A wave of blue votes could wash over the Massachusetts State House's small Republican caucus this election, but local political experts say that voters may be more than willing to keep conservatives on Beacon Hill even if most Bay Staters want to reject President Trump.
Tuesday's election is expected to draw as many as 3.5 million Massachusetts ballots through the mail and in person, energized by Massachusetts voters' zeal to replace Trump, who lost to Hillary Clinton here 61 percent to 33 percent in 2016.
Georgetown Republican Rep. Lenny Mirra knows what he's up against as he runs for a fourth term and that "there are a lot of people that won't vote for Republicans because of Donald Trump."
"Even though a state legislator has nothing to do with the president, there are people that will say, no, you're on the 'red team' and Donald Trump is on the 'red team', therefore I'm not voting for you," Mirra told GBH News. "There are people like that. There's a lot of people like that," he said.
Stonehill College political scientist Peter Ubertaccio said the national political mood is not always a good barometer of what's happening at the local level and that Republicans that focus on the district and not the White House can survive Democratic challenges even when the winds are blowing against the GOP.
"Voters will make a distinction between a presidential candidate or president they don't like," Ubertaccio said, "The work of a state legislator is so different than the way in which a president is perceived in a locality that they can, in fact, overcome."
Trump will likely lose to Joe Biden throughout Massachusetts, but areas like Worcester and Barnstable County could show slimmer Democratic victory margins than the deepest blue precincts of the Commonwealth. On the Cape this year, Republicans are defending three contiguous seats from the bridges to Brewster that Democrats think they can pick up.
Republican Rep. Randy Hunt's retirement from the Fifth Barnstable district leaves retired Yarmouth deputy police chief and Republican candidate Steven Xiarhos running to replace him on Beacon Hill against Democratic opponent Jim Dever, an attorney and Sandwich school committee member.
Xiarhos has tied himself closer to President Trump than most Massachusetts Republicans, close enough in fact to have to quarantine after attending a White House function and possible COVID-19 outbreak in September.
Ubertaccio thinks Xiarhos will have a harder time retaining Hunt's GOP seat as a newcomer than Rep. Will Crocker will have defending his Hyannis-based seat against Democrat Kip Diggs.
"There's an excellent chance that the Republicans keep the seat in Hyannis. But there's an equally good chance that they may lose it in Sandwich simply because they don't have an incumbent running for reelection and the calculation is very different in voters' minds," Ubertaccio said.
Former Massachusetts Senate Minority Leader, and veteran of congressional and statewide campaigns, Richard Tisei agrees that any Republican "sitting back and resting on your laurels" is going to have a problem this election cycle.
"But if you've been out and you're connected to the community and you've been doing the work, if you're not taking anything for granted and you're running an aggressive campaign, I think you'll make it through whatever storm should be coming in November," Tisei told GBH News.
If Republicans do lose any of the 13 seats the party is defending this cycle, not much may change in the Democrat-dominated House, where Speaker Robert DeLeo's caucus already has a 127-to-31 advantage.
Democratic political strategist Jay Cincotti said an even slimmer Republican caucus emerging from 2020 with fewer moderates from "purple" districts would leave a leaner, meaner GOP.
"It probably does empower the extremes of the party with respect to the minority party in this case. So I think if you saw Democratic gains, I think we would see an emboldened extreme right sort of get more noisy," Cincotti said.
A larger Democratic majority would make it easier for Democrats to override Gov. Charlie Baker's occasional veto, but by flipping vulnerable "purple" seats now held by Republicans into the Democratic column, DeLeo could find himself with a greater number of moderate members less willing to take on contentious progressive goals.
A counterexample was what happened in the state Senate when it's GOP caucus shriveled to one-tenth of the chamber and Democrats used the super-majority to force a more progressive agenda than had been seen before.
"I think the increase of a Democratic majority will embolden the progressive to try to get louder and to advocate for their positions more aggressively," Cincotti said.
However the election goes, Tisei is confident that the conservative message of Governors Baker, Jane Swift, Paul Cellucci and Bill Weld will be represented on Beacon Hill. Tisei called Republicans that hold Democratic-leaning seats "above average to exceptional," in their political skill and bipartisanship.
"They're all superstars in their own right that they were able to get elected in Massachusetts in the first place," Tisei said.