Untold Story of 2012 Election: GOP Thrives Outside Beltway

Once again, the collective wisdom among the talking heads on TV, editorial boards across the country and the consultant class on both the right and the left is that the Republican Party is on the ropes and basically needs to become more like the Democratic Party if it wants to survive. One hears this “helpful advice” with some skepticism, as it is a verbatim repeat of the voices of 1964, 1974, 1982, 1986, 1992 and more recently 2008. That history and more importantly, a look at the hard numbers tell a different story.

Republicans made historic gains at the state level in 2010, hitting their historical high watermark with a gain of more than 700 seats and securing control of 61 legislative chambers. A look at what happened last Tuesday shows that while Democrats had a good day at the federal level, Americans just reaffirmed the decision they made two years ago to put a majority of state legislative chambers in Republican control. And despite outrage from folks like Rachel Maddow over the reforms enacted by GOP-controlled legislatures over the past two years, in the same election that Americans reelected Barack Obama, they also issued a vote of confidence in what Republicans have done to put state fiscal houses in order.

Standing in stark contrast to the outcome of the presidential and U.S. Senate races, Republicans strengthened their control of state capitols on Nov. 6. The GOP went into 2012 with unified control of the governor’s mansions and legislatures in 24 states and will come out with full political control of 25 states. Democrats will head into 2013 with a disadvantage at the state level, having total control of just 13 states.

This is significant. While we may expect more of the gridlock in Washington that we’ve have seen over the past two years – evidenced by President Barack Obama’s continued insistence on tax hikes on small businesses and a GOP House majority returning to Capitol Hill with a fresh mandate to continue opposing them — the states, over three-quarters of which are completely controlled by Republicans or Democrats, are unobstructed from moving in whichever direction the party in power chooses.

In these single party states, we will get to see each party test its product and observe the results. Californians just voted for a $7 billion annual tax hike and awarded Democrats a supermajority of the Legislature, giving them free reign to pass further tax increases on energy, soda, plastic bags and a host of other new levies that they have long wanted to impose but couldn’t. The fact that California has a two-thirds vote requirement to raise taxes and that the GOP had over a third of the seats in that Legislature was the only thing preventing the tax floodgates from opening in Sacramento. That check is no longer there.

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