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A story of American geography

Track the movement of LeBron James last night: He's leaving Cleveland, Ohio, for Miami, Florida.

Track the movement of LeBron James last night: He's leaving Cleveland, Ohio, for Miami, Florida. Power and money head south, to where people have been heading this past century, followed perhaps by basketball power. Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Lebron James – call them the “Three Basketeers” – are all heading to the Miami Heat because of air conditioning, that which makes the “heat” bearable year-round. It's not just roundball that's headed south. Look at the Republican Party this half century. It was once heroes like Taft of Ohio and Dewey of New York who battled for the nomination…Today, you're looking at Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour and Texas Governor Rick Perry. Its candidates for president now come from Sunbelt states: The Bushes, transplants from Connecticut; John McCain, who moved to Arizona; Ronald Reagan, who went to California. This movement southward came with a population explosion in Old Dixie, and, with it, a ballooning of electoral strength. In 1952, the first election I can remember, Florida had just 10 electoral votes. The northern part of the state was part of the Old Confederacy, the southern tip was the home of alligators. Today, Florida has 27 electoral votes. It's on the verge of matching New York in electoral college clout. This explains my growing focus on the Senate race down there. Jeb Bush may well be the next Republican candidate for president, in 2012 or 2016. Texas has even more electoral power, outmatched only by California, which now has almost three times the electoral power of Pennsylvania. In 1952, as hard as it is to believe, those two states were equal in electoral votes. Arizona has more than doubled its electoral strength since '52. In fact, the states along this country's southern rim, from California to Florida have, just by themselves, well more than half the electoral votes needed to win the presidency. Today, Miami is an international capital, South Beach a center of pop culture, a mecca for fun, excitement and style. Sports teams are now in the south, the franchises have moved where the people are. Politicians are watching where the voters are. The Republicans are holding their convention in Tampa in 2012. You don't have to think why. Watch the Democrats. Pick 'em to go at least as far south as Charlotte. Don't worry. Both towns are air-conditioned - just like Heat games.

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