State Control And 2010

Recent polls, for what they're worth, suggest Democrats doing better than might be expected in a few places around the country. In Florida, for example, Senate candidate Kendrick Meek and Governor candidate Alex Sink seem to be running close to the Republican frontrunners for open seats. Bill White in Texas was just four points behind incumbent Republican Rick Perry in a new Rasmussen poll. In Georgia, Roy Barnes polled slightly ahead of the Republican candidates for the open governor's seat. 

What's interesting to me is that Florida, Texas, and Georgia are all states where the state government -- the governor and both legislative chambers -- are in control of Republicans.

Meanwhile, polls in some states where Democrats control state government look good for Republicans -- say, in New Hampshire, where Democratic Senate candidate Paul Hodes continues to trail badly; or Colorado, where Republicans are leading Democrats in both the governor and US Senate races.

I've been curious for some time about the potential negative effect of partisan state power on this cycle's elections. Certainly, partisan national power figures to be far more important, and -- to whatever extent people are still unhappy come November -- figures to work against Democrats everywhere.

But my hypothesis is that the effect will be amplified in states where Democrats have state control, and counteracted in states where Republicans have state control.

Consider the three big Republican wins of the cycle so far: governor of New Jersey and Virginia, and US Senator for Massachusetts. At the time of the elections, each had a Democratic governor; Democrats controlled both houses in NJ and MA, and the upper house in Virginia.

If I'm right, it's a potential additional problem for Democrats. There are 21 states that have a Democratic governor, and Democratic control of at least one house of state legislature; there are only 13 states where the reverse is true.

All else being equal, you would expect Democrats to have the advantage in those 21 states where Democrats hold power -- where, after all, voters have been voting Democratic in the recent past -- and for Republicans to have the advantage in their 13. But, if voters are taking out frustration with local office-holders.... well, perhaps that's how you get Christie, McDonnell, and Scott Brown.

Certainly Democrats appear to be having trouble in a number of those 21 locally- blue states. That includes Senate races in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Ohio, Kentucky, Colorado, Arkansas, and Illinois, and governor races in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Ohio, Colorado, and maybe Maryland and Maine.

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