When Aaron Blake says “nearly half,” he’s not kidding. Thanks to the massive Republican wave one week ago, 49.7% of the US population will now live in states where the GOP controls the legislature and the executive. Only slightly more than 15% will live in Democrat-controlled states, a much wider gap than after the 2010 GOP wave:
While the GOP is likely to control 54 percent of all Senate seats and 56 percent (or so) of the House come January, it also will now control more than two-thirds of state legislative chambers across the country — as in nearly seven in 10. And given Republicans also won at least 31 governorships, they are basically in control of the state government in 25 states. That could soon hit 26 if they win the still-undetermined governor’s race in Alaska. …
The Democrats, meanwhile, control just six states, with a seventh likely to come when the Vermont legislature picks Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) as the winner of last week’s closer-than-expected election, in which neither candidate attained the necessary 50 percent.
That 25-6 split is actually significantly bigger than it was after 2010, when Republicans emerged from that wave election with complete control of 21 states, to Democrats’ 11 — about a two-to-one advantage, versus today’s four-to-one edge.
Blake notes that a win in Alaska’s gubernatorial race would make the percentage almost precisely half — 49.96%, to be exact. At the moment, incumbent Republican governor Sean Parnell trails by about 3,000 votes, but the state has tens of thousands of absentee ballots to count, more of which are coming in the mail until November 19th. Dan Sullivan has all but wrapped up the Senate race for the GOP as the counting begins today, but Parnell may be more of a long shot against independent Bill Walker.
This matters for lots of reasons, not the least of which is that conservatism works best in a subsidiarity mode – putting resources closest to where they are most needed, and properly managed. Successes in these states will build the conservative policy brand, both through success of the policies themselves and the politicians who implement them. That will impact candidate selection in the future, providing the GOP with better candidates for federal offices, and encourage young activists to join the Republican Party as part of their future. The potential dynamic of this multiplier effect should not be overlooked — and in fact, should be aggressively cultivated.
Michael Bloomberg agrees, by the way. That’s why he’s going to start throwing money at the state and local level rather than repeating his failures at the national level:
“You can keep hitting your head against a wall, or you can go elsewhere,” Bloomberg said in a statement to POLITICO. “Change is really possible at the state and local level.”
His political advisers are already scouting states where his big checks could help promote soda taxes and background checks for handgun purchasers. He’s also looking for states to promote nonpartisan primaries and redistricting, similar to a measure that failed in Oregon this month despite his $2.1 million contribution.
Bloomberg, ranked by Forbes as the eighth-richest man in America, with a net worth of $35 billion, also plans to invest heavily in governor’s races in 2016. He’s looking for candidates with business backgrounds; a willingness to challenge some part of party orthodoxy; a record of working across party lines; and an emphasis on issues he cares about: curbing gun violence, easing immigration restrictions, and reforming education and pensions.
“Go someplace where everybody isn’t,” said Howard Wolfson, who was a deputy mayor for Bloomberg and now is his senior adviser. “Especially, by the way, if those are the places where people are … actually doing something.”
The problem for Bloomberg is that his nanny-state philosophy won’t sell terribly well at the local and state level, certainly not any better than at the federal level, except in states where the prevailing political trend is already towards the Left. (In other words … Minnesota, although the GOP won the state House this year.) Subsidiarity sells bestat the local level; it’s only when it comes to the great unwashed rubes in the rest of the country that voters want elites controlling the lives of others.
On the other hand, who knows what sells in a vacuum? If the GOP and conservatives want to leverage this advantage for more than a cycle, they had better tend to the farm.
Update: I got Sean Parnell’s first name incorrect in the original post; I’ve fixed it above. Note to self: Not every Republican governor is named Scott.