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As National Politics Go So Goes The State

June 21, 2022

In the last 100 years, the correlation between how Democrats do in congressional elections and how Democratic candidates do in state legislative races is nearly identical. 

Proportionally, the number of congressional seats Democrats pick up or lose in a given election cycle has tracked almost identically with the legislative seat changes from Democrats, according to Matt Grossmann of the Institute of Public Policy and Social Research.

Going into the 2022 election, he said he doesn’t expect much to change on that front.

Speaking at a lunchtime forum, Grossmann said he’s seeing a swing toward nationalization of the state-level elections to an extent not seen since Reconstruction in post-Civil War era.

“State legislative voters are connected with presidential approval,” he said. “It’s about how they’re feeling about the president.”

Generally, the feelings toward an incumbent president aren’t good two years into his tenure. Since 1934, in the non-presidential years Michigan has elected a governor, the candidate representing the party not in the White House has won 18 of the 22 times.

That would appear to be bad news for Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer since fellow Democratic President Joe Biden is in office. However, in 3 of those 4 times the Michigan gubernatorial candidate of the same party as the president has won, the candidate has been the incumbent.

In the last 60 years, an incumbent gubernatorial candidate has only lost twice . . . both of them were Democrats, however.

Other information Grossmann passed along to the forum Tuesday was:

  • The 2022 races for control of the Michigan House and the Michigan Senate are viewed as being among the top 10 of the most competitive legislative races in the country.
  • The Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission drew legislative maps that were as nonpartisan as possible. Based on thousands of randomized drawings of Michigan House and Senate maps the “efficiency gap” tended to be between 4% and 8% for Republicans. 

The “Hickory” map that was used for the Michigan House maps was closer to the 2% range for Republicans.

  • In general, Democrats have been losing ground in states.
  • Polling has been more skewed toward Democrats nationwide as Democrats are more likely to take polls. Those Republicans who do participate are less likely to support President Donald Trump.
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