A little ray of sunshine

A little ray of sunshine

by digby

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We all know that the election on Tuesday was good news. But this post at the Monkey Cage makes a case that it was really good news.

In 1897, an earthquake that hit 5.8 on the Richter scale shook Virginia and was felt across 12 other states. Six months later, William McKinley’s Republican Party experienced its own disaster in Virginia, losing 15 seats in the state House of Delegates.

Not until Tuesday night did another such earthquake strike a president’s party in Virginia elections. The figure below puts the Republican Party’s losses in historical perspective. What happened Tuesday was worse than normal.

Now the question is whether the GOP’s losses in the Virginia legislature should be a warning sign for Republicans next year. If past elections are any indication, the answer is yes.

All politics is not local

National politics has long dominated state legislative elections. That’s true in Virginia, too. The left panel in the graph below shows that presidential approval, as measured by the last national Gallup poll before an election, is strongly associated with seat changes for the president’s party in the House of Delegates. The right panel shows that this is true in state elections nationwide.

What is particularly worrisome for Republicans is that their Virginia losses were worse than what is predicted by presidential approval alone. In the left-hand graph above, the 2017 point is well below the line that captures this relationship. With Trump’s approval rating at 38 percent, Republicans should have lost two to four seats, not 15.

This simple analysis suggests that a 38 percent approval rating could translate in 2018 into Republicans losing about 300 state House seats. This is why the GOP’s losses in Virginia may hint at a larger earthquake.

Indeed, the fortunes of the president’s party in Virginia House elections are related to how the president’s party fared in midterm elections the next year. The graph below shows a clear correlation emerges in U.S. House and state House elections.

A 10-point change in seats in the House of Delegates is associated with a 4-5% seat change in midterm state House and U.S. House elections. The points labeled “2018” indicate the predicted loss in Republican seats, which would be almost as large as Democratic losses in 2010 and exceed Republicans losses after Watergate in 1974.

It goes on the talk about what needs to be done to make this actually happen and it's not easy. It won't just happen on its own. But we now have some proof that it's possible. And that's good news.