WASHINGTON – The 2020 campaign is not just about the White House or even Congress. Across the country, seats in 86 legislative chambers in 44 states are also elected. And these elections will also have consequences, in some cases major consequences, as states will soon take on the task of redistribution.
Over the past few weeks, the president’s poll data has shifted pretty evenly in favor of the Democrats, and that could have a huge impact on the vote. If those trends and numbers are right, state capitals across the country could look very different in January – including some places where the Democrats were out of control for a long time.
This week, the data download deals with some state legislatures to watch for in November. You go back in time to see when you last switched partisan.
In Iowa, Democrats only need four seats to regain control of the state’s House of Representatives, and presidential polls suggest that political change may be in the air. President Trump won the state by more than nine points in 2016, but the latest polling average on the thirty-eighth website shows Joe Biden is just ahead. It’s a big swing. Another problematic sign was the GOP. Republican Senator Joni Ernst is embroiled in a close battle with her Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield.
Democrats also need to take four seats in Michigan House to regain control of this legislature. Trump squealed in the state in 2016, the profit is only two-tenths of a percentage point, and the thirty-eight average is currently at Biden by more than eight points. Additionally, Michigan has been on trend since 2016, with Democratic candidates taking over the U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races fairly easily. This week’s threats to the life of the state’s largely popular Democratic governor are unlikely to help Republicans either.
In North Carolina, the Senate and State House of Representatives look like they might turn around too. The Democrats only need to add five seats in the Senate and six seats in the House of Representatives. Trump won the state by more than three percentage points in 2016, but Biden currently leads by more than two on average thirty-five.
Five and six seats may sound like a lot, but in North Carolina, the GOP may face challenges in fast-growing suburban areas – places that polled the president – like the Charlotte and Raleigh subway areas. And there were many close races in 2018. In both chambers, 20 percent of the races were decided in the single-digit range.
A little further back in time, in 2002, the Texas State House freaked out on the Republicans and there might be reason to believe that Democrats will have a shot at the Chamber in November.
It would be a steep climb for the Democrats – they have to win nine of more than 150 seats on the ballot – but Texas looks different in 2020 than it did four years ago when Trump won it by nine points. The current average of thirty-five shows a Trump ahead of less than two, and the GOP’s suburban problem could be a cause for concern in Texas too – cities like Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio. Recall that Democrat Beto O’Rourke was three points ahead of Republican Senator Ted Cruz in 2018, in large part due to a strong Democratic bias in voting in the suburbs.
Even earlier, the Florida State Senate took action against Republicans in 1994 after two years of divided rule.
Democrats would have to get four of the 20 seats, ten of which are held by Republicans. It’s a pretty big job, but working against Republicans in the state is Trump’s problem with high-profile voters. In the latest NBC News / Wall Street Journal poll, Trump follows Biden in double digits among those voters. This is one reason why Trump, who won the state by just over a point in 2016, is down more than four points to Biden in Florida’s thirty-fifth poll average.
But the biggest change that could come in November is in western Arizona, where the Democrats haven’t controlled the House for more than 50 years – as early as 1966.
Democrats only need two seats out of 60 to regain control of the state’s lower legislature, and there are signs of them. Not so long ago the state had two Republican US Senators, now it has a Democrat and a Republican, and that Republican, Senator Martha McSally, follows in the polls. And this is another condition that seems to be moving away from Trump. Four years ago the president won this state with 3.5 points, but the latest average of thirty-five shows that Biden is leading by that amount.
To be clear, none of this is predictive. The lesson from previous elections, especially 2016, is that voters can be unpredictable. And some of these potential flips are far more likely than others.
But with less than a month to go on election day, there are signs of real potential Republican voting problems. And if the polls turn out to be correct, the blue-tinged impact can extend well beyond Washington to state houses scattered across the country.
That would be just in time for the restructuring struggle that will redefine Congress for the next decade.