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The GOP’s Census problem

at 06:30 AM ET, 03/25/2011

When the Census released its reapportionment totals in December, much of the focus was on the new seats in red states, and how it was a good thing for Republicans.

The data released by Census on Thursday, though, shows how those same population shifts are creating new challenges for the GOP.

While much of the shifting population is moving to red states, there is increasing evidence that it’s making those red states bluer, and most of the demographic trends are heading in Democrats’ direction.

Census Bureau director Robert Groves summed it up best Thursday: “We are increasingly metropolitan today, our country is becoming racially and ethnically more diverse over time ... and geographically, there are a lot of areas of the country growing in number that have large minority populations.”

All three of those things suggest growing Demcoratic constituencies. Let’s look at each individually:

* The country is getting less rural: While 82.8 percent of the population in 2000 lived in metropolitan areas, that number is now 83.7 percent. A look at population changes county-by-county shows that many rural counties, especially in the solidly Republican middle of the country, actually experienced population loss over the last decade, while most of the big population growth was near big cities, where Democrats dominate.

* The country is getting more diverse: The minority population has increased dramatically to 36.3 percent and will only keep going down that path, as only a slight majority of U.S. children are white. And Republicans have major problems with minority populations. The black vote generally goes almost completely for Democrats, and even in the GOP wave in 2010, six in 10 Hispanics voted Democratic.

* The areas that are getting bigger are Democratic: A look at the states with the biggest growth over the past decade shows many of them have moved toward Democrats, including Nevada, North Carolina and Virginia (Obama was a surprise winner in all three, which had gone for President Bush in 2004). A look at the county-by-county growth in these states shows that the growth is focused in urban and Democratic areas — Las Vegas-based Clark County, Charlotte-based Mecklenburg County and the Research Triangle in North Carolina, and Northern Virginia all grew the fastest. That suggests that the growth is occuring in Democratic areas.

Now, just because Democratic-leaning demographics grow doesn’t necessarily mean Democratic voters will be created. For all we know, rural Republicans are moving into the city and making them redder.

But if Republicans want to compete in the decades to come, they need to be able to compete in metropolitan areas — likely by reasserting their dominance in the suburbs — and also be able to woo Hispanics, who now account for one in six people in the United States.

If they can’t, the demographics are just going to make it harder and harder.

Mack’s announcement: Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.) is set to make a big announcement on the Florida Senate race today.

Most speculation has it that Mack, the son of the Florida GOP senator of the same name, will announce he is running for Sen. Bill Nelson’s (D-Fla.) seat, though there was no confirmation of that on Thursday, and some Florida Republicans are skeptical.

If Mack does get in, he faces state Senate President Mike Haridopolos and is likely to face former Sen. George LeMieux and former state Rep. Adam Hasner in the primary.

Also keep an eye on Mack’s wife, Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.). She’s already got a potentially disastrous round of redistricting ahead of her, and if her husband runs for Senate, she will be on retirement watch.

Kentucky GOP governor favorite hires media consultant: Kentucky state Sen. David Williams and gubernatorial running mate Richie Farmer, the state treasurer and former University of Kentucky basketball star, have signed on the consulting firm FP1 to handle the campaign’s media for this year’s governor’s race.

“We are extremely pleased to be able to help David Williams and Richie Farmer communicate their conservative message of tough, strong leadership to voters in Kentucky,” said FP1 partner Jon Downs. “This will be a critically important race, and we look forward to electing leaders who will turn the Commonwealth around.”

Williams is the favorite in the May 17 primary against businessman Phil Moffett and Jefferson County Clerk Bobbie Holsclaw. Williams is the establishment pick while Moffett is seeking to tap into the same tea party support that led Sen. Rand Paul (R) to a sweeping primary win in 2010.

The winner will take on Gov. Steve Beshear (D) in the fall. Beshear is not being challenged for the Democratic nomination.

Williams is the first candidate inked by FP1, which launched a few weeks ago. In addition to Downs, the group’s partner are Terry Nelson, a longtime GOP operative advising the presidential bid of former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, and Danny Diaz, who advised New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk in the 2010 election.

Feinstein vulnerable?: A new Field Poll shows Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) potentially vulnerable in 2012.

For the first time since 1992, she’s below 50 percent, according to the poll. But she’s still more popular than her fellow California Democratic senator, Barbara Boxer, and she’s about as popular as Boxer was in January of 2010.

Boxer went on to win reelection by 10 points last fall against former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina (R).

Forty-six percent of Californians say they’re inclined to vote for Feinstein next year. She’s still considered fairly safe, but like Boxer, she may have to work to defend her seat.

Fixbits:

Doug Hampton, the husband of Sen. John Ensign’s (R-Nev.) mistress and a former aide and friend to Ensign, has been indicted for illegally lobbying the senator’s staff.

After Newt Gingrich was criticized for changing his position on Libya, it turns out many of his past tweets have been deleted.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) insists he honest-to-gosh hasn’t made up his mind about running for president.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, who switched from Democrat to Republican to run for governor in New York last year (and didn’t make the ballot), is not seeking reelection to his current post.

Former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.) is standing up for Sen. Ben Nelson’s (D-Neb.) vote in favor of Obama’s health care bill.

Sarah Palin posted a note on her Facebook wall Thursday night decrying media bias and arguing (as she has in recent days) that it’s best to ignore attacks: “I’ll keep correcting false reporting, and I’ll defend others to the hilt; but I won’t spend any more precious, limited time responding to personal, vulgar, sexist venom spewed my way.”

Must-reads:

Romney’s ask: Raise $50 million” — Jonathan Weisman, Wall Street Journal

Lawmakers use sports events to rake in cash” — David Ligthman, McClatchy

Introducing the $184.27 Donald J. Trump Challenge” — Steve Kornacki, Salon

Can tea party groups get behind one candidate for ‘12?” — Alan Gomez and Jackie Kucinich, USA Today

As goes Fla Hispanics in ‘12, so goes Fla.” -- Adam Smith, St. Petersburg Times

 
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