Potential tidal wave election year for the GOP in D.C. is no guarantee for similar gains in the Minnesota House

As Republicans continue to hold a fair lead in national generic congressional matchup polls, speculation by D.C. watchers and political strategists revolves around the extent to which the GOP will make gains in the 2010 mid-term elections.

Some political strategists (e.g. Dick Morris) have been predicting a Republican takeover of the U.S. House for months, while other D.C. experts (e.g. Larry Sabato, Charlie Cook) have put forth scenarios for double digit to 20+ seat gains for the GOP.

But if a ‘wave’ election should occur in 2010 to vault the Republicans into control of the U.S. House, what can we expect to happen to the DFL’s large majority in the Minnesota House? How tied to the national political scene are Minnesota’s state House races?

In what might not be a shock to Gopher State residents, Minnesota’s political pulse is often not in sync with what is happening elsewhere across the country.

Smart Politics conducted an analysis of the partisan shifts in the U.S. House and Minnesota House over the past six decades and found that what happens in the Gopher State is often the reverse course of what is happening nationwide.

First, the political party that has made gains in the U.S. House is the party that has lost seats in the Minnesota House in 6 of the last 11 election cycles dating back to 1988 (1988, 1990, 1992, 1996, 1998, and 2004).

In three of these years (1992, 1998, 2004) the partisan makeup of the Minnesota House changed at least 10 percentage points while a change in the opposite direction occurred in the US House:

· From Election Day 1990 to 1992, the DFL seat advantage in the MN House increased from 19.3 percent (an 80 to 54 seat advantage) to 29.6 percent (an 87 to 47 seat advantage) – a 10.3 percent net change in partisan control. In the U.S. House, Republicans gained 9 seats during this span.
· From Election Day 1996 to 1998, the DFL saw its 4.4 percent seat advantage (70 to 64 seats) turn into a 5.9 percent seat deficit (63 to 71 seats) – a 10.4 percent net change in partisan control. In the U.S. House, Democrats gained 5 seats.
· From Election Day 2002 to 2004, the DFL whittled its 22.2 percent seat deficit (52 to 82 seats) to just a 1.5 percent seat deficit (66 to 68 seats) – a 20.7 percentage point gain. Republicans in the U.S. House, meanwhile, gained three seats in the ’02 election cycle.

Secondly, dating back to the early 1950s, Gopher State residents have bucked national shifts toward the Republican Party on seven occasions.

In 1952, 1960, 1968, 1972, 1980, 1992, and 2004, the DFL (and previously liberal) caucus made gains in the Minnesota House while the Republican Party made gains in the U.S. House.

(Note: According to the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library, from 1913 through 1973, while Minnesota legislators were elected on nonpartisan ballots, legislators ran and caucused as “liberals” or “conservatives” – roughly equivalent in most years to Democrat / DFL and Republicans respectively).

Some of these GOP gains in D.C. were, in fact, quite substantial: 22 seats in 1952, 21 seats in 1960, 12 seats in 1972, and 34 seats in 1980.

Overall, across the 29 election cycles since 1952, partisan shifts in the Minnesota House have been in sync with the shift in the U.S. House in just 17 cycles:

· Democrats picked up seats in the Minnesota House and the U.S. House on 11 occasions: 1954, 1956, 1958, 1964, 1970, 1974, 1982, 1986, 2000, 2006, and 2008.
· Republicans picked up seats in both bodies on 6 occasions: 1962, 1966, 1978, 1984, 1994, and 2002.
· Democrats made gains in the Minnesota House while losing seats in the U.S. House on 7 occasions: 1952, 1960, 1968, 1972, 1980, 1992, and 2004.
· Republicans picked up seats in the Minnesota House while losing seats in the U.S. House 4 times: 1988, 1990, 1996, and 1998.
· In 1976 there was no change in partisan composition of the Minnesota House with a slight GOP gain in the U.S. House.

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