The results of the latest Census will be released on Tuesday, which has large ramifications for America's political landscape. Though the results have yet to be released, Republicans are quietly optimistic that the Northeast portion of the United States -- traditionally associated with the Democratic Party -- will lose six electoral points as Americans continue their flock from the cold North to the sunny South. The media has reported the continuous movement of Americans to the South as "grim data" for Democrats, but do the numbers actually support such conventional wisdom? The answer is a resounding "no."
A perfect example was provided by Virginia in the 2008 presidential election. Not only did Obama carry Virginia, but it was the first time a Democrat had won the state since Lyndon Johnson's 1964 crushing of Republican Barry Goldwater. There are two pivotal areas that helped turn Virginia blue for the first time in 44 years: the influence of Washington D.C.'s suburbs and the rise of minority populations.
Washington D.C.'s suburbs are one of the fastest growing areas in the United States according to Forbes magazine, and much of the increased population comes from fleeing college graduates from the Rust Belt. Arlington County alone boasts a population with 35 percent of its residents possessing a graduate level college degree. With this in mind, let's examine the voting results of Virginia for the 2008 presidential election.
Over 3.6 million people voted for either John McCain or Barack Obama in Virginia in 2008. The suburbs of Washington D.C. helped Obama capture a victory, and those suburbs consisted of three central counties. Loudoun County had roughly 138,000 voters, and Obama captured 53.7% of the vote. Fairfax County had over half a million voters cast a ballot, and Obama crushed John McCain with 60% of the tally. Prince William County added nearly 161,000 more voters, with another Obama victory at 57.6% of the vote. Even more impressive, Richmond City County, which boasts one of the largest African-American and Hispanic populations within Virginia, had nearly 92,000 votes, and Obama eviscerated John McCain with an eye-popping 79% of the vote.
Together, the suburbs of Washington D.C. and Richmond accounted for 901,915 votes, or 25% of Virginia's total voter output for the 2008 presidential election, and ultimately paved the way for a Barack Obama victory. So, what caused Virginia, the heart and soul of the Confederacy during the Civil War, to ultimately turn blue for the first time in 44 years? Perhaps Obama ran a great campaign, perhaps it was an anomaly. But the numbers tell a different story: well-educated Rust Belt youths are indeed flocking to the Sun Belt, but they're bringing their liberal-minds and votes with them. Couple that development with the rising African-American and Hispanic populations and a new voting bloc may be emerging that could potentially re-shape the entire political map of the South. It's erroneous to assume that just because the American population is shifting South that the red Southern states will increase in strength. Virginia provides an excellent case study in how the population shift could undermine the South in the long term.
Despite Virginia providing a wrench in the notion the South is turning more conservative with more Americans heading toward the Sun Belt, let's just assume for the moment the argument is true and red Southern States did indeed gain potency with the new Census numbers. Another look at the numbers shows the newest estimates would still overestimate Republican strength at a national level.
For a candidate to win the Electoral College, he or she must capture 270 points. In 2008, Barack Obama blew out John McCain by a score of 365-173. Using the new Census numbers that are being reported, let's take a look at how the 2012 presidential election would look today if Barack Obama were to lose almost all of the swing states he won in 2008. To illustrate the point, we'll say that in 2012 President Obama loses the following swing states that he won in 2008: Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Indiana, Ohio, Virginia, and North Carolina. On top of those losses, we'll subtract the six electoral college points the North lost due to population and add that to the Republican South. What's the final tally? Even if Obama suffered huge losses by being defeated in seven swing states he won in 2008, President Barack Obama would still win against the Republican challenger by a score of 280-258.
Speaking of Rust Belt youths with a graduate degree, this one from Michigan is more than willing to accept a job position from any employer looking for advanced political science knowledge.
Scott Janssen recently received a Master's in Political Science at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and is a political contributor for Damego.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.