Iowa’s influence on presidential politics is in the spotlight right now, with its caucuses now just 37 days away, on January 3, 2008. The winner of each party’s caucus is by no means guaranteed to go on and win the nomination, but a surprise showing can go a long way in propelling a candidate with the momentum he or she needs to remain competitive throughout the rest of January and into the Super Tuesday primaries of February 5th when voters in as many as 20 states will go to the polls.
Despite Iowa’s role in the presidential selection process, the influence of that state, and the Upper Midwest generally, has been waning over the decades as populations here stagnate relative to the rest of the country. As a result, through reapportionment, the level of representation of Upper Midwestern states in the U.S. House is about to reach a low water mark not seen since the 1870s.
Iowa is currently projected to lose one seat in the 2012 reapportionment, which would bring its total down to 4 seats—its lowest total since the 1850s, when it sent two representatives to the House.
Should Iowa lose a seat, the political battleground states of Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin will only send 20 representatives to the House, a drop of nearly 40 percent of its level of representation in the 1920s when the three states sent 32 representatives to the lower chamber on the Hill.
The voice of Upper Midwesterners has been gradually watered down ever since—dropping to 28 seats in the 1930s, 27 seats in the 1940s, 25 seats in the 1960s, 23 seats in the 1970s, 22 seats in the 1990s, and 21 seats in the 2000s after Wisconsin lost a seat in 2002.
Since the 1920s, Minnesota has been the most stable of the three states — losing only 2 seats, and none since the 1960s. Wisconsin has lost 3 seats and Iowa has dropped from 11 seats to potentially just 4 in 2012.
When South Dakota, which gained statehood in 1889, is factored into the numbers, the drop is even more severe. The four states totaled 35 representatives in the 1920s, a drop of 14 seats to just 21 in 2012.
Despite this (comparatively) downward population trend in the region, the Upper Midwest, including Iowa, remains vigorously opposed to the influx of illegal immigration into the country and region, as documented regularly here at Smart Politics. There is little doubt illegal immigration will continue to play a role in the decrease of the Upper Midwestern delegation in future generations as populations surge in America’s southwest.