Despite failing to net five seats and reach a 90-seat supermajority in the House of Representatives, the DFL is actually now in a much stronger position heading into 2010 than they were heading into Tuesday’s election. Perhaps more important than netting two additional seats, the DFL deepened their support in districts throughout the state.
In 2006, House DFLers won 27 of their 85 seats by less than 10 points. As a result, many analysts (as well as Minority Leader Marty Siefert) expected Republicans to be able to take advantage of these narrow victory margins in 2008.
But, perhaps due to the unfavorable national political environment for Republicans, that only happened in a few races (Districts 28A, 31B, 37A, and 51A). In fact, the DFL actually expanded their victory margins in 2008: only 18 of the DFL’s 87 seats (21 percent) were won with victory margins of less than 10 points – down from 32 percent of seats won in 2006.
The GOP, on the other hand, basically treaded water. In 2006 17 of their 49 victories were by less than 10 points (35 percent); in 2008, 15 of the GOP’s 47 victories were decided by single-digits (32 percent).
When you add in near competitive races, those decided by less than 20 points, the numbers get even more grim for the House Republicans: more than two-thirds of seats won in 2008, 32 of 47 districts, were decided by less than 20 points, compared to just 39 percent of seats won by the DFL (34 of 87 districts).
The most glaring advantage at the moment for the DFL is that nearly half of their seats are being won in blowouts: 42 of 87 districts were carried by victory margins of 30 or more points on Tuesday (48 percent). In stark contrast, only 5 Republican districts (11 percent) were won by such a landslide margin.
The upshot here is that that the DFL leadership can continue to challenge Governor Tim Pawlenty with a bold agenda, without a significant fear of reprisal in 2010. Sure, if the DFL pushes too far they will lose seats, but it will be very difficult for the DFL to lose party control back to the Republicans in 2010, given these recent historical election trends.
In short, expect Pawlenty to sleep at night with his veto pen tucked under his pillow.