Hanging over the Congressional redistricting clash that has dominated the news in recent days is this political reality (and I'm not the first to note it): Rhode Island could very well lose one of its two House seats after the next census.
An analysis by state redistricting consultant Kimball Brace shows that Rhode Island barely avoided the fate this time around. Had our official census population of 1,052,567 come in at a figure just 52,000 lower, we might talking about a Cicilline-Langevin battle in 2012 for Rhode Island's sole House seat.
As it stands, the state has the smallest Congressional districts in the nation. After the current redistricting, each of the districts should wind up with about 526,284 residents.
Brace told me that, as far as he can tell, the Great Recession actually helped Rhode Island hold onto its seats this time around. In a healthy economy, people move around quite frequently - and with Rhode Island attracting little in the way of new residents these days, it might have come up short in the population competition. Instead, migration slowed considerably during the down economy and the state held on to its two Congressmen.
Absent a Rhody Baby Boom in the next 10 years, we probably won't be so lucky in 2020. And if both Cicilline and Langevin are still around, they could be forced into a primary battle that would make the present redistricting fight look like mere prelude.
But whoever the state's two representatives are at that point, if they both decide to run, the First District Congressman will enter with a distinct advantage if the most recent 2012 redistricting plan actually passes.
That Congressman, after all, will hail from a more liberal, Democratic district - giving him a stronger base in the 2022 Democratic primary.
It's just one piece of the fallout from the redistricting plan now in the offing. For a behind-the-scenes account of the redistricting battle - and an analysis of what it all means - see my cover story in tomorrow's Phoenix. It should be up on the web site in the next few hours.