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Could Democrats Win Full Control Of More State Governments Than Republicans?

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According to the FiveThirtyEight forecast,1 Democrats have a 72 percent chance of winning a federal government trifecta: that is, control of the presidency, Senate and House. But the 2020 election could also usher in a number of new trifectas on the state level.

Single-party control of the governor’s office, state Senate and state House can enable that party to pass its agenda unencumbered, as Democrats showed after the 2018 midterms. The party used the six state-government trifectas it gained that year to pass major liberal legislation like funding full-day kindergarten in Colorado, raising the minimum wage in Illinois and setting ambitious renewable-energy goals in New Mexico. Democrats also broke up total Republican control of four other states, allowing them to take a hard line in negotiations with the GOP and bend legislation to their will.

However, thanks to their dominance of state-level elections during the Obama administration, Republicans still enjoy more state-government trifectas than their rivals: They have full control of 21 state governments, while Democrats have full control of 15. Going by population, that means roughly 40 percent of Americans live in states under complete Republican control, while 37 percent live in Democratic trifecta states.

Which party controls state government?

Control of the governorship, state Senate and state House in all 50 states

State Governor State Senate State House Trifecta?
Alabama R R R
Alaska* R R D
Arizona R R R
Arkansas R R R
California D D D
Colorado D D D
Connecticut D D D
Delaware D D D
Florida R R R
Georgia R R R
Hawaii D D D
Idaho R R R
Illinois D D D
Indiana R R R
Iowa R R R
Kansas D R R
Kentucky D R R
Louisiana D R R
Maine D D D
Maryland R D D
Massachusetts R D D
Michigan D R R
Minnesota D R D
Mississippi R R R
Missouri R R R
Montana D R R
Nebraska† R R
Nevada D D D
New Hampshire R D D
New Jersey D D D
New Mexico D D D
New York D D D
North Carolina D R R
North Dakota R R R
Ohio R R R
Oklahoma R R R
Oregon D D D
Pennsylvania D R R
Rhode Island D D D
South Carolina R R R
South Dakota R R R
Tennessee R R R
Texas R R R
Utah R R R
Vermont R D D
Virginia D D D
Washington D D D
West Virginia R R R
Wisconsin D R R
Wyoming R R R

For the purposes of this table, House refers to a state’s lower legislative chamber.

*The Alaska state House has been controlled by a coalition of Democrats, independents and moderate Republicans.

†Nebraska has only one legislative chamber. It is nominally nonpartisan but in practice is controlled by Republicans.

Sources: National Conference of State Legislatures, National Governors Association

Now, with another Democratic wave election looming in 2020, the balance of power in state governments could finally flip. Thanks to the more than 5,800 state legislative seats and 11 governorships on the ballot on Nov. 3, control of at least 11 state governments is up for grabs in 2020. That means Democrats have at least eight chances to either break up a Republican trifecta or gain one of their own. But don’t count Republicans out either — the GOP also has quite a few opportunities of its own.

Where Democrats could break Republican trifectas

Of all the states where Republicans are in danger of losing their grip on state government, Texas would be the most consequential. Democrats would gain a seat at the table in not only policymaking that affects 27.9 million people, but also the drawing of almost 40 congressional districts in the upcoming redistricting process. (More on that next week.)

Just a few years ago, Republicans losing control of Austin would have been unthinkable — but in the 2018 midterms, Democrats flipped 12 seats in the Texas state House, meaning the party needs to net only nine more seats to take control of the chamber. And thanks to Texas’s recent leftward shift (especially in the suburbs), there’s a clear path for them to do it: In 2018, Democratic Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke carried exactly nine state House seats that are still held by Republicans — showing that those districts are willing to vote Democratic in the right circumstances — and he came close in several more. In total, Democrats are targeting about 22 seats in the chamber, though they also need to defend the 12 they picked up in 2018.

Democrats could also take control of the Arizona state Legislature, although the trifecta is out of reach as Republican Gov. Doug Ducey still has two years left in his term. In her successful 2018 Senate campaign, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema carried three state Senate seats currently held by Republicans — exactly the number Democrats need to now flip in order to control the chamber. And Republicans currently have an even narrower advantage in the state House (31 seats to 29), prompting one Republican consultant to tell The Arizona Republic that he thought Democrats had a good chance to win it for the first time in 54 years.

Democrats could also end the Republican trifecta in Iowa by flipping the state House, which Republicans control 53 seats to 47. However, this will be more of a challenge, as Democrats must also defend 13 of their own members who sit in districts that voted for President Trump in 2016. Based on TV spending, Democrats are targeting at least 10 Republican-held seats, while Republicans hope to flip at least five Democratic-held ones.

Finally, Democrats also have an outside shot at ending total Republican control of Missouri state government if Democrat and state Auditor Nicole Galloway defeats Republican incumbent Mike Parson in the governor’s race. However, this is probably a long shot, as Parson has led handily in most polls.

Where Democrats could take full control

Democrats already capitalized on their most realistic trifecta opportunities in 2018, but there are still a few states left where the party could take full control of government. The most obvious is Minnesota, where the local Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party lacks control of only the state Senate. The DFL has six Republican-held seats in its sights, although it needs to net just two to win a majority. Conveniently enough, Republicans currently represent two suburban Twin Cities districts that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and are only getting more Democratic with time. However, Republicans have plenty of ways to stop a DFL trifecta even if they lose those two seats. The GOP is eyeing five DFL-held Senate seats and would love to flip the state House as well, although the math — the DFL has a 16-seat advantage in the lower chamber — makes the latter more unlikely.

If Democrats are really lucky, they could also give Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf a Democratic legislature to work with in Pennsylvania. Despite maps that were drawn to favor Republicans, Democrats steamrolled Republicans in metro Philadelphia in 2018, cutting their deficit to four seats in the state Senate and nine seats in the state House. Of course, the remaining competitive seats are the heaviest lifts for Democrats, although they do have around 15 pickup opportunities in the House (though Republicans have 12 of their own). And in the Senate, Democrats have no margin for error on their path to a majority: They must flip all four vulnerable Republican-held seats while defending two seats around Pittsburgh. It’s a tall order, but not impossible given that Biden is leading by an average of 7 points in Pennsylvania.

Where Republicans could take full control

Although their opportunities come in much less populous states, Republicans could also gain power from the 2020 election. For example, Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte is leading in polls for Montana governor, an open seat being vacated by Democrat Steve Bullock. And with both chambers of the Montana state Legislature firmly in Republican hands, a Gianforte win would produce another Republican trifecta.

Republicans could also take full control of Alaska state government simply by standing pat in the state House. (They already control the governorship and state Senate.) For the last two years, the House has been controlled by a coalition of Democrats, independents and moderate Republicans despite Republicans technically occupying 23 of the chamber’s 40 seats. However, with the defeat of two of those moderate Republicans in this year’s primaries and the defection of at least two others, Republicans appear to have the numbers to form a state House majority next year — even if no seats switch parties in the election.

Where Republicans could break a Democratic trifecta

On the other hand, Republicans have only one realistic chance of ending a Democratic trifecta: by flipping either Maine’s state Senate or state House. But although national handicappers and state experts disagree on which chamber is more endangered, all parties agree that Democrats have the upper hand in both. A recent Bangor Daily News/Digital Research poll found that Democrats led Republicans, 51 percent to 44 percent, on the generic legislative ballot, and outside Democratic groups have spent nearly four times as much as Republican ones.

Where either party could take full control

Finally, there are two states where all three components of a trifecta are competitive in 2020, meaning either party could emerge with total control of government. However, the most likely outcome in both may be a split decision.

In North Carolina, Republican legislators drew themselves very safe districts for a majority of the decade, but court-ordered redistricting has opened the door for Democrats to net the five seats they need in the state Senate and the six seats they need in the state House. However, the new maps still lean Republican overall: The tipping-point district went for Trump by 10 points in the state Senate and by 12 points in the state House. And Republicans could still seize the trifecta by defeating Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, but virtually every poll has shown the incumbent ahead, usually by double digits.

The parties’ positions are flipped in New Hampshire, where Republican Chris Sununu sits in the governor’s office and Democrats currently control both chambers of the legislature. Although New Hampshire is likely to go blue on the presidential level, Sununu is unlikely to lose his bid for a third term. That leaves Republicans fighting to flip the three seats they need in the state Senate and 44 seats they need in the House. That second part might sound impossible — and it will definitely be a challenge — but New Hampshire’s oddly drawn, 400-member state House is known for swinging wildly back and forth between the parties depending on the mood of the electorate.2

One last competitive chamber

Finally, one state without a trifecta in play deserves an honorable mention. With neither Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer nor the Republican-held state Senate up for election in 2020, Michigan is guaranteed to still have divided government for the next two years. However, the Michigan state House is one of the most competitive legislative chambers in the country this year. Republicans hold just a 58-52 majority and are defending four seats Whitmer carried in 2018 — three of which are open seats due to term limits. If Democrats flip the chamber, it would be the culmination of a decade-long Democratic effort: According to Daily Kos Elections, Michigan Democrats won the state House popular vote in 2012, 2014 and 2018, yet fell short of the majority every time.

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Toronto FC hoping to make MLS Cup run having spent much of 2020 far from home

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On a recent Thursday in Hartford, Conn., Toronto FC goalkeeper Quentin Westberg pondered the dichotomy of wanting to reach MLS Cup on Dec. 12, but also desiring to see his family again. Meanwhile, Jim Liston, the team’s director of sports science, was planning a trip to Lowe’s to buy 15 garbage cans so players could have an ice bath after training. As for manager Greg Vanney, he was fretting about his team’s health and the lack of practice time their schedule was affording.

Such is the life of a team as it attempts to not only navigate its way through the COVID-19 pandemic, but has been forced to do it away from home.

Due to travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada, TFC — like the league’s other two Canadian teams, Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps — set up a “home” base in the U.S. for the remainder of the season; Toronto were stationed in Hartford. (Vancouver Whitecaps took roost in Portland, ground-sharing with Timbers, while Montreal Impact split use of New York Red Bulls’ facilities in Harrison, N.J.) This was on top of nearly every team spending nearly a month inside a bubble back in July at the MLS is Back Tournament outside Orlando, Florida.

The Reds spent about seven weeks back in Toronto as they played a series of matches against Canadian teams. In mid-September, the remainder of the regular season — and the temporary move to Hartford — beckoned. The vagabond nature of the campaign is what led Liston to joke that he was willing to discuss “whatever five seasons” the team has been through so far. But for Vanney and the players, the campaign has required a special kind of focus.

“A lot of what we’ve done here, and what we try to preach here is just control the controllables, and don’t get too drawn into the things you can’t,” Vanney told ESPN. “Roll with it, and make the best out of whatever the situation is.”

Stream FC Daily on ESPN+
– 2020 MLS Playoffs: Who’s in, schedule and more
– MLS on ESPN+: Stream LIVE games and replays (U.S. only)

Toronto has largely succeeded in spite of its odyssey. While there was disappointment at missing out on the Supporters’ Shield to the Philadelphia Union, TFC went 7-3-2 during its Hartford sojourn and finished with the second-best record in the league. But the challenges have still been immense. Simply being out of one’s home environment is difficult enough, but the time spent away from family and loved ones weighs heavy on the psyche, even as Vanney has given players the occasional trip back to Toronto — under quarantine — to reconnect with loved ones.

“It’s just very different, very challenging and emotionally exhausting,” Westberg said of his experience while based in Hartford.

Westberg has arguably had it tougher than most. The TFC goalkeeper is married with four children, including a baby girl who was born in June. For that reason, Westberg and his wife, Ania, made the decision at the end of September that it would be better for her and their kids to head back to his native France so they could be surrounded by family. Westberg called it “the least bad decision,” but there are difficulties nonetheless.

“I’m a very even person, and this year has challenged me a lot,” he said. “I’m still pretty even, but I keep a lot to myself and for sure there’s some difficult days, seeing your family [struggle] from your absence.”

The inability to be home has affected the players and staff in other ways. In Toronto, there are ways of disengaging from the game. Being with friends, loved ones or even in familiar surroundings can be the best medicine in terms of forgetting a bad game or training session. But in Hartford, at the team’s hotel, that escape is nearly impossible even as players try to distract themselves by reading or taking online classes.

“You don’t really unplug,” Westberg said. “You FaceTime family, or this or that, but it’s too short. You’re 100 percent focused on your soccer, and your whole day basically relies on being ready for whatever soccer activity that you have next, whether it’s practice or game. It’s good for your physique, it’s optimal for the way you eat and the way you [train]. But mentally, you’re not as fresh as your body.”

That isn’t to say there are only negatives to the separation. There is also an us-against-the-world mentality that Toronto has adopted, given that their players and personnel are experiencing the season in a way that is vastly different than most other teams. The team staff has done what it can to make their surroundings a home away from home, whether it’s personalizing the locker rooms at Rentschler Field or having hotel staff brand the surroundings in TFC colors. The hotel went so far as to bring in a barista who could consistently give the players their coffee fix. Supporters groups have even sent down banners in a bid to convey the fact that the players are remembered.

The care that TFC takes for players has extended to families back home, with the club supplying meals to loved ones three times a week.

On the logistical side, Liston made sure that one of the gyms used at MLS is Back was brought to TFC’s hotel in Hartford, and he remarked that the food at the hotel is “arguably the best we’ve ever had on the road.”

There have also been efforts to create new routines. Assistant coach Jason Bent, aka DJ Soops, has been in charge of the pregame music selection for the past 18 months — no easy feat for a squad that has a considerable international presence. In Hartford, Bent has set aside Thursday nights to spin music in one area of the hotel. He’ll even go live on Instagram or Twitch for those who prefer to relax in their rooms.

“[We] opened it to players and staff and basically anyone that’s part of our bubble to come relax, listen to music and just enjoy each other’s company,” Bent said. “I enjoy making people happy so if it’s helping everyone even in the slightest, I have no problem arranging the set and spinning.”

For Vanney, the pandemic and operating outside of the team’s home market has meant any number of challenges. He said the team has used three different training facilities in Hartford, with varying field conditions. He recognizes that the trips home are vital for the mental health of his players and staff, but any breaks also mean less time spent on the practice field. The compressed schedule, which at times involved games every three or four days, has had an impact as well. Even the best-laid plans in terms of squad rotation were impacted as minor injuries began popping up.

“We end up with a lot of guys in different positions because they need special kinds of treatment or care to help them get fit and back to health,” Vanney said. “So it ends up being a lot of different things kind of going on all at once, and that’s been the challenge of it.”

Recovery from matches has been complicated by the fact that TFC doesn’t have access to the same level of facilities that it does at home — hence Liston’s emergency trip to Lowe’s to fashion impromptu ice baths for the players. Then there are the different ways the players occupy themselves on the road as compared to home, especially amid the pandemic.

“There’s really no life outside of the hotel,” Liston said. “[At home], you may go walk the dog in the afternoon or go for a walk with your wife or friend or girlfriend or family and you’re out and about. The recommendation [here] is to kind of stay put. So you’ve got a really active population and pro athletes, who we’re asking them to be sedentary the rest of the time, kind of stay in the hotel from a COVID and safety standpoint. That’s not optimal for recovery either.”

There are also the creature comforts of home that are no longer available on the road, which can impact sleep.

“Sleep is the number one tool for recovery, and that’s definitely been a challenge,” Liston said. “We do well-being questionnaires and the scores on quality of sleep, and hours of sleep, just drop.”

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Tom Barlow and Brian White seal Toronto’s fate in a 2-1 win for New York Red Bulls. Watch MLS on ESPN+.

Another change has been same-day travel, which has drawn mixed reactions from the TFC players and staff. Vanney and Westberg are generally in favor, saying it reminds them of when they each played in France. Flying back the same night also means a training day isn’t lost. Liston has a different perspective in that he prefers arriving the day before, and then leaving the same day.

“I think [same-day travel] makes for a really long day,” he said. “And there’s definitely a negative impact on performance, taking three bus rides and a plane ride before your game. You’re getting home — it can be 12:30, but it could also be 1:30 in the morning, and that’s where you know our well-being scores and sleep hours and quality just disappear. When you have so many games in succession, you can’t make up the sleep.”

With the playoffs set to begin for TFC on Nov. 24, the end is in sight, even as it makes for a complex — and even conflicting — set of emotions.

“This is the tricky part. I miss them a lot,” Westberg said of his family. “But in a way I want to see them as [late] as possible in December, because obviously, there’s this idea that we want to do well in the playoffs and we want to keep going. TFC has a history of setting high standards and high expectations. It’s a heavy load to carry but also an exciting one.”

Win or lose, it’s a season they’ll never forget.

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Bettman: NHL is mulling temporary realignment

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The NHL is considering a temporary realignment of its teams for the 2020-21 season due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, according to commissioner Gary Bettman.

Bettman said Tuesday that restrictions on travel across the Canadian border, as well as “limitations in terms of quarantining when you go from certain states to other states” within the United States, could mean the NHL creates a more regionalized alignment for its upcoming season.

“As it relates to the travel issue, which is obviously the great unknown, we may have to temporarily realign to deal with geography, because having some of our teams travel from Florida to California may not make sense. It may be that we’re better off — particularly if we’re playing a reduced schedule, which we’re contemplating — keeping it geographically centric and more divisional-based; and realigning, again on a temporary basis, to deal with the travel issues,” Bettman said during a 2020 Paley International Council Summit panel with fellow commissioners Adam Silver of the NBA and Rob Manfred of MLB.

The NHL board of governors has a meeting scheduled for Thursday which will provide a progress report and possible recommendations for a season format, based on talks between the league and the NHL Players’ Association. The target date for starting next season remains Jan. 1.

Bettman said the league is considering a few scheduling options for the 2020-21 season. Something that’s off the table: playing the entire season in the kind of bubbles the NHL had in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, to complete last season. But Bettman said teams opening in their own arenas is a possibility, along with a modified bubble.

“We are exploring the possibility of playing in our own buildings without fans [or] fans where you can, which is going to be an arena-by-arena issue. But we’re also exploring the possibility of a hub. You’ll come in. You’ll play for 10 to 12 days. You’ll play a bunch of games without traveling. You’ll go back, go home for a week, be with your family. We’ll have our testing protocols and all the other things you need,” he said.

Bettman also indicated that the NHL is exploring “a hybrid, where some teams are in a bubble, some teams play at home and you move in and out.”

The NBA’s board of governors unanimously approved a deal with the players’ union that sets the stage for a season that will open on Dec. 22 and with a reduced schedule of 72 games. Silver said that the commissioners are in communication on COVID-19-related issues, especially the NBA and the NHL, since the two leagues’ teams share arenas and, in some cases, team owners.

Silver said he senses that the NBA will have fans in many of its buildings this season.

“We’re probably going to start one way, where we’re maybe a little bit more conservative than many of the jurisdictions allow,” he said. “What we’ve said to our teams is that we’ll continue to work with public health authorities. Arena issues are different than outdoor stadium issues. There will be certain standards for air filtration and air circulation. There may be a different standard for a suite than there will be for fans spaced in seats.”

Silver said there will be standardized protocols that are consistent from arena to arena, such as proximity between players and fans: “In certain cases, for seats near the floor, we’re going to be putting in testing programs, where fans will certify that they’ve been tested — some within 48 hours, some within day of game.” While Silver supported a continued expansion of the NBA postseason through its play-in tournament, Bettman said that he’s not in favor of expanded playoffs or “playing with the fundamentals of the game.” The NHL had 24 teams in its postseason last summer.

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The Battleground States Where We’ve Seen Some Movement In The Polls

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With apologies to The Raconteurs, the presidential race continues to be “steady as she goes,” with little sign of tightening despite a plethora of new polls. FiveThirtyEight’s presidential forecast gives Joe Biden an 89 in 100 shot at winning the election, while President Trump has just an 11 in 100 chance. This makes Biden the favorite, but still leaves open a narrow path to victory for Trump, for whom a reelection win would be surprising — but not utterly shocking.

At the same time, we also have fewer polls from live-caller surveys, which have historically been more accurate and have shown slightly better numbers for Biden, than polls that use other methodologies, such as polls conducted primarily online or through automated telephone calls. Nevertheless, while the overall picture has shifted only a little in recent days, a few battleground states have seen at least some movement in their polls, which has slightly altered the odds Biden or Trump wins in each of those places.

What election stories need to get more coverage | FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast

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