The Political Evolution of the States, Mapped Part VI

This time I am again focusing on the western United States, and these ones are a bit more liberal on average than the previous states I covered.

Arizona

Arizona MC-Index

When Arizona was first admitted in 1912, it sent a full Democratic delegation to Congress, and save for the freak election of a Republican to the Senate in 1920, the state’s delegation was entirely Democratic until 1953. The Democrats of Arizona were supportive of the New Deal but as more Republicans from the Midwest moved to the state after World War II and suburbanization expanded, the state became more competitive. In 1952 Senate Majority Leader Ernest W. McFarland was unseated by Republican Barry Goldwater as was longtime Congressman John Murdock by Republican John Rhodes. Goldwater attributed his victory to the unpopularity of President Truman, which certainly was true in 1952 but there were greater long-term forces at work. Both men would gain prominence in American politics up until the 1980s, with Goldwater running for president in 1964 and Rhodes serving as Minority Leader from 1973 to 1981.

Although the state has a strong Republican reputation for good reasons, it has been challenged from time to time, and it seems like the recent era with the election of Democrat Kyrsten Sinema is perhaps the most challenging yet for the modern GOP. However, Arizona did elect Dennis DeConcini for three terms so Sinema’s election may or may not be a portend of things to come for the Republican Party. That said, right now Republican strength in Arizona is certainly not as high as it was in the 1990s.

MC-Index for the Current Congress Thus Far: 46%

Colorado

Colorado MC-Index

Colorado has had a tumultuous political history from the start: one of its first senators, Henry Teller, switched parties twice. Although Colorado started as a strongly supportive state of the New Deal, enthusiasm for it waned to the extent that FDR lost the state in 1940 and two Republicans were elected to the House. After the 1948 election when the backlash against the New Deal had ended, the state became competitive in legislative races but on presidential, the state only voted twice for a Democratic candidate from 1952 to 2004. Although the state had a conservative bent in the 1990s and early 2000s, it now has a very slight Democratic lean as Democrats have won the state in the last three presidential elections. Also, Republicans have not elected a governor in the state since 2002, which is not encouraging.

MC-Index for the Current Congress Thus Far: 40%

Oregon

Oregon MC-Index

Oregon was at one time a strongly Republican state. Although FDR won the state four times, the Democrats failed to elect a senator from the state during FDR’s presidency, and from 1943 to 1953 the entire state’s delegation was Republican. This changed with Senator Wayne Morse. Morse was from the start a liberal Republican who had been nominated to boot the strongly nativist Rufus Holman. Morse switched to Independent in 1953 because of his dislike of the party having picked Nixon for VP, and then in 1955 Morse became a Democrat, and with his conversion went the other Senate seat, won by liberal Richard Neuberger. Democrats would maintain a significant presence in Oregon from this point forward, but moderate to liberal Republicans could thrive statewide: from 1969 to 1995, both its senators were Republicans (Mark Hatfield and Bob Packwood), and this was even in times in which its House delegation was entirely Democratic. However, the state now seems quite Democratic as even though on paper three of its five districts should be possible for the GOP to win, they only consistently win one and to make matters worse, the last Republican to win the state was Ronald Reagan in 1984, the last Republican to serve as governor of the state left office in 1987, and the last Republican senator was reelected in 2002. Although George W. Bush almost won Oregon in 2000, since 2008 Republican candidates have lost by double digits in the state and it currently just seems out of reach for them.

MC-Index for the Current Congress Thus Far: 17%

Washington

Washington MC-Index

During the Roosevelt Administration, the state of Washington’s entire delegation was Democratic until 1942, when anti-Roosevelt sentiment had finally resulted in victories, primarily in conservative eastern Washington. In 1946, the state elected a Republican to the Senate for the first time since 1926 and its Congressional delegation shifted from 4-2 Democrat to 5-1 Republican. Although Democrats regained some ground, Republicans proved to have strong staying power in the House…at least until 1964. From 1953 to 1965, although Washington had two Democratic senators a majority of its representatives were Republicans. The 1964 Johnson landslide, however, ended that for thirty years with only two Republicans left, and after the 1970 midterms, Republicans were down to one representative. In 1968, the state voted for Humphrey while the rest of the west voted for Nixon. However, in 1976 the state voted for Ford and in the 1980 election, when Republican State Attorney General Slade Gorton rode Reagan’s coattails to defeat the aging Senator Warren Magnuson. Although Republicans have not won the state in a presidential election since 1984 and thus are not motivated to compete there, in 1994 the state had the most dramatic turnover of the Republican Revolution: the state’s House delegation went from 7-1 Democratic to 6-2 Republican. This presence, however, petered out over the next six years and in 2000 Gorton lost reelection.

The state currently stands at 7-3 Democratic in its House delegation and 2-0 in the Senate and in 2016 Clinton won the state by 16 points. Although Republicans have greater success in state legislative elections, on the federal level the state’s voters go Democrat.

MC-Index for the Current Congress Thus Far: 21%

Wyoming

Wyoming MC-Index

This state is quite possibly the most Republican of any state of the west and the nation. The last time the state’s voters saw fit to send a Democrat to Washington was in 1976, and the last time a Democrat won the state in a presidential election was 1964. However, Wyoming wasn’t always the most Republican state in the union. The state thrice voted for FDR (did not do so in 1944) and for quite some time they elected Democrat Joseph O’Mahoney to the Senate. Although after 1966 it was becoming clear that Wyoming was shifting in a conservative direction, Democrats still had success for a time with electing Senator Gale McGee, a Great Society supporter and a war hawk, as well as Teno Roncalio to the state’s only House seat. However, in 1976, Republican Malcolm Wallop defeated McGee in an election in which the focus was government intrusion into small business and ranches. In 1978, Dick Cheney was elected to the House, and from then on the state would not fall below an MC-Index score of 81%.

MC-Index for the Current Congress Thus Far: 85%

 

 

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