A Democratic Tidal Wave in New Hampshire
When the pack of presidential hopefuls and the reporters who follow them descend on New Hampshire in January, as the 2008 campaign begins, a surprise awaits them. For the first time in anyone's life, New Hampshire has turned into a bright blue Democratic state.
Buried in the news of the national Democratic midterm election victory was an even more dramatic power shift in the state that has become famous as the site of the first presidential primary in each cycle.
In the words of veteran New Hampshire Republican leader Tom Rath, it was "beyond historic" when the Democrats took complete control of the handsome state capitol in Concord for the first time since 1874.
Democratic Gov. John Lynch won a second term with 74 percent of the votes, providing coattails for many others on the ticket.
The Executive Council, which has the power to confirm appointees and approve state contracts, switched from 4-1 Republican to 3-2 Democratic.
The state Senate, which Republicans controlled 16-8, is now Democratic by a 14-10 margin.
The state House of Representatives, which is dwarfed in size only by the British House of Commons and the U.S. House of Representatives, went from 242-150 Republican, with eight vacancies, to 239-161 Democratic.
In addition, Democrats defeated both incumbent Republican congressional representatives in a powerful demonstration of party-line voting.
New Hampshire was not alone. Iowa, whose presidential caucuses come even earlier than the New Hampshire primary, also elected a Democrat as governor and saw both houses of its legislature flip to the Democrats.
Democrats now control both houses in 24 states; Republicans do so in 16; and nine states have split control. (Nebraska has a nonpartisan unicameral legislature.)
These numbers become more important as we approach 2010 and another census, which will provide the raw material for the next round of line-drawing for congressional and legislative districts. If Democrats can maintain their legislative advantage along with their new 28-22 lead in governorships, they will be in the driver's seat on that redistricting.
Dante Scala, a professor of political science at St. Anselm College and authority on New Hampshire politics, said there were 80,000 straight-ticket Democratic votes -- almost twice the number of straight Republican ballots in the state.