Lost in the Democratic, media driven catharsis of what happened in state legislative races in Virginia this week, and last November, is the series of recent Republican victories in places as cobalt blue as Massachusetts in recent weeks. Even this week, Republicans won a special election outside Tampa, where Democrats hold a higher registration advantage.
With state legislative Republicans at all-time highs after the 2016 elections, the political goalposts have moved so far to the right (nearly 1000 state legislative seats flipped to Republican under President Obama), there should be plenty of opportunities for Democrats to reclaim momentum, and they haven’t. In the last quarter of 2017, it has been Republicans flipping blue seats to red — three of them in the bluest states in the country. With better candidates, now backed by a solid tax reform package, Republicans will continue to win in blue areas in 2018.
The Democrats, and their allies on shows like “Morning Joe,” suggest that what has happened in Virginia alone is the beginning of something bigger. All that happened in Virginia is that a blue state voted blue. It has been three election cycles since Republicans won their only statewide seat of the Obama-era in Virginia.
Liberal and progressive interests spent over $13 million in Virginia, three times what Democrat-affiliated groups collectively spent in the last gubernatorial cycle, but Republicans hold two state legislative districts won by Hillary Clinton while Democrats hold only one district won by President Trump. In 2017, the liberals outspent the GOP almost three-to-one, something they cannot sustain doing in thousands of state legislative races in 2018. The Democrats spent all of those resources just to reclaim Democrat-blue areas, and effectively crawl back to neutral.
In New Jersey, Republican Sen.-Elect Chris Brown flipped a seat Democrats have held since before Mr. Obama’s 2008 election. Mr. Obama won the district by more than 21 percent in 2012 and Hillary won it by double digits last year. In 2017, Mr. Brown over-performed the Republican candidate for Governor by more than 15 percent on the same ballot to win comfortably.
In Mississippi, conservative Neil Whaley flipped the seat of the former Democratic Minority Leader in a runoff election less than a month ago to expand the Republican supermajority.
Republican Dean Tran, flipped a state senate seat in Massachusetts that had been Democratic since 1974. Both President Obama and Hillary Clinton carried this district in recent presidential elections. Mr. Tran will also become the only Vietnamese-American in the Massachusetts legislature and marks the 11th newly elected Republican state legislator this year identified through either the Republican State Leadership Committee’s Future Majority Project, which supports candidates from diverse communities like Mr. Tran, or the Right Women, Right Now initiative that supports new female Republican candidates for office.
State-level politics are different than their federal brethren. Republicans won 41 special state legislative elections in 2017. They currently control 67 of 99 state legislative chambers, 26 overall state governments in totality; while Democrats only control 7 state governments in totality.
While the map does not look good for Democrats in 2018, their threat is real, and their willingness to spend at a record pace is real. Groups led by Eric Holder and his liberal allies are raising more money and attacking pro-growth policies and individual liberties at an alarming rate. But misreading the tea leaves in 2017 blue state election results may make a nice liberal talking point, but it is misleading and wrong.
• Matthew Walter is president of the Republican State Leadership Committee.