Remember when the Republican Party was going to have to explain another season in the political wilderness, and how 2016 portended its demise? Good times, good times. While Donald Trump rode a populist wave to the White House that at times aimed its guns at the GOP, the party solidified its hold on the House, Senate, gubernatorial offices, and state legislatures, Reid Wilson reports at The Hill:
Days ago, even some Republican strategists were predicting a civil war that would tear apart their party for years to come. By Wednesday morning, it became clear that the GOP holds nearly unprecedented control not only in Washington, but also in state capitals across the country.
Republicans expanded their ranks of governors, winning Democratic-held seats in Vermont, New Hampshire and Missouri. The party also made gains in state executive offices and in legislatures across the country.
By Wednesday morning, Republicans had won control of the Iowa state Senate, the Kentucky House and the Minnesota state Senate.
Minnesota turned out to be an interesting battleground after all. Donald Trump came within two points of being the first Republican to win the state since Richard Nixon in 1972, far closer than anyone would have guessed. That performance didn’t change the state’s Congressional delegation at all, though; Republicans still have the same three seats (out of eight), thanks to an impressive comeback by Jason Lewis in MN-02 and a heartbreaking result for Stewart Mills in MN-08. The swing of the state Senate will give Republicans a real opportunity to force Governor Mark Dayton into lame-duck status in his final two years — and make Dayton act on his acknowledgment that ObamaCare is “no longer affordable” by dismantling MNsure.
The wave even extended to deep-blue states:
Even in states where Democrats hold an edge, Republicans made important gains. In Illinois, Republicans won enough seats in the state Senate to sustain Gov. Bruce Rauner’s (D) vetoes, though Democrats maintain the majority.
In Connecticut’s Senate, Republicans picked up three seats, enough to create a tie. Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman (D) would break tie votes, giving Democrats control of the chamber. It is the closest Connecticut Republicans have come to winning control since Ronald Reagan’s 1984 landslide win carried the party to power in what is otherwise a deep blue state.
This goes well beyond the reach of the populist movement that made Trump its leader. Democrats expected the turnout model of presidential elections, combined with coattails from a Hillary Clinton win, to reverse the tide of Democratic retreat over the last eight years. Instead, Republicans made even more inroads into Democratic territory. One has to assume that the RNC’s big voter-engagement system, the Republican Leadership Initiative (RLI), worked even better than predicted. Trump himself praised the effort in last night’s victory speech, comparing Reince Preibus to Secretariat and declaring the RNC’s ground work essential to his victory. If that is true, then the extension of GOP domination at the state and local level has to go to Priebus’ credit as well.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) published this map to underscore that domination after last night’s returns:
According to Wilson, it looks like New York will retain its Republican edge, and Minnesota’s state legislature is now fully Republican as well. It’s an extraordinary march of red across the map — and that matters for more than just policy. State legislatures produce the national candidates of the future, and the Democratic bench has been depleted over the last eight years. Republicans have just extended their advantage on talent for at least another two years.
To paraphrase Mark Twain: Reports of the demise of the Republican Party have been greatly exaggerated.