Larry J. Sabato's Crystal Ball
http://www.centerforpolitics.org/crystalball/articles/ljs2005050501/
Export date: Mon Oct 23 22:28:28 2017 / +0000 GMT

2006 Statehouse Rock


Take a look at the table below, which illustrates changes in party control of Governorships from FDR to George W. Bush over a span of six decades (1942-2004). What do you see? As usual, it all depends on what you are looking for.

Most election years, especially in the last couple of decades, have produced remarkably little change in the overall balance of Democrats and Republicans. Nine of the eleven elections since 1984 have yielded a shift of three or fewer governorships from one party column to the other. In earlier decades, when presidential coattails and partisan identification were stronger in the electorate, Governors were tossed in or out of office along with the party tides. In the twenty-one elections from 1942-1982, almost half of them (ten total) recorded a shift of at least five, and up to eleven, Governorships per year.

All in all, a dozen elections have been memorable for gubernatorial contests since 1942: 1948, 1950, 1952, 1954, 1958, 1966, 1970, 1974, 1978, 1982, 1986, and 1994. The Democrats triumphed in exactly half of the twelve, and the Republicans in the other half. (Political life can be fair, over time.) All the gains and losses make sense, too. The Democrats gained statehouses in their party's good years (such as Truman's 1948 upset, Eisenhower's two unhappy midterm elections, and the Watergate scandal election of 1974), while Republicans had the same luck (winning governorships in Ike's 1952 landslide, in 1966 as a result of LBJ's disastrous Vietnam war policies, and in 1978 because of Jimmy Carter's waning popularity).

Much more importantly, all of the big shifts in the statehouses in the past half-century have come in midterm election years, most recently 1982, 1986, and 1994. All three years were "bad news" midterms for the incumbent White House. The recession of 1981-82 cost Ronald Reagan's Republicans 26 U.S. House seats and seven Governorships (though the GOP kept the U.S. Senate). The 1986 midterm marked the end of Reagan's congressional leverage, with Democrats recapturing the Senate for the first time in six years. And yet Republicans added a remarkable eight Governorships--a strange result that reminds us again of the unpredictable nature of American campaigns. The 1994 midterm was far more monochromatic, with the Democrats losing the House for the first time in 40 years, the Senate after eight years of control, and fully ten Governorships--the worst loss for either party since 1970, when the GOP took a statehouse drubbing.

Therefore, history advises us to be cautious in early predictions about gubernatorial races. Looking again at this remarkable table spanning more than six decades, we can play Las Vegas odds-maker. Historically, the probability is that Republicans, as the White House party, will lose just one to three statehouses in the net totals. But it is far from impossible that the losses will be more substantial, as in 1982, 1986, and 1994. And yes, it is even possible that the GOP will luck out as the Democrats did in 1962 and 1998, registering no statehouse losses at all. As always, in the late autumn of 2006, political eyes will be trained on the electoral seashore, scanning the horizon for the first crest of a tidal wave that may or may not come.

For more gubernatorial analysis, including commentary on every 2005 and 2006 race, visit the 2005 Governor 1 and 2006 Governor 2 sections of the Crystal Ball.

Table 1. Changes in Party Control of Governorships

El. Year Reps. Before Dems. Before Reps. After Dems. After Rep. Net Dem. Net President
1942 21 27 24 24 +3 -3 FDR
1944 26 22 24 24 -2 +2 FDR
1946 23 25 25 23 +2 -2 Truman
1948 24 24 18 30 -6 +6 Truman
1950 18 30 25 23 +7 -7 Truman
1952 25 23 30 18 +5 -5 Eisenhower
1954 29 19 21 27 -8 +8 Eisenhower
1956 21 27 19 29 -2 +2 Eisenhower
1958 19 29 15 35 -4 +6 Eisenhower
1960 15 35 16 34 +1 -1 Kennedy
1962 16 34 16 34 0 0 Kennedy
1964 15 35 17 33 +2 -2 Johnson
1966 17 33 25 25 +8 -8 Johnson
1968 26 24 30 20 +4 -4 Nixon
1970 32 18 21 29 -11 +11 Nixon
1972 20 30 19 31 -1 +1 Nixon
1974 18 32 12 37 -6 +5 Ford
1976 12 37 11 38 -1 +1 Carter
1978 11 38 18 32 +7 -6 Carter
1980 19 31 23 27 +4 -4 Reagan
1982 23 27 16 34 -7 +7 Reagan
1984 16 34 17 33 +1 -1 Reagan
1986 16 34 24 26 +8 -8 Reagan
1988 23 27 22 28 -1 +1 Bush
1990 21 29 20 28 -1 -1 Bush
1992 20 28 18 30 -2 +2 Clinton
1994 20 29 30 19 +10 -10 Clinton
1996 32 17 32 17 0 0 Clinton
1998 32 17 31 17 -1 0 Clinton
2000 30 18 29 19 -1 +1 G.W. Bush
2002 27 21 26 24 -1 +3 G.W. Bush
2004 28 22 28 22 0 0 G.W. Bush
Links:
  1. http://www.centerforpolitics.org/crystalball/2005/ governor/
  2. http://www.centerforpolitics.org/crystalball/2006/ governor/
Post date: 2005-05-05 00:00:00
Post date GMT: 1970-01-01 04:59:59


Export date: Mon Oct 23 22:28:28 2017 / +0000 GMT
This page was exported from Larry J. Sabato's Crystal Ball [ http://www.centerforpolitics.org/crystalball ]
Export of Post and Page has been powered by [ Universal Post Manager ] plugin from www.ProfProjects.com