Aug. 1, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

In the Future, a Southern Route to the White House

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
Texas delegate John W. Allen takes in the sights at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

TAMPA, Fla. - Republicans put Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin delegates front and center at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in a nod to the vital Midwest battleground states.

But those seating arrangements stand to change drastically in just a few cycles.

A burgeoning Hispanic population, plus the migration of black voters to the South, will start to alter battleground states by 2020. The result will be dramatic changes to the electoral map in just a couple of decades.

"A decade from now, I think you'll see Arizona, Texas, Georgia for sure," said William Frey, a demographics expert at the Brookings Institution. "You have got to look at the South and West - those are the fast-growing parts of the country - and that's where the minorities are dominating the growth."

Georgia has been a reliable Republican state for most of the past three decades. All the while, the Peach State's population increased, and now Georgia has 16 electoral votes.

Most of the recent growth has been in minority communities around Atlanta - a reliable Democratic base in the state. In 1996, white voters cast 78 percent of the ballots in the general election. That number dropped to 66 percent by 2010. If that trend continues, as demographers expect, the state will be competitive in the next couple of decades.

"Georgia will be starting to get competitive in 10 years," said Bryan Tyson, a Georgia attorney and Republican redistricting expert. "In 20 years, it will definitely be competitive."

Republicans anticipated these changes on the Congressional level. In their recent redraw of the state's Congressional map, GOP officials moved two suburban Atlanta counties with growing minority populations, Rockdale and Gwinnett, into Rep. Hank Johnson's (D-Ga.) district instead of nearby Republican districts.

Texas - a political behemoth with 38 electoral votes - presents a similar situation. A Democratic presidential candidate has not carried Texas since 1976, but a competitive Lone Star State would drastically alter the electoral map.

The state is changing quickly because of explosive Hispanic growth. Over the last decade, the Hispanic community grew 65 percent, while the black community grew 22 percent.

Texas Hispanics voted in favor of the president with 63 percent in 2008, according to exit poll data from the Pew Hispanic Center. That's an increase from the mere 50 percent the Democratic nominee garnered from those voters four years earlier.

This fluctuation, Republicans argue, signals an opening for the GOP to compete for Hispanic voters.

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