The Trifectas That Can Break in 2020

As we cover the fight between Democrats and Republicans over state legislatures, we’ve written pieces on the trifecta (control of the Governor, State Senate, State House/Assembly) opportunities this year for both parties, including with recent updates for them last month. While the creation of trifectas is incredibly interesting, it begs the question; What about where trifectas can actually be broken? Breaking a trifecta of the opposite party is still, of course, a major win in the battle for state government control this year.

There are six states where either a Democratic or Republican trifecta can be broken in this year’s elections. Five of them are Republican trifectas and just one of them is a Democratic trifecta. So, just like in their fight for the creation trifectas, Democrats have more opportunities this year for breaking trifectas as well in Republican-controlled states.


Arizona is the most likely trifecta that will be broken this year. With Mark Kelly’s large lead in the polls, he will likely have coattails in his bid to oust appointed-incumbent Republican Martha McSally, it is a massive boon to the odds of Democrats being able to flip at least one of the state legislative chambers. Every legislative district is up this year in the state, and Democrats are hoping to create a check on Republican Governor Doug Ducey’s agenda.

We recently moved both the AZ House and AZ Senate from Toss-Up to Tilt Democrat. The reasoning for the move in the lower chamber was because of Democrats’ strategy in the AZ House of putting up one candidate instead of two in the key multi-member districts where the split in the Democratic vote share helped Republicans keep a slim majority after the recent midterm election. Democrats need to net just 1 seat in the chamber for a tie, and 2 seats for an outright majority.

The AZ Senate, which is entirely composed of single-member districts, was moved to Tilt D because of the odds of a Republican majority decreasing below 40% after recent rating changes. Democrats need to net 2 seats for a tied chamber, and 3 seats for an outright majority. In the case of a tie in either of the chambers, there would most likely be a power-sharing agreement, which is in our book still a win for Democrats, given the shift in power.

It’s a pretty weak result for Democrats if Republicans are able to pull off an upset and hold onto outright majorities in both state legislative chambers, so use this as a barometer of Democratic success in the Grand Canyon State. Arizona does tend to take a few weeks to count their results, so it’s more than likely we will not know the winner of either chamber on the night of the election.


The Iowa House of Representatives is one of two Toss-Up chambers in our state legislative ratings at the moment. The odds of a Republican or Democratic majority is akin to a coin toss; it could go either way. Democrats are also absolutely favored to have a net gain of seats in the chamber. Therefore, it’s up to the Iowa House to break the Republican trifecta here.

Democrats need to flip 4 seats in the Iowa House to have a 51-49 majority in the chamber. For a power-sharing agreement in a 50-50 chamber, they’d need to net 3 seats. At the moment in our forecast, Democrats are favored to have a net gain of 2 seats, and there is one Toss-Up. That Toss-Up, as a result, will likely determine whether Democrats will have 50 seats in the chamber, which would likely result in a power-sharing agreement of some sort.

Our near-final ratings in Iowa will come out tomorrow after reviewing the final campaign finance reports in the state. The chamber will likely remain as a Toss-Up until our final ratings come out on November 2nd, the day before the election.


Democrats have become obsessed with flipping Texas blue after Beto O’Rourke lost to Ted Cruz in the 2018 Senate by about 3 points, a massive overperformance given what polling had shown. While O’Rourke narrowly lost, he surprisingly carried a majority of districts in the Texas House of Representatives, though enough voters split their tickets down-ballot for Republicans to have a 9-seat majority in the chamber.

The Texas House, as a result of Democratic interest and O’Rourke carrying a majority of districts, has become the sort of “holy grail” for Democrats in their fight for flipping state legislatures this year. Texas is a big prize for redistricting as the state is projected to gain more US House seats in redistricting than any other state in the union, bringing them up to a whopping 39 or 40 districts. If Democrats can flip the lower chamber, it gives them a seat at the table in the redistricting process and can help prevent Republicans from drawing an obscene gerrymander.

Currently in our forecast, Democrats are poised to flip 4 seats in the chamber, and there are 5 Toss-Up districts which Republicans control, so they’ve got a pretty good shot at flipping the chamber. About a week from now, after reviewing the final campaign finance reports in the state, we will be eliminating Toss-Ups in the chamber. The Texas House is currently Tilt R in our ratings, but if Democrats put enough of the Toss-Ups into the Tilt Democrat category, a chamber rating change may be in order.

Democrats are also poised to flip a State Senate district along the Mexican border, but the chamber as a whole is Safe R in our ratings.


While it looks like there will be a Democratic net gain in both chambers of the Missouri legislature, Democrats will be nowhere close to a majority in either chamber. However, there is a moderately competitive gubernatorial election in the Show Me State, where State Auditor Nicole Galloway (D) is running against incumbent Governor Mike Parson (R). We recently moved the race from Likely R to Lean R, as Galloway has now found herself in a single-digit race.

Galloway obviously has an uphill climb in front of her given Missouri’s reddening in its electorate throughout the 2010’s. Just two years ago, they kicked out incumbent Democratic Senator Clare McCaskill, who had a poorer performance than Democratic Secretary of State Jason Kander’s 2016 loss to incumbent Republican Senator Roy Blunt (R), despite 2018 being a more Democrat-friendly year.

In recent polls though, Joe Biden has also found himself in single-digits in Missouri, a good sign for Galloway who is very likely to outperform Biden. There’s room for an upset, but it’s going to be tough to see how Galloway can overcome Missouri’s Republican lean.

West Virginia

A casual election reader may be surprised by West Virginia being on this list: it was Donald Trump’s 2nd best state in 2016, after all. But West Virginia Democrats are alive and well, though they have lost power in recent years due to the continuing nationalization of elections. Still, despite national politics becoming more important to West Virginia voters, they narrowly re-elected their incumbent Democratic Senator Joe Manchin in 2018.

West Virginia isn’t a very strong opportunity for Democrats in breaking a Republican trifecta, but there remains an outside chance. In our gubernatorial ratings, we have the race as Likely R, and in our State Senate ratings we have the chamber as Likely R as well. The House of Delegates, however, is Safe R.

If Democrats can win either the gubernatorial race or flip the State Senate, they will break the Republican trifecta. However, the chances of this happening are pretty slim, so don’t count on it. Especially in the State Senate, given that Democrats would need to net 4 seats in the chamber and many of the Democrats up this year are on the defense.


Maine is the only opportunity Republicans have this year in breaking a Democratic trifecta, and it also doubles as the least likely state to have its trifecta broken — a sign of the poor environment Republicans are facing going into November. Democrats elected Janet Mills in the 2018 gubernatorial election and simultaneously flipped the State Senate, which is Safe D in our ratings. The State House, however, is Likely D in our ratings.

The Maine House of Representatives has been in Democratic hands since 2013 after Democrats flipped the chamber in the 2012 election. In the 2018 midterm, Democrats expanded their majority, so it’s an uphill climb for Republicans to flip this chamber, which we have as Likely D, especially with Joe Biden being up double digits. Republicans and the Independents who caucus with them would need to flip 20 districts in the chamber to have a majority, which is a tough threshold.

All in all, it is much more likely that Democrats will be the party to break some trifectas this year rather than the Republicans. It’s just a matter of how many trifectas they break…and gain.