It was huge:
It appears that Republicans will have a net gain of between 300 and 350 seats and control over 4,100 of the nation’s 7,383 legislative seats. That is their highest number of legislators since 1920. Republicans gained seats in every region of the country and in all but about a dozen legislative chambers that were up this year.
Libby Nelson recognizes the importance of these wins:
Republicans now control state government outright in at least 24 states, one more than they did before the election. They control at least 66 of 99 state legislative chambers nationwide. And they cut the number of states with total Democratic control from 14 to seven — the lowest number since the Civil War. …
Republicans made historic gains in state legislatures in 2010. They held on in many states in 2012, or made up for losses in one state with gains in another — even though Democrats won the national election. And they won even more in 2014. This isn’t an accident — it’s the result of strategic fundraising from national Republicans, beginning in 2010, aimed at engineering statehouse takeovers. Out-of-state contributions were shuffled to states where they would make a difference, particularly as congressional partisanship and gridlock made policymaking in Washington increasingly unlikely.
John Hood analyzes the Republican gains:
The 2014 legislative results will allow many more Republicans to serve as house speakers, senate leaders, and committee chairman, gaining critical experience for possible future careers in federal politics. It gives the GOP more chambers with which to advance economic and social legislation. Even if a bill goes to a Democratic governor for a veto, that’s useful to define issues and expose squishes. In many cases, however, newly Republican legislatures will be able to enact conservative reforms with the cooperation or acquiescence of such governors, who are first and foremost political animals. As for state Democrats, their ability to legislate liberal policies has just taken a nose dive. Only seven state governments are fully blue at this point.
These are, of course, just opportunities for Republicans. They could certainly squander them on pointless crusades, poorly crafted policies, or disastrous infighting.
Earlier Dish on the power of state legislatures here.