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Democrats Spin Census Data as Both Parties See Gains and Losses

Democrats are spinning the reapportionment figures released by the Census Bureau on Tuesday as net positives, with both Democrats and Republicans looking for an edge heading into the 2012 presidential and Congressional elections.

On the surface, the trend of continued population migration from the Midwest and Northeast to the South and West appears to benefit the Republican Party, which dominated much of the South and scored several more Democratic seats in the West in the midterm elections.

Census Bureau Director Robert Groves said at a National Press Club event Tuesday morning that there has been a net shift of 79 seats to the South and West since 1940, with 12 of those moving in 2010.

But Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.) said a closer look at the population statistics illustrates growth in Democratic areas within Republican-leaning states.

“Today’s release of U.S. Census data pours cold water on Republicans’ hype that redistricting is a disaster for Democrats,” Israel said in a statement Tuesday. “Democratic communities and constituencies have grown in size in states like Arizona, Florida, Nevada, and Washington.”

Democrats believe the growth will be in the suburbs and in areas that are heavily Hispanic, constituencies that have favored them in some elections. President Barack Obama won in 2008 in part by earning support from Hispanics in Florida and Nevada, states that had voted for Republican presidential nominees in the previous elections. Obama’s campaign team said in 2008 that it had believed Arizona would be competitive in the general election but abandoned a strong effort there when Arizona Sen. John McCain became the GOP nominee.

In Ohio, Republicans picked up five seats in the midterms, but the state will lose two seats to reapportionment. After the GOP saw a net gain of 63 seats nationwide, the same could happen to the party elsewhere too.

“In states that will lose a seat, the number of Republicans who will be competing with each other creates opportunities for House Democrats,” Israel said.

Democrats are in danger of losing seats as well. Until redistricting, though, where those battles exist is up for conjecture. Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman named 20 Members or soon-to-be Members whose seats could be in jeopardy: 11 Democrats and nine Republicans.

They are Republicans Rep.-elect Bobby Schilling and Aaron Schock in Illinois; Leonard Boswell (D) and Tom Latham (R) in Iowa; Republicans Jeff Landry and Rodney Alexander in Louisiana; Democrats John Olver and Niki Tsongas in Massachusetts; Democrats Gary Peters and Sander Levin in Michigan; Todd Akin (R) and Russ Carnahan (D) in Missouri; Leonard Lance (R) and Rush Holt (D) in New Jersey; Rep.-elect Ann Marie Buerkle (R) and Joe Crowley (D) in New York; Bill Johnson (R) and Betty Sutton (D) in Ohio; and Democrats Jason Altmire and Mark Critz in Pennsylvania.

“The numbers confirm population growth in traditionally Republican states, but this is only the beginning of a long process we plan to monitor closely with each Congressional delegation,” National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Paul Lindsay told Roll Call.

NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions will see his home state of Texas gain four seats, which not only increases the size of the Congressional delegation but also its influence on the Electoral College.

Indicating his influence on the redistricting process in Texas, Sessions said in a Dallas radio interview Tuesday that he will “be looking over the horizon and developing some thoughtful processes that would better the position of our party.”

In Florida, which added two seats to its current 25, the state Democratic Party celebrated the news as a positive for the state.

“This news not only increases Florida’s influence in Congress but also ensures that the Sunshine State will continue playing our critical role in presidential elections as the largest and most important swing state,” Florida Democratic Party Executive Director Scott Arceneaux said.

Pennsylvania lost a seat for the ninth straight time. The Keystone State will have 18 seats after peaking at 36 seats 100 years ago.

“Today is a sad day for Pennsylvania as we are faced with the reality that we have lost a voice in Congress,” Pennsylvania GOP Chairman Rob Gleason said. “Even though today’s announcement means a loss for Pennsylvanians, we are confident that the fresh direction forged by [Gov.-elect Tom Corbett’s] administration and our new Republican leadership will result in more jobs and more opportunities for our Commonwealth to grow in the years ahead.”

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