Another NYTimes story on redistricting and its effects on elections...
On the Electoral Map, a Few Pins Might Move
By MICHAEL D. SHEAR
Odds are President Obama may have already lost six electoral votes and his re-election campaign hasn’t even begun.
New estimates released this week, based on the latest Census data, suggest that states in the Midwest and Northeast, which are generally Democratic-leaning areas, will likely have fewer Congressional representatives after redistricting, while others in the South and West that tend to favor Republicans will gain members of Congress.
But the shifting map also has implications for Mr. Obama’s re-election, since presidential electoral votes are based on the number of lawmakers who hail from each state.
Mr. Obama largely swept the Northeast and Midwest in 2008, so population losses there mean that a repeat of his strong performance in 2012 will net him 10 fewer electoral votes from the region.
That would not have made much difference in 2008, when Mr. Obama piled up 365 electoral votes to the 173 for Senator John McCain of Arizona. A 355-183 electoral vote result would have still comfortably made him president.
But there are reasons to believe that the 2012 contest could be far closer than the 2008 one, returning to a pattern that held for much of the last two decades.
In 2000 and 2004, both parties fought over every electoral vote: George W. Bush won by 35 electoral votes in 2004 and by only five in 2000.
“We’re likely to get back to the much closer model of elections in 2012,” predicts the Democratic strategist Tad Devine, who was a top strategist for Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts in 2004 and has spent years studying electoral maps. “It’s a loss for our side. There’s no doubt about it when you look at who’s gaining votes and who’s losing votes.”
Mr. Obama did win a few states in 2008 where population – and electoral votes – are expected to grow. Nevada and Washington will likely each gain one electoral vote and Florida will add two.
But most of the places where electoral strength is growing are “red states,” where Mr. McCain won and where Republicans are likely to continue winning: Texas (plus four), and Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina and Utah (plus one each). Louisiana and Missouri, where Mr. McCain won, are each expected to lose an electoral vote.
As both parties begin planning for the presidential campaign next year, each side starts with a number of states they believe they can count on winning again. The new population shifts mean the Democrats start with fewer electoral votes in their column, and the Republicans start with more.
The problem for Democrats, Mr. Devine said, “is when that list starts looking more like it did in the 1990s or 2000, 2004.”
“That’s kind of the real electoral list, when it was even-steven and you’re fighting for every electoral vote,” he added.
Mr. Devine said that Mr. Obama’s final electoral map will depend on many factors, including who his opponent is, the fund-raising prowess of the Republican party, the state of the economy at the time of the election and the success Mr. Obama has in overcoming the criticism that has depressed his popularity in recent months.
And some population changes are likely to help Mr. Obama, as well. In particular, the growth of the Hispanic population in places like Arizona, Florida, Nevada and New Mexico are positive for Democrats. Surveys also suggest that the Republican position on immigration continues to drive Hispanic support to Democrats.
White House aides and Democratic National Committee officials did not respond to requests to discuss the electoral map. Mr. Obama has not yet announced whether he will run for re-election, and Democratic officials are keenly aware that they should not appear to be focused on 2012 before the 2010 elections are over.
But the political team inside the West Wing is surely keeping a close eye on the electoral map, and how the country’s shifting population might help or hurt them.