Friday, October 5, 2018

It's All Happening in the States

Despite all the tumult surrounding the Kavanaugh nomination, the basic picture in the House and the Senate hasn't changed much: the Democrats are highly likely to take the House and highly unlikely to take the Senate.
Though a Democratic takeover of the House is very, very important, we shouldn't lose sight on the enormous changes likely to take place in the states and the potential of these changes to decisively shift the political terrain going forward. Charlie Cook runs down the story in his latest column:
"I expect net gains for Democrats in governorships of between six and a dozen, and a pickup for Democrats of between 400 and 650 state legislative seats, more than the average midterm loss of 375 seats for the party in the White House. These state elections are the most under-reported story in politics, with control of chambers likely tipping from Republicans to Democrats. Three-quarters of the governorships and four-fifths of the state legislative seats are up in these midterm cycles. Remember that with the inability or unwillingness of Washington to deal with so many problems, the resulting vacuum has given states considerably more power on many fronts. Then consider the massive gains on the state level for Republicans during the eight years of the Obama presidency, and how much of that ground could slip away.
Republicans now hold 33 governorships to just 16 for Democrats (plus one independent in Alaska). The GOP has 26 governorships up this year, Democrats only have nine. Republicans have 12 open governorships, Democrats only four. Republicans have 11 governorships that The Cook Political Report rates as Toss-Up or worse for the GOP, Democrats have one. The governorship of Illinois looks gone for Republicans, Michigan looks like it is slipping away from the GOP, while Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Ohio, and Wisconsin look headed in a similar direction.
Republicans control both the state Senate and House chambers in 25 states, Democrats hold both bodies in just seven states, 17 are split (plus Nebraska is both unicameral and non-partisan). The Republican dominance on the state level, much of it gained in the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections, has resulted in very conservative policy changes on issues ranging from abortion, to Medicaid expansion (or contraction), to voting access. Given that the U.S. Senate and House are likely to be closely divided no matter what happens in November and President Trump will still wield a veto pen, it is in the state capitols that major policy changes could occur in 2019 and 2020, not in Washington.
To say that Republicans are facing a challenging year in the states is an understatement; one prominent Republican pollster this week privately referred to the state legislative election scene as a “killing field” for Republicans."
Yes, these gains could be big, both in terms of magnitude and significance. Don't confine your political attention (and dollars) to Congress; there's a lot more going on!
For all the focus on Congress, Republicans may see their most dramatic losses in state legislative and governor races.

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