Nov. 9, 2016: This story has been updated.
Despite an aggressive financial push from Democrats, Republicans cemented their dominance of the nation’s governors’ mansions in elections Tuesday, ending the night with their highest number of governorships since 1922.
The GOP flipped control of state executives in Missouri, Vermont and New Hampshire as of early Wednesday. That means the party will hold the governors’ offices in at least 33 states, up from 31. In a stunning night for Democrats on the national stage, these additional losses pushed the party further into the political wilderness in the states, where they have been struggling to compete for years.
Defending eight of the 12 governorships on the ballot Tuesday, Democratic candidates and the political groups backing them narrowly outspent Republicans on TV ads by about $2.5 million, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of data from media tracker Kantar Media/CMAG. That’s a reversal from 2012, when Republican candidates and committees outspent Democrats by more than $20 million.
Democrats were trying to play catch-up with the fundraising heavyweights of the GOP. Spending on TV ads was only a part of their campaign strategy, to be sure, but those commercials play a critical role in shaping public opinion.
Just three seats were considered safe for Democrats, who had to defend governorships in five of the seven most competitive races, including contests in states Obama lost in 2012 that Donald Trump would go on to win: West Virginia, Montana and Missouri.
North Carolina remained a lone spot of hope for the party that sought to flip it from Republican control. Democratic ad spending topped $19 million in the state — more than one-quarter of the $65 million Democrats spent nationally on governors’ races in 2016. As of early Wednesday, the too-close-to-call race could be headed to a recount, though Democrat Roy Cooper had claimed victory.