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Key Takeaways

  • A political party holds a “trifecta” in a state when it controls both state legislative chambers as well as the governor’s office.
  • Currently (pre-election), Republicans have trifectas in 21 states, while Democrats hold 15 state trifectas. The remaining 14 states are under split control.
  • Democrats could eliminate Republican trifectas in two states (Arizona and Iowa) and could gain one in Minnesota. If Democrats win control of the Iowa House (rated a “Tilt Democratic”) or either chamber in Arizona (both rated “Tilt Democratic”), they will eliminate Republican trifectas in those states. Democrats also have a good chance of gaining a trifecta in Minnesota if they flip the Senate (rated “Tilt Democratic”).
  • Republicans have a chance to add to their trifecta lead in two states — by winning the governors race in Montana (rated a “Tilt Republican”) or taking control of the Alaska House (rated “Tilt Republican”). 

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More Analysis

A political party holds a “trifecta” in a state when it controls both state legislative chambers as well as the governor’s office. Currently, Republicans have trifectas in 21 states, Democrats hold 15 state trifectas, and the remaining 14 states are under split control. When one party controls both the legislature and governor’s mansion in a state, that party has a clear path to pass their preferred public policies without any major roadblocks from the opposition party. 

On November 3, political parties will have opportunities to gain and break up trifectas in the states. For this analysis, we’ll use the legislative and gubernatorial projections produced by election forecasters CNalysis and Cook Political Report, respectively. 

First, let’s address opportunities to break up current trifectas. Democrats can break up current Republican trifectas in Iowa by gaining control of the House (rated a “Tilt Democratic”) and in Arizona by gaining control of either chamber of the legislature (both the House and Senate are rated as “Tilt Democratic”). Republicans aren’t projected to break up any of the current 15 states with Democratic trifectas in 2020. 

Second, where are opportunities for parties to pick up fresh trifectas? Republicans can gain a trifecta in Alaska by taking control of the House, where a coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats currently hold power despite Republicans holding a majority of seats in that chamber (currently rated as “Tilt Republican”). Republicans also have a good opportunity to pick up a trifecta in Montana if Republican Greg Gianforte can defeat Democrat Mike Cooney in the race to replace term-limited Democratic Governor Steve Bullock (rated as “Tilt Republican”). Democrats’ best chance to pick up a trifecta is in Minnesota if they can flip the Senate (rated as “Tilt Democratic”). 

We could easily see Republicans gain two trifectas with victories in the Montana governor's race and taking control of the Alaska House and Democrats gaining a trifecta in Minnesota by winning a majority in the Senate. But Republicans may also see some trifectas lost with Democrats gaining majorities in legislative chambers in Arizona and Iowa. Assuming the above, this would put Democrats at 16 trifectas (+1) in 2021 with Republicans’ total remaining at 21. There’s also an outside chance Democrats break up additional Republican trifecta by winning control of the House in Texas (“Lean Republican”).

Want More Election Coverage?

For even more election coverage, visit MultiState's 2020 State Elections Landing Page, your source for up-to-date and accurate election results and analysis. Bookmark our page for updated maps on partisan breakdown of state governors and legislatures pre- and post-election, plus analysis on the races and key ballot measures from our MultiState Insider blog.