Scott Rasmussen: Republican gains deep and wide

Scott Rasmussen

Scott Rasmussen

By Scott Rasmussen

Little noticed by the Washington press corps is the extent of the Republican State legislative gains in Election 2014. A quick trip to the enormously informative website provides the numbers that the DC reporters overlooked.

And those numbers reflect a GOP victory with stunning depth and breadth. It was far more than a favorable map and good Senate candidates.

Heading into the midterm elections, there were 143 more Republican State Senators than Democrats. By the end of the night, that advantage nearly doubled to at least 257.

At the State House level, the gains were more dramatic. The GOP now has a 689-seat advantage, an increase of 432 thanks to the ballots cast on Tuesday.

As a result, at least 10 legislative chambers flipped from Democratic control to the GOP. In what might be perceived as a rebuke to Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the U.S. Senate, both the Nevada House and Senate switched to Republican control. Others that moved into GOP territory include the State Senates in Maine, Colorado, West Virginia and New York. State houses also changed hands in Minnesota, New Hampshire, West Virginia and New Mexico.

To give a sense of scale, this is the first time the New Mexico House has been controlled by the Republicans since 1954.

Add it all up and Republicans now control 34 State Senates, up from 31 before the election. They also control 33 State Houses. One state, Nebraska, has a single, formally nonpartisan legislature that is dominated by Republicans.

That’s because Democrats lost a net total of 743 seats in state legislatures over the last three elections. Republicans over that time gained 811.

Adding to that, of course, the Republicans greatly exceeded expectations on Tuesday by winning governorships in Democratic strongholds such as Maryland, Massachusetts and Illinois. There are now 31 Republican governors, many of whom are serious contenders for the White House in 2016. By comparison, the Democratic bench looks very thin indeed.

The differing foundations of the two parties come into stark clarity through a concept Ballotpedia describes as a Trifecta.

A political Trifecta is when one party controls the Governorship, the State House and the State Senate. This generally gives the party a strong hand in policy innovation and plays an important role in the testing of new policy options.

Coming into Election 2014, the Republicans held Trifectas in 23 states and the Democrats had 13. On Election Night, Republicans won new Trifectas in Nevada and Arkansas. The Arkansas story is all the more dramatic since it’s the home of former President Bill Clinton. At the federal level, for the first time in 141 years, all of the state’s representatives are also Republicans.

While winning two Trifectas, the GOP lost Pennsylvania when Gov. Tom Corbett was defeated. And they look likely to lose the Trifecta in Alaska too (an Independent candidate endorsed by Sarah Palin has the edge over the incumbent Republican Governor).

So, the GOP gained two Trifectas and lost two.

Democrats lost Trifectas in six states — Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota and West Virginia.

The bottom line is that Republicans now control all branches of state government in 23 states, Democrats in only seven.

That’s a solid foundation to build upon for 2016.


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