The DFL’s failure to secure a veto-proof majority in the State House in the 2008 elections means, among other things, that they are required to take more heed of Governor Tim Pawlenty’s proposals in this session’s battle over how to balance the budget (and how structurally balanced it should be into the future).

With GOP House Minority Leader Marty Seifert appearing quite confident about the unanimity of his caucus on a number of legislative issues, the three votes needed by the DFL to reach 90 may well prove to be elusive on key pieces of legislation coming out of St. Paul.

Will the DFL get a second chance at reaching 90 seats in 2010?

After the election, Smart Politics outlined how the DFL – all things being equal – remains in a stronger position to defend its seats than does the GOP. The following table summarizes the key numbers from the 2008 House races:

Minnesota House Seats Won by Margin of Victory, 2008

Margin of victory
DFL
GOP
< 10 points
18 (21%)
15 (32%)
10-19 points
16 (18%)
17 (36%)
20-29 points
11 (13%)
10 (21%)
30+ points
42 (48%)
5 (11%)

Source: data compiled by Smart Politics.

Of course, “all things being equal,” by definition, does not take into account a number of variables that could tip the scales as to which party makes a net gain in 2010, such as the number of each party’s incumbents running for reelection.

However, as good as this electoral data looks for the DFL at the moment, the Party is also nervously staring down the barrel of history: the partisan winds of change are bound to blow at the GOP’s back sooner or later.

Indeed, for the DFL to reach 90 seats in 2010 means that the Party would have to make gains in four consecutive election cycles – something that has not been accomplished in the House of Representatives by either the DFL or GOP since legislators began being elected on partisan ballots in 1974.

The Republicans and DFL have strung together net seat gains in three straight cycles one time each – the GOP in 1994, 1996, and 1998 and the DFL in 2004, 2006, and 2008.

The biggest Republican weapon to block the DFL from making history in the House hinges with the strength at the top of the ticket.

Will popular Governor Pawlenty seek to win an unprecedented third four-year term? If so, will the Governor remain as popular in November 2010 as he is now? (Smart Politics has shown Pawlenty’s resiliency, so far, to maintain high approval ratings in good times and bad).

The GOP should have an answer to the former question sometime this year. And public opinion polls will tell us soon enough whether Pawlenty’s popularity is beginning to take a hit as Minnesota’s once vibrant economy continues to decline, along with most of the nation.

Number of Minnesota House Seats Won in General Elections, 1974-2008

Year
DFL seats
GOP seats
2008
87
47
2006
85
49
2004
66
68
2002
52
82
2000
65
69
1998
63
71
1996
70
64
1994
71
63
1992
87
47
1990
80
54
1988
81
53
1986
83
51
1984
65
69
1982
77
57
1980
70
64
1978
67
67
1976
104
30
1974
104
30