Ah, fun with numbers. There’s nothing like it in the field of politics. Usually, we manipulate the numbers of public opinion polls, but this week we’ll crunch some population data instead.

Last week the Crystal Ball’s David Wasserman went further than anyone has in projecting out the states’ estimated gains and losses in the U.S. House of Representatives–all the way to 2030. [See this chart.] Some states will record stunning gains over the next three Censuses combined: Florida (+9 House seats), Texas (+8), and Arizona (+5). Other states have modest additions: California (+3), Nevada (+2), North Carolina (+2), and one each for Georgia, Oregon, Utah, Virginia, and Washington. The big losers are New York (-6), Ohio (-4), Pennsylvania (-4), and Illinois (-3). Massachusetts and Michigan both lose 2 House seats, and 12 states lose one House seat: Alabama, Connecticut, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, Rhode Island, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. All told, 11 states gain seats at the expense of 18 states that drop House representation.

The regional pattern is stark, a continuance of the rise of the Sunbelt and the fall of the Frostbelt that we have seen since the 1960s. The Northeast yields up 15 seats, and the Midwest drops another 14 seats. While a few Southern and Border States lose a seat, the overall net gain for the South is 17 seats. The West gains 13 seats. These figures have enormous consequences for the economies of the various regions, not to mention the government aid formulas that fund everything from transportation to homeland security. The rich will get richer and the poor ever poorer.

Republicans haven’t had much to cheer about lately, given President Bush’s low popularity and the continuing disaster of the Iraq War. These Census figures may be the tonic, though. If the 2004 Bush-Kerry election were taken as a basic measure of party strength, then Democrats would be in deep trouble for the future, and the Republicans could pop the champagne corks. Let’s remember that every additional House seat adds an electoral vote to the state’s total; losses do the opposite. Blue States from ’04 will lose a net total of 16 Electoral Votes, while the Red States will gain 17 (The difference of one in Blue’s favor comes from the District of Columbia, since we are assuming that by 2030, or much earlier, the District’s lone delegate will have been made a full voting member of the House. A serious effort in that direction is underway now.)

The key word in the last paragraph was “if“–because, while the population trends may be surprisingly static, the political trends are not. Among the states adding electoral votes, some 2004 Red States are demonstrating Blue-ish or Purplish trends already, including Arizona, Iowa, New Mexico, and Virginia. It is also easy to see how states such as Colorado, Nevada, and Florida will be more Democratic in future presidential elections. Even Texas, with a growing Democratic Hispanic population is not immune from the Blue trend by 2030.

By no means are population losses being recorded only in Democratic states. Some reliably GOP states will lose people and electoral votes, too, including Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, and Nebraska. Ohio and West Virginia, which have voted Republican in the last two elections, are also on the downslide. These two states could flip to the Democrats in 2008 and beyond, though, so the impact of their population declines is less clear.

Old-timers will recall the theories of electoral supremacy that supposedly guaranteed the Republicans a lease on the White House. First, Kevin Phillips in The Emerging Republican Majority, published in 1969, and then political analyst Horace Busby in the 1980s, foresaw an unbreakable lock for the GOP in the Electoral College, mainly because of the party’s supremacy in the South and West. If those theories were ever valid, they are true no longer. Most Americans now care too little about party affiliation for that. Strong competition will continue to be the rule, especially in years without an incumbent President running. In a two-party system, voters like to alternate the Presidency between the parties at regular intervals. Moreover, as we have just suggested, many individual states drift and shift in one partisan direction or the other over time.

The House and Electoral Vote gains and losses from region to region over the next few decades are eye-catching, even spectacular. Psychologically, these changes can have an effect on a state’s or region’s image of itself: size matters, and either a place is on the move or not. But it is highly doubtful that these numbers will push America toward a presidential system dominated by one party.

We see a more personal lesson for ambitious politicians-to-be. (Attention, students!) If you fancy yourself a future member of Congress, you might want to look for employment in a growing suburb or exurb of one of the states destined to pick up a large number of House seats. It is much simpler to get elected in a state of plenty than of want. Plus, states with burgeoning populations welcome newcomers and seldom penalize a candidate for not having been born in the state. Just a suggestion, totally free of charge, from your friendly Crystal Ball!

Crystal Ball Future Reapportionment Projections for 2030, by Region

The South

State Total Change in House Seats, 2007 to 2030
Alabama -1
Florida +9
Georgia +1
Kentucky -1
Louisiana -1
North Carolina +2
South Carolina
Texas +8
Virginia +1
West Virginia -1

The Northeast

State Total Change in House Seats, 2007 to 2030
Connecticut -1
District of Columbia +1
Massachusetts -2
New Hampshire
New Jersey -1
New York -6
Pennsylvania -4
Rhode Island -1

The Midwest

State Total Change in House Seats, 2007 to 2030
Illinois -3
Indiana -1
Iowa -1
Michigan -2
Missouri -1
Nebraska -1
North Dakota
Ohio -4
South Dakota
Wisconsin -1

The West

State Total Change in House Seats, 2007 to 2030
Arizona +5
California +3
Nevada +2
New Mexico
Oregon +1
Utah +1
Washington +1

Sources: Official U.S. Census Bureau Projections and U.Va. Center for Politics Calculations