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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

State Legislatures 2020

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional elections as well as the presidential race.   The update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

The race for the legislatures will have profound consequences for redistricting.

Nathaniel Rakich and Elena Mejía at FiveThirtyEight:

Gerrymandering, or the act of purposefully drawing a map to advantage one political party or group, has a long history in this country — and politicians of all persuasions have been guilty of it. But the red wave election of 2010 upped the ante by giving Republicans lopsided control of the 2011 redistricting process. Thanks in large part to the 21 state legislatures and six governorships they picked up, Republicans were able to draw 55 percent of congressional districts, while Democrats drew just 10 percent.

As a result, in both 2012 and 2016, the House map was more biased toward Republicans than it had been at any point since the 1970s. Republicans even won 33 more House seats than Democrats in the 2012 election despite Democrats winning the House popular vote by 1.3 percentage points. And even as courts ruled some states’ maps unconstitutional and Democrats were able to flip the House in 2018, the median seat remained 4.4 points more Republican-leaning than the nation as a whole.

 Lou Jacobson at the Cook Political Report:

Currently, the GOP controls 58 legislative chambers while the Democrats control 40 chambers. Nebraska's unicameral legislature, which is nonpartisan, isn't included in our count. (For this tally, we counted the Alaska House's coalition leadership as a Democratic-held chamber, even though Republicans nominally control more seats.)

The GOP's edge in the legislatures has narrowed from the 65 chambers the party controlled prior to the 2018 elections. That was already down from the 68 chambers the GOP controlled just before the 2016 elections.

The GOP has held the lead in state legislative chambers for a decade. As recently as the run-up to the 2010 election, Democrats held a 62-to-36 advantage in chambers, but that degree of Democratic control has suffered from a combination of a strong GOP redistricting cycle in 2010 and the slow but permanent loss of yellow-dog Democratic chambers in the South.

At this point for the 2020 cycle, we rate 19 chambers as competitive – slightly more than the 17 we saw as competitive in our final handicapping prior to the 2018 election.

Ominously for Republicans, the GOP holds 14 of the 19 vulnerable chambers on our list. This suggests that the Democrats are well-positioned to net up to a half-dozen new chambers this fall, and more if it’s a genuine blue wave.

 Manny Fernandez and Reid J. Epstein at NYT:

After a generation under unified Republican control, Texas is a battleground at every level of government this year. President Trump and Senator John Cornyn are fighting for their political lives, and five Republican-held congressional seats are in danger of flipping.

But some of the most consequential political battles in Texas are taking place across two dozen contested races for the Texas State House, which Republicans have controlled since 2003. To win a majority, Democrats must flip nine of the chamber’s 150 seats — the same number of Republican-held districts Beto O’Rourke carried during his 2018 Senate race, when he was the first Texas Democrat to make a competitive run for Senate or governor in a generation.

Mr. O’Rourke has organized nightly online phone banks that are making about three million phone calls a week to voters during the campaign’s final stretch. His organization helped register about 200,000 Texas Democratic voters in an attempt to finish a political transformation of Texas that began with his Senate race.