Was the 2010 midterm election a Republican tsunami? Although pundits waffle because a few Senate races were not won, the clearest proof of a Republican tsunami is found in state legislative elections. On November 2, 2010, Republicans and Democrats vied for seats in 87 state legislative chambers. (Nebraska has a nonpartisan legislature; Virginia, Mississippi, Louisiana, and New Jersey did not have state legislative elections this year; and Kansas, New Mexico, and South Carolina did not hold elections for seats in the upper chamber of their state legislatures.) There were about 6,115 state legislative elections this November in those 87 chambers.
In those 6,115 state legislative elections, Republicans picked a net gain of 998 seats from Democrats. Republicans captured seats held by Democrats in a mind-boggling 16% of these races. A post-election map from Tim Storey at the National Conference of State Legislatures gives an eye-popping idea of the geographical spread of Republican control in state legislatures. Look at that map. Consider that there were no state legislative elections in Louisiana, Virginia, Mississippi, or New Jersey and that there was no election in the New Mexico Senate. If there had been races in those states, nearly all of America, except for the Northeast and the West Coast, would be red.
Republicans now hold 3,735 state legislative seats to 3,119 state legislative seats held by Democrats, a stunning reversal of power from 2006 and 2008. Republicans have more seats in state legislatures than at any time since Reconstruction. These gains in state legislative seats led to a number of state legislative changes flipping from Democrat to Republican. In those 87 state legislative chambers contested on November 2, Republicans captured control from Democrats in at least nineteen chambers. In stark contrast, Democrats failed to gain a single state legislative chamber from Republicans.
How broad were Republican gains across America? Republicans increased their numbers in 73 state legislative chambers of the 87 up for election. Democrats did get one or two seats in six states: California House (+1), Pennsylvania Senate (+1), Delaware House (+2), Hawaii Senate (+1), Washington State Senate (+1), and West Virginia Senate (+2.)
Compare these tiny gains with the massive Republican gains in many state legislative chambers, like these: Texas House (+24), Pennsylvania House (+14), Ohio House (+14), Ohio Senate (+11), Michigan House (+18) and Michigan Senate (+5), North Carolina House (+15) and North Carolina Senate (+11), Wisconsin House (+26) and Wisconsin Senate (+16), Iowa House (+16) and Iowa Senate (+6), Missouri House (+18), Alabama House (+15) and Alabama Senate (+6), Arkansas House (+12) and Arkansas Senate (+8), Tennessee House (+14), Minnesota House (+26) and Minnesota Senate (+16), New Hampshire House (+117), Maine House (+21) and Maine Senate (6), Connecticut House (+16), Montana House (+18), North Dakota House (+10), and Massachusetts House (+17).
Several of these states in which Republicans won sweeping state legislative victories are vital to Obama's reelection, like Ohio, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. Some of these states also have Democrat senators who saw Dorgan and Bayh retire and then saw Feingold and Lincoln lose. Some of these states have one or two Democrats in the Senate who will surely feel even more skittish about following doctrinaire leftism. In these states, there are fifteen Senate Democrats who could lose their seats if they are not careful: Ohio, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan (two senators), Minnesota (two senators), Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Missouri, New Hampshire, Montana (two senators), and North Dakota.
Political power in state legislatures, as many pundits have already noted, combined with the election of many Republican governors in this vital post-census redistricting legislative session, will mean big Republican gains in the House of Representatives after 2010 redistricting even if the vote in the 2012 congressional elections are exactly the same for every voter as in 2010. This will mean that the 240 or so Republicans in the House rise to 260 or more for most of this decade.
But congressional redistricting is only half of the problem that Democrats will face in the next decade. Republicans in state legislatures will also be drawing state legislative districts. That means the majorities which Republicans enjoy in state legislative chambers will grow even if every American in 2012 voted exactly the same way he did in 2010.
State legislatures are also the farm teams for the two political parties. Principled conservative Republicans will have the chance as majority party members of state legislatures to gain name recognition and to achieve meaningful reforms, providing us with proven and competent candidates for future elections to Congress and to governorships. The State Legislative Republican tsunami was real and massive. At the lowest level of constitutional government, State Legislatures, Democrats faced utter and complete routs. The long-term political consequences for Democrats are profound.