from a political perspective.

As expected, the big winners are largely red states in the south and purples states out west with the big losers being the rust belt and parts of the northeast.

Here are the gainers and losers in House seats. along with my rating of the state's political leanings:
Texas (Red) +4
Florida (Purple) +2
Georgia (Red) +1
South Carolina (Red) +1
Arizona (Red/Purple) +1
Utah (Red) +1
Nevada (Purple) +1
Washington (Blue/Purple) +1

Ohio (Purple) -2
New York (Blue) -2
Pennsylvania (Blue/Purple) -1
Massachusetts (Blue) -1
New Jersey (Blue) -1
Michigan (Blue/Purple) -1
Illinois (Blue) -1
Iowa (Blue/Purple) -1
Missouri (Red/Purple) -1
Louisiana (Red) -1

Net Change Blue States: -5
Net Change Blue/Purple States: -2
Net Change Purple States: +1
Net Change Red/Purple States: 0
Net Change Red States: +6

Net Change in States Won By President Obama in 2008: -6
Net Change in States Won by Senator John McCain in 2008:+6

So, as expected, this census will be a modest boon for the GOP over the next 10 years. The other significant element of this is that in 43 states (all except the 7 which only have 1 Congressional seat), all of the district boundaries will be redrawn between now and November 2012. With Republicans in control of 29 Governorships, this process should favor the GOP, as Republicans can draw districts that concentrate the opposition and spread out the support in a way to support the election of more Republicans. In a few states, this process of Gerrymandering is limited by laws that assign responsibility for drawing districts to a panel of independent judges, but in most states, it's open season.

2012 looks to be a tough election cycle for Democrats in both Houses of congress. In the House, the redrawn districts will almost certainly favor the GOP more than before for the reasons above, and in the Senate, 2012 is an echo election to the huge Democratic gains of 2006, with 23 Democrats and the 2 Democratic-leaning Independents up for re-election and only 10 Republicans. Even more troubling in the Senate is the make-up of the seats that are up. Democrats have to defend in tough states such as Florida, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, just to name a few. Republican defenses are mostly in Red states, with Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine perhaps representing the Democrats only 3 real shots at picking up a seat.

A Stake in the Ground for the GOP Nomination
CNN, The Union Leader and WMUR will host a Republican Presidential Debate on June 7th in New Hampshire. To date, this is the earliest line in the sand that will drive the need for decisions by GOP hopefuls on whether they are in or out. June 7th is a mere five and a half months away, so expect business to pick-up briskly in the spring regarding GOP candidacies.

Of course, a big name like a Sarah Palin could duck the June debate and still get in the race later, but it would be suicide for a less well-known candidate, such as John Thune or Rick Perry to sit this one out.

The filing deadline in New Hampshire isn't until next November, but I can't imagine even a Palin waiting that long to get in the mix. And don't forget, the Iowa Caucuses precede the New Hampshire primary by a week.

Almost the End of the Road for the 111th
The last few pieces of business for the 111th Congress appear to be nearing conclusion. The Senate today agreed to a continuing resolution which would continue to fund government agencies at last year's levels through March 15th. This deal was reached after Democrats had first tried to pass some form of a full year budget, but Republicans objected, wanting the new Congress to have a say in how the money was spent (and how much.) The March 15th date was a compromise that keeps the government running but still gives the new Congress a say in the second half of the year. How House Republicans navigate this opportunity when the new Congress convenes will be an early test as to how serious they are about cutting spending. The continuing resolution passed the Senate 79-16. It is expected to easily win approval in the House later today.

The START Treaty appears to be cruising towards approval. A cloture motion today received 67 votes. The cloture motion needed only 60 votes to pass, but the treaty itself will need either 67 if everyone in the Senate votes or 66, if, as expected, Democrat Ron Wyden, who is recovering from medical treatment, sits out the vote.

On top of the 67 who voted for the cloture motion (Wyden was not present), Evan Bayh (D-IN), who did not vote on the motion, is expected to support the treaty and Judd Gregg (R-NH) is on the fence. This leaves the treaty with either 68 or 69 votes versus 66 needed, so it should easily get approved tomorrow evening when the 30 post-cloture hours are completed.

Which brings us to possibly the final piece of major business in the Senate -- the 9/11 First Responders bill. Democrats have been working to pare down the spending in the bill and adjust the funding mechanisms to be more agreeable to Republicans. It is still unclear if the bill will pass before Congress adjourns as Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has vowed to do everything in his power to slow the bill down, citing objections to the process being used to pass it and some of the funding provisions.

Really, Tom? This is the issue that you choose to take a stand on? Depriving financial relief for Ground Zero firefighters out on disability? Guess it's nice to have a safe Senate seat.

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