Republican Party Historic High: GOP Controls 68 of 98 State Legislatures

(Photo: Reuters/Sara Stathas)Republican supporters for Governor Scott Walker react to early poll results in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Nov. 5, 2014.

After last Tuesday's impressive showing by the GOP in the 2014 midterm elections, Republicans now control 68 of 98 partisan state legislatures, the highest in the party's history.

A recent Real Clear Politics analysis highlighted that on top of boasting the majority in both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representative, Republicans currently control the governorship and both houses of the legislature in 23 states. That number could jump to 24 if Sean Parnell wins re-election in Alaska. Democrats meanwhile have that kind of control in just seven states.

According to the report, Republicans had performed poorly in state legislative elections for most of the postwar era. Democrats on the other hand, controlled the majority of chambers for most of the second half of the 20th century, often controlling between 60 and 80 chambers.

The GOP, however, began making gains in the late 1990's and early 2000's. Last Tuesday's election results, however, reflected an historic turning of the tide due to three factors — the increasing strength of Southern Republicans, recent strategic efforts to gain state chambers, and the national political conditions of 2014, according to the analysis.

"Republicans steadily gained control of more Southern legislatures in the first and now second decades of this century, and they are close to fully dominating the region. The GOP now controls every state chamber in the South except for the Kentucky House of Delegates," noted the report.

National political conditions, such as President Barack Obama's low job approval rating on Election Day also worked in favor of Republicans, according to Saint Louis University professor Steven Rogers. Other conditions such as the success of federal-level candidates like governors and senators also boosted the success rate of state-level candidates, particularly in swing states and "blue" states.

The GOP high point may not be long-lasting, however.

"Although these GOP gains are historic, they are not permanent. Republicans may have tight control over statehouses in the South and West, but their control in some blue states and swing states is built on sound strategy, significant monetary expenditures and a favorable political climate; in future cycles, Democrats might match the GOP in funds and strategic acumen, and the national climate could shift their way," notes the analysis.

"With so many state legislatures up for election in every major cycle (87 chambers were up this cycle alone), Democrats still have a chance to reverse these losses in the years ahead," it ended.

There are 98 partisan state legislatures because 49 states have bicameral, partisan legislatures. Nebraska has a unicameral, non-partisan legislature.

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