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What the U.S. electoral map will look like in 2060

In politics, demographics are destiny -- a fact that Republicans were reminded of in the 2012 election.

President Obama continued his expansion of the electoral map in that race, carrying Virginia for the second straight election and coming within a hair's breadth of winning North Carolina for a second time. He carried Colorado easily and came closer in Georgia (an 8 point loss) than anyone expected. While Obama's gains aren't solely due to demographic changes, Obama's strength among  young voters and Hispanics is a major part of the equation.

So, what do the long term growth and in/out-migration patterns predict for the how the electoral map will look in the medium-to-distant future? Ravi Parikh, a co-founder of the analytics firm Heap, did the math and built two great maps to visualize it.(He used state-by-state population projections from Proximity One and the Huntington-Hill Method of apportionment to calculate state by state gains.)

Here are the projected changes in the electoral map by 2030:


Image courtesy of Ravi Parikh

And here's what the seat gains and losses will look like by 2060:


Image courtesy of Ravi Parikh

In short, the demographic changes that began in the 1980s -- population losses in the Northeast and Midwest, population gains in the South, Southwest and Plains -- will only accelerate over the next few decades.

By 2060, the Northeast is slated to lose six congressional seats and, if you throw Pennsylvania into that mix, the region is down nine seats. Pennsylvania currently has 18 seats and would dip to 15 by 2060.  That is a remarkable downward trend considering that in the 1930Pennsylvania had 34 House seats and even as recently as the 1980 the state had 27 seats.

On the other end of the spectrum is the state of Texas. Texas' rapid population growth won it four new seats in the 2010 reapportionment of congressional districts and by 2060 it is projected to add another six districts.  If that happens, the Texas delegation will have 42 members in 2060, second only to California's 53. (California is slated to neither gain nor lose any seats over the next five decades.)

At first glance, the gains in Texas should be a very good thing for Republicans given their recent dominance in the state. (The last Democrat to carry Texas in a presidential election was Jimmy Carter in 1976.) But, so much of Texas' growth is in the Hispanic community -- two thirds of all the population growth in Texas between 2000 and 2010 was among Latinos -- that the state is likely to grow increasingly Democratic in its voting patterns even as it becomes more and more of an electoral behemoth. (That is, of course, unless Republicans can find a way to begin to aggressively compete for Latino voters in the state and nationwide.)

Just for fun, we looked at what the 2012 election -- where Obama took 332 electoral votes to 208 for Mitt Romney -- might have looked like if it had been run under the 2060 map. Obama would still have won the election handily with 319 electoral votes to 219 for Romney. If, however, Romney had flipped Florida -- a traditional swing state -- the count would have been 289 Obama to 249 Romney.

Republicans are right then to note that the states that will grow population-wise over the next five decades are in places where they have traditionally done well at the presidential level. But, the areas of growth within those states tend to be in places and groups where Republicans have struggled in recent elections. And, even if the 2060 map were in place in 2012, Romney still loses the election by a wide margin.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.

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The Fix asks The State's political reporter where the most important region of the state is.
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