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GOP has power where it counts: the states

By Roland Martin, CNN Contributor
March 18, 2013 -- Updated 1511 GMT (2311 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Roland Martin: Political echo chamber says GOP doomed by its losses in 2012 election
  • Don't believe it, he says -- GOP has power where it counts: governors, state legislatures
  • He says Dems claim minorities, women, but GOP plans big push for those voters
  • Martin: GOP pushing inroads at state level, not seriously changing policy; Dems, wise up

Editor's note: Roland Martin is a syndicated columnist and author of "The First: President Barack Obama's Road to the White House." He is a commentator for the TV One cable network and host/managing editor of its Sunday morning news show, "Washington Watch with Roland Martin."

(CNN) -- If you listen to the groupthink echo-chamber know-it-alls in Washington, the Republican Party has been decimated, destroyed, discombobulated and utterly distressed to the point of putting a "going out of business" sign out front and closing up shop for good.

Reality says that's ridiculous.

On the national level, the GOP controls the U.S. House of Representatives while Democrats control the U.S. Senate and the Oval Office.

Roland Martin
Roland Martin

But the real power for the Republicans is on the state level, and there they are dominating Democrats.

Republicans control the governor's mansion in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

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Folks, that's 30 out of the 50 states in the nation. The Democrats have governors in 19 states. (Rhode Island's governor is an independent.)

What about both chambers on the state level? The GOP controls the legislature in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Count 'em up and that's 26. The Democrats control 18 legislatures. Five of the remaining six are split between the two chambers and one has a nonpartisan, one-chamber legislature.

So much of the national media attention is always focused on what's happening in Washington, but that is a common mistake that the political bosses keep making. Every Sunday show on broadcast and cable parades the usual suspects from the U.S. Senate and sometimes a few influential U.S. House members, but it would make far more sense to be talking to governors, key state officials and mayors for a real understanding of what's happening in America.

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The GOP has been doing a lot of soul-searching and head-scratching since Mitt Romney was pummeled by President Barack Obama in November. Republican Party leaders are being told that they must soften their stance on gay and lesbian issues, flip the script on immigration reform, stop dissing women at every turn, and become more "compassionate" -- like George W. Bush when he was selling his candidacy in 2000.

On Monday, the Republican National Committee announced its 2012 election postmortem, which called for, among other things, an aggressive new push to reach minorities in the states.

Meanwhile, Democrats are giddy, believing they have found a winning formula for the next generation by turning out young folks, gay and lesbian folks, black voters, Latino voters and lots of women. Sure, that coalition worked well for Obama, but there is no guarantee it will be the key to success for the next Democratic presidential candidate.

So while Democrats salivate at the prospect of winning the White House in 2016, Republicans continue to lay the groundwork for taking over the state houses and gubernatorial mansions, and building a formidable team of next-generation politicians to dominate there and in the White House.

In fact, many Republicans have told me they couldn't care less about Washington, because legislation with real impact is being proposed and passed in the states. That's why you've seen groups quietly backing initiatives on the state level and bypassing the hot lights and screaming media in Washington.

The real battles on same-sex marriage, abortion, education, spending, labor unions, and, yes, the Affordable Care Act are happening state by state. And Democrats are being caught flat-footed because they ignored the admonition of former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean to create a 50-state party, and instead, created a party that cared more about Congress and the White House.

Think about it: Obama won Ohio, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Nevada, all states with GOP governors. So clearly voters in those states chose the Republican alternative in statewide elections, but when it came to the presidency, said "No thanks."

I'm not buying for a second this silly notion that the GOP will have a Damascus Road experience and drastically change. It's not going to happen. There will be some movement on the national level, but Republican grass-roots organizers are very well aware that the message the GOP is selling statewide is a winning formula.

Trust me, Republicans are concocting other pieces of legislation to bring change on the state level, regardless of what's happening in Washington.

The political adage "All politics is local" has not changed.

Maybe more of my brothers and sisters in Washington need to get outside the Beltway, hit the road and discover the far more expansive America that is happening outside Washington, Maryland, Virginia, New York and New Jersey. If they do, they'll find out that the conventional wisdom is pretty much worthless.

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