The real political prize for Republicans in 2014 isn't Harry Reid's Senate majority leader chair, but dozens of state legislatures and several governor's mansions that could flip into the hands of the GOP in November, which could give them total control of a number of purple states in 2015. If you thought things were bad at the state level before in places like Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina is total GOP control of the state, wait until places like Colorado, Iowa, and Nevada fall.
At a time when Democrats and Republicans in control of statehouses are using their authority to push through ambitious policies that by contrast highlight the paralysis in Washington, the potential for further Republican gains has raised the possibility of deepening the policy divide between red and blue states. Republicans now control 59 of the 99 partisan legislative chambers, and have complete political control — both legislative houses and the governor’s mansion — in 23 states, while Democrats control 13. The total number of states ruled by a single political party, 36, is the highest in six decades.
Officials from both parties say there are two states that the Republicans might be able to add to the list of places where they enjoy complete control — Iowa and Arkansas. (There are no similar opportunities for Democrats.) Given that, Republicans this year are also looking to pick off individual chambers as a way of increasing their negotiating ability with Democratic governors and statehouses, or to block Democrats from passing legislation.
Republicans are looking to take over senates in Colorado, Iowa, Oregon, Maine and Nevada, and houses in Kentucky, New Hampshire and West Virginia. Republicans could emerge with complete control of the legislatures in New Hampshire and Kentucky, though both of those states have Democratic governors.
That would mean that the only thing keeping Obamacare alive through Kynect in Kentucky would be Dinosaur Steve. And if Democrats are unable to win next year when Beshear steps down, you can kiss Kynect goodbye, as Republicans here have vowed to dismantle the program if they take over.
They hope these victories will help them push through legislation that has been stymied by Democrats until now, such as pressing the kind of restrictions on labor organizing the party passed in Wisconsin, or rolling back gun laws in Colorado. In Iowa, Republicans are looking to eliminate a tax on manufacturing and enact a ban there on telemedicine abortions, where women in rural areas obtain abortion pills after videoconference consultations with faraway doctors.
Matt Walter, president of the Republican State Leadership Committee, which is spearheading the statehouse efforts, said, “The pattern is crystal-clear at this point, and Wisconsin is the best example of it: That ability to drive your agenda when you are completely in control of state government will absolutely continue to play out.”
If Republicans end up controlling two-thirds of state legislative chambers, the country is going to suffer greatly. No matter how you feel about voting for Democrats in the Senate, you'd better get to the polls for your state legislature elections, and push that lever for the D side.