Monday, August 23, 2010

What's really at stake in this election

There is much more at stake in this election than control of the House or Senate. There are all those state races for governor and the state legislatures. And whoever wins those races will have a hand in redrawing the lines for congressional and legislative districts after this year's census. It looked pretty bleak for the Republicans after the 2008 elections, but the Democrats and Obama's hamhanded approach to the economy has given the Republicans big hopes in state races this year.
Several legislative bodies are closely balanced, among them the Texas House, which Republicans control by a two-seat margin. Texas is the largest prize in the redistricting sweepstakes; it will gain four additional House seats (for a total of 36) because of population increases.

Republicans are favored to hold the Texas House and are in no apparent danger of losing any other legislative body they now control. Democrats, in contrast, are playing defense in attempting to hold onto at least a dozen chambers. "It looks dark for the Democrats," says Tim Storey, a political analyst for the National Council of State Legislatures (NCSL). "They are the victims of their own success." Storey observes that the Democrats won heavily in the legislative elections of 2006 and 2008, putting them in control of many marginal districts. Now, with the pendulum swinging back, Republicans stand to gain some 500 legislative seats, most of which were lost in the two previous elections. Especially crucial in terms of congressional redistricting are the New York Senate, the Ohio House and the Pennsylvania House, all of which shifted narrowly to the Democrats in the 2008 election. Republicans also have opportunities to win control of the Alabama Senate and House (controlled by Democrats since the 1870s), the Indiana House and both the Wisconsin Senate and Assembly.

In governors' races the outlook for Republicans appears similarly bright. August surveys give the GOP candidates big leads in races for open Democratic governorships in Kansas, Oklahoma and Wyoming and also in Iowa, where a Democratic incumbent is running. Republicans hold smaller leads in gubernatorial races in five other presently Democratic states: Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Wisconsin. Democrats are expected to pick up governorships in Connecticut and Hawaii, where Republicans are retiring. If the anticipated outcomes occur in all these races, Republicans would gain nine seats and Democrats two for a net GOP gain of seven.