* Census data shows population shift to South and West
* Democratic-leaning states lose U.S. House seats
By John Whitesides
WASHINGTON, Dec 21 Republican-leaning states in
the U.S. South and West will gain political clout from U.S.
population figures released on Tuesday, dealing a blow to
President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats that could
linger for years.
The Census estimates show a population shift from
Democratic-leaning states in the Northeast and Midwest to
Republican strongholds like Texas, Utah and South Carolina,
giving those states more seats in the U.S. House of
The new figures, also could play a role in the 2012 White
House race. The number of House seats determines each state's
representation in the Electoral College, which is used to elect
The release of the figures kicks off the once-a-decade,
state-by-state fight over redrawing congressional lines to
ensure each House district represents roughly the same number
of people, as required by the U.S. Constitution.
The process, known as redistricting, is intensely partisan
in many states as the parties fight to draw the boundaries in a
way that makes each of the 435 House districts more reliably
Republican or Democratic.
States that gained seats must determine where to place the
new districts, with the dominant party in each state looking
for maximum political advantage. States that lost seats will
decide which districts to combine, meaning some House
incumbents will have to face each other in the 2012 election.
"Now everyone can start to figure out who has a target on
their back," said Tim Storey, a redistricting expert at the
National Conference of State Legislatures.
The figures were released by the Census Bureau in its 2010
national population survey, conducted every 10 years.
PRO-OBAMA STATES LOSE
Much of the population shift came from more Democratic
states won by Obama in the 2008 presidential election to more
conservative states won by Republican presidential candidate
Of the eight states that gain at least one seat, five were
won by McCain. Staunchly Republican Texas will gain four House
seats, helped by a growing Hispanic population, while Arizona,
Utah, Georgia and South Carolina -- all reliably conservative
-- will pick up one each.
Three states won by Obama in 2008 gained seats -- Florida,
which picks up two, and Washington and Nevada, which gain one
In 2008, Obama won eight of the 10 states losing seats,
including New York and Ohio, which will lose two each. Losing
one seat will be Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Pennsylvania,
Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan and New Jersey.
The states won by McCain that lose a seat are Missouri and
Louisiana, which suffered a population drop after Hurricane
Katrina in 2005.
The changes in House apportionment mean Obama could face a
slightly tougher electoral map when he seeks re-election in
"If it was a really close race for the White House, this
could be the difference," Storey said.
(Editing by Vicki Allen)