More States Are Quietly Becoming Republican

A Gallup Poll in late January showed that more and more states are becoming Republican.  Gallup tells us that 14 of the 50 states have a clear majority of respondents calling themselves "Republicans," and 17 of the 50 states have a clear majority of respondents calling themselves "Democrats."   This, however, dramatically understates the growing Republican advantage in many states.  The following 14 states are presented by Gallup as neither Democrat nor Republican: Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Kentucky, Missouri, Indiana, West Virginia, Iowa, Wisconsin and Ohio.

Election results, however, suggest a strong Republican trend. 

State legislatures are the basement of politics in America.  In 11 of those 14, Republicans today control both houses of the state legislature: Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, and Wisconsin.  In several cases, ten years ago, Republicans did not control either house of the state legislature. 

House of Representative elections show Republican predominance in these notionally non-Republican states.  In 12 of the 14 states, Republicans constitute more congressmen than Democrats, and the advantage is often big: Texas (24 to 12), Louisiana (5 to 1), Arkansas (4 to 0), Georgia (9 to 5), Florida (15 to 10), North Carolina (9 to 3), Missouri (6 to 2), Indiana (7 to 2), West Virginia (2 to 1), Wisconsin (5 to 3), and Ohio (12 to 4), and Iowa is split 2 to 2.  Only in Arizona, which has elected 4 Republicans and 5 Democrats, do Democrats have a slight advantage in the House delegation.

If the state legislative elections are the foundations of partisan politics and House congressional elections are the mezzanine, then the presidential elections are penthouse.  When looking at those 14 states over the last five presidential elections -- recalling that Democrats won three of these five elections -- there is a pronounced Republican advantage.  In 11 out of those 14 states, the Republican candidate carried the state more than the Democrat candidate, and except for Ohio, the Republican candidate carried the state four out of five times: Arizona (4), Texas (5), Louisiana (4), Arkansas (4), Georgia (5), North Carolina (4), Kentucky (4), Missouri (4), Indiana (4), West Virginia (4), and Ohio (3). 

Most telling is the ideological leaning of these notionally non-Republican states.  The latest Gallup Poll shows every state in America except for Massachusetts and Vermont has more self-identified "conservatives" than "liberals."  The national advantage of conservative over liberals in this poll is +16 points.  Out of those 14 states, every single one was more conservative than the rest of America: Arizona (+20), Texas (+23), Louisiana (+30), Arkansas (+28), Georgia (+26), Florida (+17), North Carolina (+21), Kentucky (+20),  Missouri (+21), Indiana (+23), West Virginia (+25), Wisconsin (+18), Ohio (+18), and Iowa (+20.)

The growing number of states that are naturally Republican offers profound realignment of American politics.  Each state has the same number of senators, and if states like Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, and West Virginia abandon the Democratic Party, the number of Republican senators will grow.  The ideological realignment of the Senate to conform more to the two political parties would make senators like Landrieu in Louisiana and Pryor in Arkansas dinosaurs.  This is not limited to the South.  Tim Johnson's replacement in South Dakota will be a Republican, just like Ben Nelson in Nebraska was replaced by a Republican.

The long-term problem for Democrats is exacerbated by the dynamics of House races.  Consider that until 1994, Democrats had forty-six straight years of rule over the House.  In the last twenty years, Democrats have controlled the House for only four years, and it is likely that Republicans will increase their majority after 2014.

The strength in state legislatures allowed Democrats to draw Republican voters into electoral ghettos which made it much easier for Democrats to hold the House.  That has been reversed.  Republican gains in the last twenty years in state legislatures means that the number of congressional districts drawn by Republicans has grown dramatically -- from 5 districts in 1991 to 98 districts in 2001, and now 193 districts in 2011 -- while the number of districts drawn by Democrats have shrunk, from 172 districts in 1991 to 135 districts in 2011 to only 44 districts today. 

This means that the bedrock of political power in America (winning elections in Congress and state governments) is moving steadily to the Republican Party.  As more states become Republican, a natural advantage in winning Senate elections will grow, and as and more and more legislative districts are controlled by Republicans, electoral districts for members of the House of Representatives and state legislatures are being drawn by Republicans.   

In 2009, pundits wondered if the Republican Party would survive, but it is the Party of Obama that looks more and more like the real political dinosaur in America.  If the Party of Obama is routed in 2014 and not only is the Senate lost, but more state legislative chambers and House districts are won by Republicans, the sea change that many of us have hoped for may be at last have arrived.

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