The Latest Chamber-by-Chamber Analysis of the 2012 State Legislative Elections

Will the 2012 elections lead to big power changes in the state legislatures?
by | October 24, 2012
 

For the first time since 2004, we are in the midst of an election cycle that isn't a wave election. In other words, there won't be any big shift in one direction, especially at the state legislative level. The current playing field is more stable than any we've seen in quite some time.

In the 2006, 2008 and 2010 elections, one party had a strong edge, enabling it to put more and more legislatures into play as Election Day approached. This year, however, there's been movement in only five chambers since our first legislative handicapping of the cycle in August. Those changes have been modest -- and neither party appears to be putting previously uncompetitive chambers into serious contention.

Two chambers moved towards the Democrats -- the Colorado House (moving from tossup to lean Democratic) and the Minnesota Senate (from lean Republican to tossup). Meanwhile, three chambers moved toward the Republicans - the House and Senate in Arkansas (both of which moved from tossup to lean Republican) and the Pennsylvania House (which moved from lean Republican to likely Republican).

The shifts don't change the overall outlook we forecast in August, which calls for either a slight strengthening of the GOP's strong lead in chambers or a small rollback by the Democrats. The GOP now controls 59 legislative chambers, the Democrats control 37 and two are tied (Nebraska has a unicameral, nonpartisan Legislature). A big move in either direction continues to appear unlikely at this point, particularly given the close presidential race.

As always, our assessment is based on interviews with dozens of state and national political sources. We rate chambers on the following scale: safe Republican, likely Republican, lean Republican, tossup, lean Democratic, likely Democratic and safe Democratic. The categories labeled "lean" and "tossup" are considered competitive or in play. Chambers in either of the "likely" categories are not expected to change party control on Election Day, but it's possible that the minority party could net a few seats and nibble into the majority's lead.

The number of competitive chambers in our analysis actually dropped by one since August, with Pennsylvania's Republican House majority looking more solid than it did previously.

We now find 23 state legislative chambers to be in play. Nine chambers lean Republican (six of them are currently held by the GOP, two are held by the Democrats and one is tied), six chambers are tossups (three are held by the Democrats and three by the GOP) and eight chambers lean Democratic (five are held by Democrats, two by the GOP and one is tied).

All told, the parties are at roughly equal risk. Ten Democratic chambers and 11 Republican chambers are in play, as are two tied chambers. If our ratings prove accurate, then even if the Democrats manage to seize a few chambers away from the Republicans in 2012, they will still find themselves far behind the GOP in overall control of chambers on Election Night.

We'll continue to analyze ongoing developments in the state legislatures as the election season progresses. Click a state in the map below to view our chamber-by-chamber ratings for each state.

Rating Held by D Held by R Tied Total
Lean Republican 2 6 1 9
Tossup 3 3 0 6
Lean Democrat 5 2 1 8
Total 10 11 2 23

Select Map:
 
 
 
Democratic Majority
 
 
Republican Majority
 
 
Split/Toss-up
State Elections

Click a state in the above map to display current breakdowns for each state legislature.

Information is current as of September 2012.

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