California, Florida, and Texas, the Sunbelt megastates, are the subjects of this manuscript addressing party and gender success in different cultural and historical settings. These states are, in my opinion, important weather vanes of American politics that indicate the country's likely direction. In these states, the success of either party is important because notable political shifts in either will forecast important party shifts in presidential and congressional elections. After all, these states have approximately 111 electoral college votes (of the 270 essential to win the presidency) and have supported the Republican Party in presidential elections while maintaining Democratic state legislatures, at least until the 1992 and 1994 elections. One might also consider the effects on congressional delegations representing somewhat less than a quarter of the U.S. House of Representatives total membership. Beyond presidential elections and party change in the U.S. Congress, shifts of policy responsibility to the states will be settled in quite different directions depending on which party comes to dominate the politics of each state.
Spotlighting state legislative elections is extremely important to explaining political success in American politics. Many politicians who achieve statewide office or obtain a seat in the U.S. Congress have had their careers enhanced by the state legislative service. In 1992, about 45 percent of the newly elected House members from these states had some experience in the state legislatures, although there are some interesting differences among our three megastates. Only 24 percent of California's