Is Biden's Midterm Going to be Obama 2.0?
How Bad Will the Midterms be for Democrats in State Legislatures
It has been 12 years since Obama and the Democrats received a shellacking during his first midterm election. Everyone remembers what happened, the GOP picked up their largest gains in a single election since 1938 and retook the majority plus six Senate seats. Less remembered is that Democrats down-ballot lost 680 state legislative seats and realigned the countries politics.
Before 2010, several states that consistently voted Republican for President were still controlled by Democrats locally, including parts of the Midwest, Deep South, and the Prairie States. The Obama White House years forever changed that.
While experts can blame Obamacare and Democrats in Washington for shooting over the mark and pushing an overly partisan agenda, a large part of it, however, was longstanding trends that sped up with the arrival of Obama, Reid, and Pelosi to Washington. Working-class whites shifted heavily towards Republicans, and it was enough to give a serious blow to the Democrat Party and rip the gavel from Pelosi’s hands. Those voting trends are still standing, and despite it being over a decade since the 2010 midterm, Democrats have yet to recover from their losses in state legislatures.
As of February 1st, Democrats have 174 fewer State Senate seats and 582 fewer State House/Assembly seats than in 2009.
While some states like New Hampshire, Nevada, and Colorado have swung back and forth over the last decade, Democrats in more than a dozen states have 30 percent fewer state legislators than they did before the 2010 midterm.
With Republicans surging in early polls and given the giant swings in both the Virginia and New Jersey’s elections, it’s pretty safe odds that we’re looking at a Red Wave this November that will flip both the House and Senate as well as 150 to 200 state legislative sweep. Still, the more important question is “could it be more than that?”
Many political analysts, including myself, have said we’re in the midst of a new realignment of working-class voters.
More multi-racial working-class voters are flocking to Republicans especially in some states and heavily urban areas. Latinos, Asians, whites, and even some pockets of black voters turned off by waves of violence, COVID shutdowns, and disruption in children’s education has turned voters against the Democrat Party.
We saw Trump improve with white-working class voters in 2016 and with Hispanics in 2020. Governor Youngkin even made further inroads with rural whites in Western Virginia, some rural black areas in Southeast Virginia, and some Hispanic and Asian precincts in Northern Virginia. Republicans in New Jersey had a clean sweep in the white ethnic area of South Jersey and made gains on Trump numbers in Hispanic parts of Passiac County. Republicans in New York City made gains in Hispanic and Asian areas, while trouncing Democrats in white-working class areas. Suburban Republicans in Nassau, Suffolk, and Northern Virginia made major gains.
If this isn’t a sure-fire guarantee, we may be many years from seeing the political realignment actually meet its conclusion. If Republicans can close the gap with Hispanics by 10 points and Democrats see the floor with white-working class voters decline by another 5 to 10 points, we could easily see the number of state legislative seats flipping parties, double.
Districts to look at to see if this realignment is in full effect:
The 7th and 8th Bristol district in Massachusetts, the area surrounding Fall River. This heavily Portuguese area moved by double digits towards Trump in some areas, one of the most right-wing moves in the entire Northeast.
New York Assembly Districts 45, 46, 47, 48, and 49 in Brooklyn. These districts, which are heavily Russian with a healthy mixture of ethnic whites, Hispanics, and Chinese, have been voting Republican for President and Democrat for the state legislative race. This may be the time they finally move down-ballot to vote entirely Republican.
Florida’s 38th Senate and 113th State House seats in Miami and Kendall, which are heavily Hispanic and trended by double digits towards Trump. Since COVID, however, they’ve had a number of transplants who have moved to the area to get away from blue state’s government shutdowns.
Texas’s 19th, 20th, and 27th State Senate and 35th, 37th, and 74th State House districts. These six districts are in the Rio Grande Valley and have long been considered pretty safe for Democrats. The shift of Tejano voters towards Republicans could guarantee the GOP a supermajority in the state legislature and save the state from turning blue in 2024 or 2028.
Colorado’s 46th and 62nd House districts, there two Southern districts are both rural and suburban and hold the keys to the majority in the lower chamber if Republicans can flip them. The question is if Hispanics in the Pueblo area continue to shift towards the GOP.
The 5th, 9th, 21st, 29th, and 41st House and 9th Senate districts in Nevada make up the suburbs of Nevada. While Republicans made tremendous progress near Northern Las Vegas, it’s still probably too far out of reach for the GOP. The Western and Southern areas of the city’s suburbs are where they can hope to score wins that will flip the legislature.
If this truly is a seismic wave year, Republicans can try to flip legislatures in Connecticut, New Mexico, Maine, Nevada, Minnesota, and Oregon. Yet if the areas mentioned above flip and others that were considered safe Democratic become slightly more competitive, it will show we’ve reached a new phase in the realignment, one that will be here for decades.