Republicans are no doubt feeling sour today after Romney’s defeat and a failed attempt to take control of the Senate. And while last night’s elections were a victory for Democrats, a deeper examination of the post-election playing field suggests Republicans remain well positioned to pursue a conservative agenda just as aggressively as they have for the last two years.
This is especially true in the states where for the last two years tea party candidates used Republican majorities to push a radical policy agenda. In the wake of yesterday’s elections, Republican control of state politics appears largely unchanged.
The 2010 election was a wave for Republicans, launching conservatives into control of a 29 governor’s mansions and 59 of the country’s 98 partisan state legislative chambers. This put Republicans in position to dominate the shape of state policy, passing dozens of bills restricting abortion access and voting rights, maligning the safety-net and attacking immigrants.
After last night, the numbers look nearly the same.
Republicans gained an additional governor’s mansion in North Carolina and now control 57 legislative chambers (including Virginia’s Senate, which is tied but for the Republican lieutenant governor’s tie-breaking vote), according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
As I predicted last week, Republicans’ ability to maintain a majority of statehouses and governor’s mansions is largely a result of the redistricting process, over which the GOP held broad control following their 2010 wins.
This year the GOP held on to most of its 2010 wins and logged further legislative gains in states like North Carolina and Indiana, where they drew new district lines.
By contrast, in those states where Republicans controlled the legislature but where redistricting is not a partisan process, Democrats picked up seats. Tim Storey of the NCSL explained today on a call with reporters that despite Republicans’ pre-election control of the Maine and Minnesota legislatures, Democrats in both states were able to wrestle the House and Senate away.
Republican dominance in the states remains strong even as Democrats in the states fared about as well as they could have hoped. In addition to sweeps in Maine and Minnesota, Democrats seized one chamber in Colorado, Oregon and New York. Republicans, meanwhile, picked up the Wisconsin and Alaska Senates and both chambers of the Arkansas legislature.