There is no shortage of projections on how the 435 House seats will be reapportioned following the 2010 Census and like anything else, they range from modest changes to volatile, far-reaching changes. [And you can also see Nate Silver's attempts to update the 2007 projections -- the basis of both the linked projections above -- here.] What's funny is that both the links cite the same source, Election Data Services, yet describe very different projections. Well, the CQ article cites EDS while The Washington Times uses a combination of the EDS projections and those from Polidata. The Polidata end seems to be adding all the volatility. As such, I'm going to lean on the more conservative EDS projection (Silver's is in between but closer to EDS.).
[Alright, get to the point. How's the map going to look in four years?]
Well, here you go, complete with map and seat gains/losses:
I jokingly ended the electoral college map slideshow with a blank map that had the election date of the 2012 election on it. But that one wasn't accurate; it didn't reflect the changes due to reapportionment that will happen between now and 2012. So what do we know about the changes? As all the articles that discuss the upcoming apportionment typically say, the South and southwest gain while the Rust Belt and into the northeast states continue to lose seats. But a blank map isn't really telling you a whole lot, is it? How about a real world application?
What would the McCain-Obama contest have looked like if this projected 2012 map was used instead? [Well, I made that one too.]
McCain would gain three electoral votes on Obama and that is it. For the record, the Polidata projection, wacky as it is, would only yield McCain a few additional electoral votes. In a year that tilts toward the Democrats, those changes are manageable, but in a year with conditions triggering a more competitive contest, those changes might help the GOP. Then again, if the changes in Colorado and Nevada are lasting, Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia remain competitive, and Arizona and Georgia continue to trend toward the Democratic Party, they may benefit the Democrats.
UPDATE: One other way we can look at the changes more in-depth is to examine how that six electoral vote shift toward McCain in the projected 2012 apportionment changes the outlook on the Electoral College Spectrum. So, we can see how/if the campaigns' target states would have shifted if the map was different.
In September 2008, there was a time when Colorado or New Hampshire would have put Obama or McCain over the top in the electoral college. If Obama had won all the states favoring him up to and including Colorado the president-elect would have netted 269 electoral votes. The same was true of John McCain in terms of New Hampshire. Obama would have needed New Hampshire and McCain would have needed Colorado to cross the 270 electoral vote threshold. But Colorado eventually swapped positions with New Hampshire and moved into sole possession of the "victory line" distinction. To win Colorado, then, meant that the winner was the victor in the presidential race (...if they won the other states ranked behind the Centennial state).
Would that have been the case, though, if the 2012 map were in place for this past election?
|The Electoral College Spectrum*|
|*Follow the link for a detailed explanation on how to read the Electoral College Spectrum.|
**The numbers in the parentheses refer to the number of electoral votes a candidate would have if he won all the states ranked prior to that state. If, for example, McCain won all the states up to and including Colorado (all Obama's toss up states plus Colorado), he would have 274 electoral votes. Both candidates numbers are only totaled through their rival's toss up states. In those cases, Obama's number is on the left and McCain's is on the right in italics.
***The point between Colorado and Virginia is where Obama crosses (or McCain would cross) the 270 electoral vote threshold to win the presidential election. Obama would need Virginia and McCain would have needed Colorado to have surpassed that barrier. That line is referred to as the victory line. Under the actual 2008 electoral college distribution, Colorado was the state that each candidate needed to cross 270.
Well, no. That reapportionment-triggered shift toward McCain would have brought Virginia into the mix on the cycle's final Electoral College Spectrum. As was the case in the Colorado/New Hampshire situation, no one state would have been the Victory Line state. Instead, the possibility of an electoral college tie would have been put on the table. Both Virginia and Colorado would have to be won fo either of the candidates to pass the 270 electoral vote barrier. Of course, Obama won and held a six state cushion beyond that, but if the race had been, say, five or six points closer, Virginia would have been in play and the likelihood of an electoral college tie would have increased substantially.
The R Word: Was 2008 a Realigning Election?
2008 Electoral College Wrap Up
How Stuff Works: An Alaska Vacancy in the US Senate