Gov. Rendell & Fmr. Rep. Davis on Reapportionment

Gov. Rendell & Fmr. Rep. Davis on Reapportionment

By John King, USA - December 21, 2010

KING: Apportionment hardly sounds sexy, but it is the central mission of the census our government conducts every 10 years to count how many of us live here in the United States, and then apportions seats in the House of Representatives based on those state by state numbers.

So let's dig deeper into the new numbers released just today with political pros who know just how important they are to the next decade of American politics. Pennsylvania Democratic Governor Ed Rendell and former Republican Congressman Tom Davis from Virginia.

And before we talk, let me just go over here to the map, you guys can take a peak. Just to show the big changes from the census, when it comes to this is just the House of Representatives. Apportionment, we call it. The green states here, they are all going to gain. Washington State gets a seat. Nevada gets one. Texas gets four, that is the biggest winner. Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, gets two. If these states are winning, somebody has to lose. That's how it works, 435 seats total.

Look at this, the losses-with the exception of Louisiana, a bit of Katrina impact there-up here, the Northeast and the Rust Belt. New York loses two, Ohio loses two. Massachusetts, New Jersey, Governor Rendell, your state loses one.

So as I come on back over, when you look at that map, the losses tend to be, from states that Obama won, where Democrats have done well, and the gains are in states not without exception, but mostly in states where Republicans have done well, historically and especially this past year.

Short-term, Governor, is this not a big win for Republicans?

GOV. ED RENDELL, FMR. GOVERNOR OF PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I think for Congress, yes, because the Republicans will control redistricting. And redistricting is the key. But for 2012, for example, I think this is good news for President Obama, because where you look at the states that have grown population, it's mostly dominated by growth in Latino citizens, and Latino citizens, given the current atmosphere, are likely to vote Democrat with a vengeance in 2012. And so I think Arizona, Colorado and Nevada, Florida, states like that, are definitely in play and Obama can win them again.

KING: To follow on that point, focusing on 2012 and the Latino vote, the governor said based on the climate, you know, after the midterm elections a lot of these new Republican governors, a lot of them say they will copy the Arizona law. And you are going to see six or eight or ten states having that debate. Harmful to your party?

TOM DAVIS, (R) FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: It just depends on how it governs. A lot of it is going to depend on where the economy is. There is going to be a lot of conflicting issues going into this. The bottom line is, you move from Obama states down to McCain states, for the most part. So on the electoral college map it probably helps the Republicans short term.

KING: If the new electoral map were in place in 2008, Obama would lose six electoral votes. Not enough, of course, to change the election but it is a bit of a trend.

RENDELL: But that is assuming he doesn't pick up some states because of the increase in the Latino population. You said something before you went on the air, John. It is more tone than substance with Latino voters. It's tone. Every state legislature there is someone with an R behind their name trying to bang Latinos, trying to make immigration more difficult, trying to get rid of illegals, do those things. It's tone. Latinos are getting it. Will they register and vote? I believe they will. They did in Pennsylvania, in the 2010 election, which is why Joe Sestak almost won.

KING: That is the debate up here. The debate in the next several months is going to be who draws the line? That's why this recent, just-past midterm election is so important.

RENDELL: Brutal lessons.

KING: Because let's look at it, you use the term brutal. I think that might even be an understatement; 18 states either gain or loose seats. When you look through, nine of them have Republican governors and Republican controlled legislatures. That is enormous power heading into redistricting. Half of the states, that either gain or loose, have pretty much total Republican control of the process, barring legal challenges.

In another four states you have Republican governors, but not Republican legislatures, but at least the governor has a veto pen and some influence in the process. Tom Davis if I'm redrawing congressional lines and then the state legislative lines as part of this as well, and I'm a Republican, I'm looking right now and saying this is a big, big advantage.

DAVIS: More importantly they can solidify the seats they won this time, where they over performed. This will give them a chance to pick up a few seats but to solidify their marginal seats that they have this time. That's is kind of the hidden issue for Republicans. It will be harder to unseat those incumbents when they add Republicans to those districts.

RENDELL: Maybe, but one of my favorite sayings in literature, Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered. In Pennsylvania 10 years ago the Republicans tried to be hogs. Tried to pick up four or five seats and wound up stretching their margin so thin they got beat badly.

KING: What's it tell us about our national politics, though, when you do see the demographic, the population migration leaving the Rust Belt states, the industrial states, the Ohios, the Illinois, the New Yorks, the Pennsylvanias, and going into the Southwest? What does that tell you about the issues dynamic?

DAVIS: Well, they are going to the right-to-work states. They are going to states where the jobs are. It's a migration to jobs for the most part. The Rust Belt, the young people are leaving in droves. This is a reflection of that, plus the immigration from south of border that is going into those border states.

RENDELL: I don't know, if Tom I think is right generally, I'm not sure that's an across the board characterization. Pennsylvania had it, from a congressional standpoint, its best census since 1940, in every prior census we lost multiple seats. This time we only lost one seat, we grew by almost 4 percent. So, I think it depends on the dynamic. I actually think people are going to warm weather. I think a lot of this when we break it down, will be older Americans who are living longer, moving down to warm weather states.

KING: Take us inside the process. When you were the chairman the House Congressional Campaign Committees you cared about the apportionment and who was in charge because you want to draw the lines so you could win more seats. When you are a governor, of course, you are trying to say, A, if you've got the legislature, let's maximize this to our advantage. Or if you don't, I've got this pen, so you have to kind of deal with me. If you're the Republicans right now and you are looking today at data that is very favorable to you, what is the immediate challenge not to overplay your hand?

DAVIS: Not to overplay, you want to solidify the seats you have picked up first. They did make a mistake in Pennsylvania, where they tried to over perform. You can't sustain it. This redistricting will last for maybe a couple cycles and then issue changes and demographic changes start to take their place. And if you draw the lines too generously, you can get hurt.

I think in this particular case you're going to be looking at solidifying their gains and then picking up a few seats. And makes control of the House harder for Democrats if that's what they follow. If they try to be hogs, as the governor said, it could backfire on you, because this is a very fickle electorate right now. We don't know where they'll be in two years.

KING: In places where the Democrats maybe have a governor, with a pen, a veto pen, how important is that to pressure the process?

RENDELL: It's important. Because it's a balance, and can you try to draw fair lines, fair to both parties. I don't think redistricting should be done politically. I think it should be done by citizens committees that aren't beholden to the parties. But if it is going to be done that way, it is important to have a veto. But I will tell you one thing, John, what these figures say to me, a state like Texas, I think Texas will go Democrat and the presidential election fairly soon will start to see Texas Democratic senators and Democratic governor again.

KING: You believe that because of the growth in the Latino population.

RENDELL: No question.

KING: And yet right now that another big huge year for Republican right there. So how do you take your short-term win and all that power and address what is a very significant threat that highlights the Republic of Texas?

DAVIS: The governor is right over the long-term. In the short term, remember, illegals and legals, they all count the same in the census at this point. So in some of these cases you have people there, but they're not eligible to be registered, or they are not registered. That will be a challenge for the Democratic Party and the Obama campaign.

KING: Let me ask you both a question, in just completely different issue since I have you in here right now.

The governor of Mississippi Haley Barbour is in some controversy because of things said about the civil rights movement. He gave an interview with "The Weekly Standard". He was talking about these citizens councils in the states and he said, oh, the civil rights movement didn't seem like that big of a thing to me at the time. Strike you as odd? He's getting a lot of criticism in the conservative blogs. He issued a statement today, you know, he was against racism. Proud of the civil rights movement. Not trying to minimize the insensitivity of anything.

DAVIS: I think he was talking about his home town, where in Yazoo City, it actually went smoother than it did across the rest of the south. And if you read the whole article, he's focusing on what happened in his town, where the citizen's council were a positive force. But look, he's from Mississippi. He has got to be careful with what he says. But I think this is just the issue du jour and he has plenty of time to recover. I think he'll be viable if he runs.

KING: Is he viable? (ph).

RENDELL: Yes, I agree with Tom. Haley Barbour is not a racist in any way shape or form. Haley likes to talk, as I do, and sometimes puts his foot in it. But he's a good guy and he would be a good credible candidate.

KING: Good, credible candidate? Look at that, that is almost an endorsement, right?

RENDELL: Oh, he doesn't want my endorsement.


KING: Tom Davis, Governor Rendell, thanks for coming in.


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