This Election Could Bring Big Democratic Gains Far From D.C.

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Nevada is one of the states where Democrats hope to take over a legislative chamber on November 8.Photo: MyLoupe/UIG via Getty Images

In one of those proliferating articles about the agony of Republicans facing a presidential defeat, big losses in Congress, and a postelection “struggle for the soul of the party,” conservative Über-lobbyist and commissar Grover Norquist offers this comforting note to Politico:

“Back up and look at the map of 50 states,” says Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform, the activist who has badgered hundreds of Republican politicians into signing a pledge never to vote for tax increases. “There are 31 states with Republican governors. Thirty-one where we have both houses of legislature; twenty-three where we have both houses of the legislature and the governorship. The Democrats have all of seven states where they have all three. That is a depth of Republican strength that is enduring.”

Trouble is, most of those legislatures, and some governorships, are up for grabs on November 8 as well, and are not entirely invulnerable to what could in theory turn out to be a Democratic “wave” election. The possibility of significant Democratic gains far down ballot from federal offices, moreover, is not just a matter of presidential coattails. Republicans are overexposed in the states after their historic 2014 gains. And the presidential electorate — with plenty of young and minority voters who often sit out midterms — is more favorable to the Donkey Party as well.

Lou Cannon of RealClearPolitics reports that Democrats are taking aim at fragile Republican-controlled upper legislative chambers in Colorado, Nevada, New York, Washington, and West Virginia, and lower legislative chambers in Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, and New Mexico. Republicans hope to dislodge stubbornly Democratic legislative majorities in two pro-Trump states, Iowa (Senate) and Kentucky (House). But all in all, the GOP is on the defensive in statehouse battles.

Unfortunately for Democrats, only 12 governorships are at stake this year, and they already control 8 of them. According to the authoritative Cook Political Report, half of those 12 gubernatorial races (4 in currently Democratic states, 2 in Republican states) are toss-ups, and 3 of those are in states (Indiana, Missouri, West Virginia) Trump should win handily. One gubernatorial battleground (Vermont) is in a state Hillary Clinton will easily win, and two others (New Hampshire and North Carolina) are in presidential battleground states.

You may have to stay up pretty late on Election Night to hear much about these state races unless you live in one of the affected jurisdictions. But Grover Norquist is right: They matter a great deal in the long run.