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Ohio governors race a "toss up" (again)

There may be no more important governor's race in the country than the fight between Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland (D) and former Rep. John Kasich (R).

Not only is Ohio central to both parties' electoral math in 2012, it also is slated to lose two seats in the decennial congressional redistricting process next year -- making who controls the governor's office that much more critical.

Over the summer, Kasich had opened up a steady, high single digit lead thanks in large part to millions of dollars in television advertising from the Republican Governors Association that hammered the incumbent over his job creation record.

As a result, we moved the race to "Leans Republican".

But, over the last few weeks, Strickland has been heavily outspending Kasich on television and build momentum in the race with most public polling showing the contest somewhere close to a dead heat.

Strategists on both sides acknowledge the race has tightened -- although they disagree about the ultimate outcome. Regardless of who wins, however, this looks like it is going to a very narrow margin of victory for either side and so we are moving it back into the "toss up" category.

We are also making two other ratings changes in gubernatorial races:

* Maryland (From "Toss Up" to "Lean Democratic"): A recent Washington Post poll gave Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) a double-digit lead over former Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R). Most party strategists expect the race to tighten but the Democratic lean of the state helps buoy O'Malley's re-election prospects.

* Wisconsin (From "Toss Up" to "Lean Republican"): Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker's victory in last month's Republican primary gives the GOP their strongest candidate in the race against Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D). Polling gives Walker a high single-digit edge and while some Democratic internal data suggests it's closer, it doesn't look like a good year to be a Democrat in Wisconsin.

Don't forget to check out the Senate ranking changes we made earlier today and do yourself a favor and bookmark our terrific 2010 campaign map.

By Chris Cillizza  | October 6, 2010; 5:51 PM ET
Categories:  Governors  
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