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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The GOP's Downballot Strength

DC establishment Republicans may be morose about 2016, but things look different elsewhere. In After Hope and Change, we discuss the GOP's ability to hold onto most of its 2010 downballot gains during the 2012 election. Salena Zito writes at The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
The story buried by the national media’s fixation with Hillary Clinton’s next move is the solid bench that Republicans have been efficiently building – not just in Democrat-blue Pennsylvania, but across the country – since her husband left office in 2000.

Even in “blue” New York you can look at a county such as Ulster, which went for Obama by 23 points but where the county legislature is 12-11 Republican. It’s a pattern that pops up all over the state.

“The presidency is one election, and Democrats and Republicans have basically been alternating it for the better part of a decade now,” said Sean Trende, elections analyst at RealClearPolitics. “But it is the GOP that is ascendant down-ballot.”

Trende explains that, in 2010, Republicans won around 54 percent of state house and senate seats nationally; the number fell slightly in 2012, to 53 percent of state senate and 52 percent of state house seats.

“Part of the disparity comes from the fact that not all the state senate seats were up in 2012,” he said. “But overall, Democrats pay the same penalty in state legislative districts that they pay in congressional districts” – their coalition has become too geographically concentrated to function well in legislative races.

Clearly, the GOP connects with voters, given its down-ballot strength, said Trende: “You can’t have total control of government in a near-majority of the states in the country without some ability to connect.”

“While the pundits and the media pronounce on the divisions in the GOP and how these will ultimately wipe out the Republicans, I've been looking at some numbers and they look pretty good,” Iowa State University political science professor Steffen Schmidt said about the GOP bench.

He points to 30 out of 50 governorships controlled by Republicans, 233 U.S. House members out of 435, and 24 state governments controlled by both GOP governors and legislative majorities.