In the politics of the future, California will exercise more clout than any smoke-filled room of politicians ever did.

California emerges from the 1990 census as a political behemoth, with 52 House seats, a population bigger than Canada's and 20 percent of the electoral votes needed to be elected president.Add together the congressional representation of 21 states and they still will total fewer than the delegation from California, which swells by seven in 1992, the result of a 26 percent surge in population in the last 10 years.

The news is nothing but promising for Republicans. California hasn't voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964; except for Jimmy Carter in 1976, no one has won the White House while losing California since 1912, when Democrat Woodrow Wilson lost the state but defeated Bull Mooser Theodore Roosevelt and Republican William Howard Taft, anyway.

Republicans can find more cheer in most of the other shifts in political power ordered up by the population figures released Wednesday by the Census Bureau.

The industrial Northeast and Midwest will lose standing in Congress and the Electoral College. The West, the South and the Sun Belt, increasingly Republican, gain.

"The political consequences advantage the Republicans," summed up Stephen Hess, political analyst at the Brookings Institution, a Washington research organization.

The census sets the stage, as well, for brutal redistricting battles from coast to coast, promising to generate nasty colleague-vs.-colleague races in some of the 13 states where the number of House seats must shrink.

New York will suffer the biggest loss, three seats, and on the streets of Brooklyn, that could come down to a brawl between two Democratic incumbents, Reps. Charles Schumer and Stephen Solarz. They may have to compete for a single seat.

It is no coincidence, Hess observed, that Schumer and Solarz have built up campaign war chests in the million-dollar range, each anticipating a costly battle - or perhaps a race elsewhere, maybe taking on Republican Alfonse M. D'Amato for his Senate seat.

Four states lose two House members each - Illinois, going to 20; Michigan, to 16; Ohio, to 19; and Pennsylvania, to 21.

Eight states will lose one each - Iowa, down to five; Kansas, to four; Kentucky, to six; Louisiana, to seven; Massachusetts, to 10; Montana, to one; New Jersey, to 13; and West Virginia, to three.

Among the gainers are Florida, up four to 23, and Texas, up three to 30. And an additional seat will go to five states - Arizona, going to six; Georgia, to 11; North Carolina, to 12; Virginia, to 11; and Washington, to nine.

But the gains are most dramatic in California. In January 1993, that state will have more representatives than 21 other states combined - Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, Wyoming, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Nevada, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Nebraska, New Mexico, Utah, West Virginia, Arkansas, Kansas, Iowa and Mississippi.

All states except the six which now have only one representative - Alaska, Delaware, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming - will have to redraw congressional boundaries.

The regions broke down this way:

SOUTH - Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and the District of Columbia.

NORTHEAST - Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

WEST - Alaska, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Hawaii.

MIDWEST - North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa,Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio.