Analysis: Why the Sun Belt may pick the next president
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fairly difficult
The battleground states across the industrial Midwest have functioned as the decisive tipping point of American politics for at least 30 years, especially in presidential elections. But the latest Census Bureau findings on both overall population growth and voter turnout in 2020 signal that the Sun Belt will increasingly rival, and potentially replace, the Rust Belt as the central battlefield in US elections.

Continuing a decades-long trend, the latest census numbers on total growth show a shift in population, and with it Electoral College votes and seats in the House of Representatives , away from Rust Belt states in the Northeast and upper Midwest -- such as Ohio and Pennsylvania -- toward Sun Belt states across the South and West -- like North Carolina, Texas and Colorado.

Simultaneously, the new census results on voting show that compared with the Rust Belt, the electorate in the Sun Belt is evolving more rapidly in a direction that benefits Democrats, with a growing share of non-White voters and a shrinking share of blue-collar Whites. That means the Sun Belt states, most of which leaned solidly Republican until recently, are likely to grow more competitive, even as their clout in the House and Electoral College steadily increases.

While the Rust Belt states are likely to remain closely contested in presidential elections as well, the continued dominance there of blue-collar Whites, who have emerged as the undisputed cornerstone of the GOP coalition in the Donald Trump era, could make those places more difficult over time for Democrats to hold, particularly if the party transitions to a more racially diverse cast of national leaders after President Joe Biden

As the Rust Belt states become more challenging and the Sun Belt states more influential, the Democrats' ability to compete for the White House and control of Congress through the 2020s may increasingly turn on whether the party can continue the advance across the region that brought breakthroughs first in Colorado Virginia and Nevada and more recently in Arizona and Georgia

"Demographically it's just going to be harder and harder to win those Rust Belt states," says Andrew Baumann, a Democratic pollster based in Denver. "What's going to happen after Biden? You are going to need someone who is going to be able to expand the map and win some of those other [Sun Belt] states."

The big new census…
Analysis by Ronald Brownstein
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