What exactly is the state of the union on politics? At the state-by-state level, it’s getting more Republican again. Gallup analyzed its polling data for 2013 and determined that the GOP picked up three states for the “solid Republican” category, pulling into a tie with Democrats in the analogous category, and nearly tying overall:
Blue states outnumbered red states in the U.S. last year, 17 to 14, according to Gallup Daily tracking of party preferences. That three-state advantage for the Democrats is down from a seven-state lead for the Democrats in 2012, and well short of their 30-state lead in 2008 — Gallup’s first year of state measurement. Still, it’s larger than the near-tie in the party balance of states found in 2011.
The biggest change in the party profile of the states in 2013 was the Republicans’ gain of three solidly Republican states — meaning those where Republicans outnumbered Democrats by at least 10 percentage points. Those additions were South Carolina, South Dakota, and Oklahoma. However, this was partly offset by a net loss of one Republican-leaning state. At the same time, Democrats had net losses of one solid and one Democratic-leaning state, while the number of competitive states was unchanged.
Overall, the most Democratic-leaning states in 2013 were New York, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Maryland, all showing 20-point or better Democratic advantages in party identification. Gallup considers another seven states to be “solidly Democratic,” by virtue of their 10-point or better Democratic advantage.
The most Republican-leaning states were Wyoming, Utah, North Dakota, Idaho, Kansas, and Alaska, all with 20-point or more Democratic deficits. Another six states qualify as solidly Republican, with Democratic deficits ranging from -10 to -17.
The use of 2011 for the comparison is intriguing, for a couple of reasons. First, control of the House produced a number of budget crises in that year, which conventional wisdom holds was more damaging to Republicans than Democrats. Yet in that year, Democrats lost two states from its “solid” hold and four overall, and the GOP picked up five “solid” and two leaners. Despite the big push by Team Obama in 2012, the GOP dropped four combined while Democrats only gained one. Instead, the competitive field increased to 19 states, where it remained in 2013, the highest levels since at least 2008.
However, 2010 should be the real comparison year. That was the midterm year in which Barack Obama finally succeeded in passing ObamaCare, and then got “shellacked” by his own estimation in November. Democrats took that pasting despite having a +12 advantage over Republicans in states, 22/10, and a +8 in “solids,” 13/5. That was a dramatic drop from 2009, when Democrats enjoyed a +28 advantage, and yet still lost in New Jersey, Virginia, and a special election in Massachusetts at the very beginning of 2010.
Compared to 2010, Republicans have four more states and Democrats five fewer. And that’s mostly before the disaster of the ObamaCare rollout, which will play out all year long in 2014. When the employer mandate takes effect in the fall and businesses start dropping coverage and pushing employees into ObamaCare, expect those ratios to shift again — perhaps dramatically.
John Fund explains how that will play out in the Senate races this year if the trend continues:
National Journal, a wonkish guide to Washington politics and policy, has afascinating article detailing just how hard it is for a party to hold a Senate majority when an unpopular president of the same party is in the White House. “Over the last decade, just nine Senate candidates have won elections with a president of their party below his national approval average in their state,” National Journalconcluded. “That’s about one success in every ten races.”
On that score, the 2014 Senate playing field is potentially brutal for Democrats. Democrats are defending seats in five states — Arkansas, Alaska, Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia — where Obama’s approval rating was at or below 35 percent in 2013, according to Gallup. In four other states where Democrats hold a Senate seat that’s up in 2014, Obama’s approval rating was well below his national average of 46 percent: Louisiana (40 percent), Colorado and Iowa (42 percent), and North Carolina (43 percent). In Oregon, New Hampshire, and New Mexico the president had a 45 percent job-approval rating, just below his national average. That’s a whopping total of 11 Democratic seats that could potentially be in play this November.
Republicans also have seats they must defend, but far fewer of them. In Georgia, where the GOP must defend an open seat, Obama’s approval rating of 45 percent is below his national average. In Kentucky, where Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell is running for reelection, only 35 percent of voters have a favorable view of the president.
At the same time, the stalled job market will also play a big role in this trend. In the WSJ/NBC poll preceding the State of the Union speech yesterday, more than 90% of respondents chose jobs as the priority issue, and Obama offered nothing more than “stay the course.” Investors Business Daily editorial cartoonist Michael Ramirez gives us the real state of the union these days:
Also, be sure to check out Ramirez’ terrific collection of his works: Everyone Has the Right to My Opinion, which covers the entire breadth of Ramirez’ career, and it gives fascinating look at political history. Read my review here, and watch my interviews with Ramirez here and here. And don’t forget to check out the entire Investors.com site, which has now incorporated all of the former IBD Editorials, while individual investors still exist.
Update: “Senate races this week” should have been “this year.” I’ve fixed it above.