2010 Census Reapportionment Could Give Iowa, New Hampshire Even More Power to Pick the President

The re-apportionment of congressional districts connected to the 2010 census will result in several Democratic-leaning states, such as New Jersey, Massachusetts, and New York, losing House seats. The loss of congressional members, also means these reliably blue states now have fewer votes in the Electoral College. The result could be that the early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire gain even more importance in deciding who the next president will be.

If Obama wins re-election again with 53 percent of the popular vote and 365 electoral college votes, this minor change won’t make a difference, but if the 2012 presidential contest ends extremely tight, there could be an impact.

In 2008, the tipping-point state was Colorado. If, across the nation, 4.2 percent of voters switched from Obama to John McCain, Obama still would have won with 277 electoral votes. Barely winning Colorado’s nine electoral votes would have put him over the top. If, on the other hand, just over 4.3 percent switched from Obama to McCain, he would have lost Colorado and lost the presidency with a mere 268 electoral votes.

Even if we used the new, post-2010 census map, Colorado would still serve as the tipping-point state, since, on net, the states that voted more heavily for Obama than Colorado did are going to only lose six electoral seats. Even with the new apportionment, Obama would have won 271 electoral votes, so if all things remained equal, this census change wouldn’t change the presidential election.

Of course, things change over four years, and it is unlikely a drop in Obama’s share of the vote will be perfectly consistent across the all the states–but what would happen if we see only minor fluctuation compared to 2008?

In 2008, there were three states where Obama’s relative percentage of the vote put them very close to the tipping point. They were Colorado (9), Iowa (was 7 will be 6) and New Hampshire (4) in that order. With the 2008 numbers, Obama could still have won, even without Iowa or New Hampshire, as long as he still carried Colorado. With the new electoral college makeup, though, losing any of the three could cost him re-election. Thanks to the loss of congressional districts in blue states, all three hold the possibility of being the tipping-point state in 2012.

It is conceivable that a tight 2012 election could come down to these three states. Thanks to new census data, the odds that Iowa or New Hampshire could end up the tipping point that decides the 2012 election has probably increased ever so slightly. Ironically, the two early primary states might just have become modestly even more important in deciding who our president will be.

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