Which parts of the U.S. are growing the fastest? The Census Bureau has released its latest numbers, and once again, the West and South come out on top.

FASTEST-GROWING STATES
State and Percent Change, 2005-2006

1. Arizona - 3.6%
2. Nevada - 3.5
3. Idaho - 2.6
4. Georgia - 2.5
5. Texas - 2.5
6. Utah - 2.4
7. North Carolina - 2.1
8. Colorado - 1.9
9. Florida - 1.8
10. South Carolina - 1.7

The Northern states hailed as the future of the Democratic Party by some pundits are nowhere to be found on the list. Indeed, as if to answer those who claim the Midwest and Northeast should be the centerpiece of progressive strategy, the Census Bureau observes:

* The Northeast region grew by only 62,000 people. In contrast, the South grew by 1.5 million and the West by 1 million. The Midwest added 281,000 people.

* The West was the fastest-growing region, with its population climbing by 1.5 percent. The South followed (1.4 percent), with the Midwest third (0.4 percent) and the Northeast fourth (0.1 percent).

* The South now accounts for 36 percent of the nation's total population, with the West comprising 23 percent, the Midwest 22 percent and the Northeast 18 percent.

[Note: We don't use the same definition of "The South" as the Census Bureau, which includes Oklahoma. But as the above table shows, that doesn't significantly change the results, because Oklahoma isn't the state driving the South's big gains.]

The list of top 10 states in terms of numbers they have increased over the last year is also dominated by the South and West:

FASTEST-GROWING STATES
State and Number Change, 2005-2006

1. Texas 579,275
2. Florida 321,697
3. California 303,402
4. Georgia 231,388
5. Arizona 213,311
6. North Carolina 184,046
7. Washington 103,899
8. Colorado 90,082
9. Nevada 83,228
10. Tennessee 83,058

One of the most notable states: North Carolina, which has overtaken New Jersey as the 10th largest state in the country. The Tarheel State now clocks in at 8,856,505 residents.

These numbers drive the point home: The South and West are the regions of political power of the future. Neither is politically expendable, and anyone who says they are just can't be taken seriously.