With the dust barely settled from the 2012 election already analysts and politicians are seeking to assess the post-2012 political landscape. Most of this analysis seems to settle on the fact the GOP is sure to lose at least 7 and possibly 8 House seats, 2 Senate seats and, of course, the Presidency. Many analysts think the GOP also had a disappointing night at the state level. But did they? And is the GOP really in bad shape heading into 2013 and beyond?
Consider that in January the GOP will control 45 Senate seats, 234 (or 235) House seats, and 30 of the nation’s 50 governors mansions. They also will control a solid majority of the nation’s legislative chambers and have complete control of 26 state’s legislative chambers. Democrats will have the ultimate prize, the WH, 53 Senate seats (with 2 Independents caucusing with them), 200 (or 201) House seats and 20 governors. Not surprising, short of Montana, the Democrats will not have another Governor representing a state Romney won.
If one looks back at history it is easy to see that the GOP is near its high point in terms of governors. One would have to go back all the way to the 1920’s to find a time when the GOP controlled more. In the House, 2010 represented a high-water mark for the party and naturally due to redistricting and a presidential election year where the party lost, losing seats was inevitable. But losing only eight seats has to be considered a feat.
In the last decade the GOP reached its high-water mark in the Senate at 55 seats in 2004. In 2008 they were limited to 40 seats and have bounced back to 45 seats. Losing two seats this year has to be painful for the party but the Democrats that will represent those seats are not doctrinaire liberals. Democrats hailing from red or blue states such as Montana, North Dakota, West Virginia, Missouri and Indiana may be hard to corral on budget talks for the party.
The GOP looks likely to retain a similar margin the House after 2014 (assuming no wave election develops). Redistricting in GOP controlled states helped the party limit its losses whereas Democrats made the biggest gains in states such as IL and CA where they won numerous swing to Democratic leaning districts. Democrats will have their fair share of targets come 2014 but so will the GOP. These targets could include weak Democratic winners in Florida such as Garcia (FL-26) and Tim Murphy (FL-18). In North Carolina, assuming Mike McIntyre survives a recount for 2012 he would be a top GOP target again. In Georgia, Congressman Barrow (GA-12) would again be a top GOP target if they can find a strong nominee. Finally in Utah, Jim Matheson (UT-4) looks vulnerable, at least on paper. But even with conservative rock star Mia Love challenging him in 2012 he won showing he has deep roots with the Utah voters. A number of other districts the GOP could target, such as swing districts in CA they lost this cycle as well as NH’s two Congressional districts.
For Democrats to expand their minority in the House and expand their majority in the Senate their math is far more complicated. Again, barring a wave election the GOP should hold the House fairly easily come 2014. Democrats can nibble at the GOP majority but are unlikely to weaken it substantially. The Senate math is also complicated. The GOP had a slate of bad candidates run this cycle and cost the party seats. In 2014 the NRSC and RNC has already indicated they may get involved in party primaries to help nominees that can win general elections. A number of vulnerable Democratic Senators will be up in 2014 while the GOP looks likely to have only one (ME).
Democrats best shot in terms of gains come 2013 and 2014 is at taking control of state executive offices. In 2013 GOP Governor Bob McDonnell (R) is term-limited and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) is up for reelection. If Democrats find a moderate nominee in VA and successfully court moderate Newark mayor Corey Booker to run in NJ they may win two governorships before 2014 even begins. In 2014 the GOP will be defending a plethora of state executive, constitutional offices and legislative chambers. If the GOP is to lose seats or offices in particular states the most likely places would be in Maine (Paul Lepage-Governor), Florida (Rick Scott-Governor) and Ohio (John Kasich-Governor).
Of course none of this is to say that this is guaranteed to happen. Rather, it points out the GOP is still in a strong position come 2013, 2014 and yes, 2016. Arguments about demographics, issues and candidates aside the GOP is still a potent political force in this country. One election, 2012, does not change that. And if the country is realigning to be center-left than Democrats need to do well in 2013 and 2014. Afterall, 2009 and 2010 happened as well. For as political scientist John Sides remind us “A realignment does not take midterms off.”