This past Friday, Aig. 4, 2017, West Virginia became the 26th Republican trifecta when Gov. Jim Justice left the Democratic Party and became a Republican. A trifecta exists when one political party holds the governorship, a majority in the state senate, and a majority in the state house.
Democrats hold just six trifectas, though one of them is in the nation’s largest state, California.
For West Virginia, this is just the latest step in a remarkable political transformation. For decades prior to the 2014 elections, the state was governed by a Democratic trifecta. But in 2014, voters gave control of the state legislature to the GOP. In that same year, voters elected a Republican U.S. senator for the first time in 58 years (Shelley Moore Capito).
These shifts were preceded by a swing to the GOP in presidential elections. From 1932 to 1996, West Virginia was one of the most reliably Democratic strongholds in the nation. However, George W. Bush, R, won the state in 2000, and its Electoral College votes have gone to the GOP candidate in every election since then. Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by 42 percentage points in 2016 (68 percent to 26 percent).
U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., is up for re-election in 2018. Prior to Justice’s switch to the GOP, analysts rated the West Virginia Senate race as anywhere from a toss-up to likely Democrat.
Nationally, Republicans now hold 34 governorships, the most it has held since 1922. Democrats had the same number back in 1986. No party has ever held more than 34 governorships for a period of time longer than six months.
History shows that parties rarely hold on to such peak levels of support. Additionally, the party controlling the White House generally loses electoral strength. Over the past 100 years, only 4 presidents have seen their party grow stronger.
The 2016 election saw the Republican Party pick up four trifectas: Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, and New Hampshire. Two states — Nevada and North Carolina — changed from Republican trifectas to divided governments, while one state — Vermont — changed from a Democratic trifecta to divided government.
Scott Rasmussen’s Number of the Day is published by Ballotpedia. Each weekday, Scott Rasmussen’s Number of the Day explores interesting and newsworthy topics at the intersection of culture, politics, and technology.
Scott Rasmussen is a Senior Fellow for the Study of Self-Governance at the King’s College in New York and an Editor-At-Large for Ballotpedia, the Encyclopedia of American Politics. His most recent book, "Politics Has Failed: America Will Not," was published by the Sutherland Institute in May.To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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