The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

In the states, the GOP is in its best position since the Great Depression

Following Saturday's runoff in Louisiana, we are about to close the books on the 2014 election, once and for all. Only one major race remains: The recount in Arizona's 2nd congressional district between Rep. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.) and Republican Martha McSally.

But with Rep. Bill Cassidy's (R-La.) defeat of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) on Saturday, we now have a more conclusive look at where the GOP stands. And you could make a pretty compelling case that, in the states (i.e. not the presidency), Republicans are more powerful than at any point since the the start of the Great Depression.

To wit:


Republicans will control at least 246 out of 435 seats. That's tied for the most since the 1929-30 Congress (the GOP also had 246 seats in 1947-48 1948-49). And if McSally wins -- she currently leads -- it will be the single biggest GOP majority since the onset of the Depression.

Here's how that looked before this election.


Republicans will control 54 out of 100 seats. That's tied for their fourth-highest number of seats since that same 1929-30 Congress, but the larger three were majorities of 55 seats -- i.e. only one more seat.


Republicans will control 31 out of 50 seats. That's tied for their fourth-biggest number since -- you guessed it -- 1929 and 1930, according to the National Governors Association. But again, the three previous highs were 32 seats -- just one more seat.

State legislatures

Republicans control more than 4,100 out of 7,383 seats -- about 56 percent. That's their highest since 1920, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. They also control 69 out of the 99 state legislative chambers (including Nebraska, which is technically nonpartisan and has only one chamber, but which is for all intents and purposes under GOP control) -- the highest since at least 1900, which is the oldest data NCSL has.

Combine it all, and it's pretty clear the GOP's position in the states is better than it has been since the Great Depression. Republicans had 55 Senate seats and 32 governorships in 1997 and 1998, but they had significantly fewer House seats and state legislative power at the same time.

Taking the longer view, of course, 54 Senate seats isn't an overwhelming amount of power -- nor is holding 57 percent of House seats. The eight-decade high is as much a reflection of the Democratic dominance of the latter half of the 20th century as it is a resounding statement by the GOP (look at the House chart above; Democrats have routinely had very big majorities that the GOP is only now matching).

The last time the GOP clearly had more power than today was in the early 1920s, when it controlled more than 70 percent of governorships, 69 percent of the House and more than 60 percent of Senate seats.

Of course, throughout the 1920s, the GOP also had the presidency. And until Republicans take that back, it's hard to call them dominant.

But if they can do that in 2016 and hold on to their position in the states, they stand to exercise greater power than they've had in a very long time.