Will state government composition determine how people vote in November?

Polls projecting which party will win the White House in November are notoriously unreliable at this junction, but it is interesting to consider how states may go in presidential elections based upon whom the voters have chosen to trust with state government.  Does this make sense?  

While voters in gubernatorial or senatorial elections may favor a particular candidate, state legislative elections typically reflect little more than a referendum on political parties.  How many voters can name, off the top of their heads, their state senators or state house member?  Presidential election results seem to confirm this pattern. 

The states Romney carried in 2012 were all states with Republican state legislative majorities – or, in the case of West Virginia and Kentucky, states with a strong trajectory toward Republican majorities.  The close states were states in which Republicans controlled one or both legislative chambers – Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, Virginia, and Iowa, for example – and the states that were utterly out of reach were states with strong Democrat majorities.

So in New England, the four states with Democrat majorities in both legislative chambers – Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Vermont – were lost by Romney by huge margins (even though Romney had been governor of Massachusetts), and the state with a Republican state legislature, New Hampshire, was close, and Maine, with split chambers, was closer than the other four states.

Big northern industrial states with Republican legislatures – Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin – were much more competitive in 2012 than states with Democrat legislatures – Illinois and New Jersey.   Within each region of the nation, Republican presidential candidates run best in states in which Republicans are strong in state legislatures and do worst in states with strong Democrat majorities in state legislatures.

So what would that suggest for November 2016?  If Republican candidate simply carried those states in which both houses of the legislature are Republican (including the nominally nonpartisan unicameral legislature of staunchly Republican Nebraska), then the Republican candidate would win the electoral votes of 31 states with 317 electoral votes (47 more electoral votes than the 270 needed to win.) 

The outlook for the Democrat nominee, however, is pretty grim using this determinant.  If the Democrat nominee carried those states in which both houses of the legislature are Democrat, then the total electoral votes of these 12 states would be 170, or 100 fewer than the needed 270.

Seven states have legislatures with split control.  Two of these, Kentucky and Iowa, both of whom have Republican governors, would lean Republican with another 14 electoral votes.  Maine, Minnesota, and Washington lean Democrat with 26 electoral votes.  Colorado and New Mexico, with 14 electoral votes, may be toss-up states.

If the voting population in 2016 snaps back to the traditional patterns when Obama is not on the ballot, then we ought to look at the electoral map of 2004 and 2000.  Something interesting emerges when we go back to those two presidential elections.  If Colorado and New Mexico actually went Republican, these are essentially the states that Bush carried in 2004 and 2000.

New Mexico and Iowa did go for Gore in 2000, but by microscopic margins, just as Bush (barely) carried New Hampshire.  The only real difference is that Bush did not carry the three northern industrial states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin – but was extremely competitive in all three states. 

Even without those three states or New Hampshire (which flipped from Bush in 2000 to Kerry in 2004), the Republican candidate would have 302 electoral votes, or 32 more than needed, and would have a vast contiguous region of "Flyover Country" full of Americans "bitterly clinging to their guns and religion."

Consider that the next Democrat nominee is going to be New York's Hillary or Vermont's Bernie and the potential for a Republican nominee appealing to the rest of America, the overlook part of our nation, in states where voters have already chosen Republicans and not Democrats to run their legislatures, may mushroom into the sort of electoral landslide no one, at least today, is predicting.

Polls projecting which party will win the White House in November are notoriously unreliable at this junction, but it is interesting to consider how states may go in presidential elections based upon whom the voters have chosen to trust with state government.  Does this make sense?  

While voters in gubernatorial or senatorial elections may favor a particular candidate, state legislative elections typically reflect little more than a referendum on political parties.  How many voters can name, off the top of their heads, their state senators or state house member?  Presidential election results seem to confirm this pattern. 

The states Romney carried in 2012 were all states with Republican state legislative majorities – or, in the case of West Virginia and Kentucky, states with a strong trajectory toward Republican majorities.  The close states were states in which Republicans controlled one or both legislative chambers – Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, Virginia, and Iowa, for example – and the states that were utterly out of reach were states with strong Democrat majorities.

So in New England, the four states with Democrat majorities in both legislative chambers – Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Vermont – were lost by Romney by huge margins (even though Romney had been governor of Massachusetts), and the state with a Republican state legislature, New Hampshire, was close, and Maine, with split chambers, was closer than the other four states.

Big northern industrial states with Republican legislatures – Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin – were much more competitive in 2012 than states with Democrat legislatures – Illinois and New Jersey.   Within each region of the nation, Republican presidential candidates run best in states in which Republicans are strong in state legislatures and do worst in states with strong Democrat majorities in state legislatures.

So what would that suggest for November 2016?  If Republican candidate simply carried those states in which both houses of the legislature are Republican (including the nominally nonpartisan unicameral legislature of staunchly Republican Nebraska), then the Republican candidate would win the electoral votes of 31 states with 317 electoral votes (47 more electoral votes than the 270 needed to win.) 

The outlook for the Democrat nominee, however, is pretty grim using this determinant.  If the Democrat nominee carried those states in which both houses of the legislature are Democrat, then the total electoral votes of these 12 states would be 170, or 100 fewer than the needed 270.

Seven states have legislatures with split control.  Two of these, Kentucky and Iowa, both of whom have Republican governors, would lean Republican with another 14 electoral votes.  Maine, Minnesota, and Washington lean Democrat with 26 electoral votes.  Colorado and New Mexico, with 14 electoral votes, may be toss-up states.

If the voting population in 2016 snaps back to the traditional patterns when Obama is not on the ballot, then we ought to look at the electoral map of 2004 and 2000.  Something interesting emerges when we go back to those two presidential elections.  If Colorado and New Mexico actually went Republican, these are essentially the states that Bush carried in 2004 and 2000.

New Mexico and Iowa did go for Gore in 2000, but by microscopic margins, just as Bush (barely) carried New Hampshire.  The only real difference is that Bush did not carry the three northern industrial states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin – but was extremely competitive in all three states. 

Even without those three states or New Hampshire (which flipped from Bush in 2000 to Kerry in 2004), the Republican candidate would have 302 electoral votes, or 32 more than needed, and would have a vast contiguous region of "Flyover Country" full of Americans "bitterly clinging to their guns and religion."

Consider that the next Democrat nominee is going to be New York's Hillary or Vermont's Bernie and the potential for a Republican nominee appealing to the rest of America, the overlook part of our nation, in states where voters have already chosen Republicans and not Democrats to run their legislatures, may mushroom into the sort of electoral landslide no one, at least today, is predicting.