Friday Governors Line: The Roots of a Republican Resurgence?
If there is a bright spot for Republicans as they look to future elections, it is in governors races.
There are 38 races up for grabs between now and November 2010 and Democrats currently hold 21 of those governorships including a number in Republican-friendly states like Kansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
Republican strategists also believe they are positioned to claim one -- or possibly both -- of the 2009 gubernatorial contests in New Jersey and Virginia, victories that would provide the dispirited party a much needed shot in the arm.
National Democrats are far from conceding either contest, however, having just transferred $740,000 into a Virginia committee to support whichever candidate emerges from the June 9 primary.
Both 2009 races make our Friday Line of the ten races most likely to switch parties over the next two years. As always, the number one ranked contest is the race we consider the most vulnerable to a party switch.
Agree with our picks? Disagree? The comments section awaits.
10. Hawaii (R-controlled): Until the Democratic field shakes out, it's hard to know exactly where this race will go. Rep. Neil Abercrombie is in the race while two potential heavyweights -- Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann and state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa -- remain undecided. Republicans have largely united behind Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona and he could benefit from a divisive (and expensive) Democratic primary. (Previous ranking: 9)
9. New Jersey (D-Controlled): There's little doubt that Gov. Jon Corzine (D) is in trouble heading into the fall election as voters have soured on him and his Wall Street background. But, it remains far from clear whether former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie is the superstar candidate that many in the GOP have billed him. Former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan is running surprisingly strongly against Christie in the Republican primary and while Christie is still the heavily favorite -- given the heavy backing he enjoys from the party establishment -- the fact that he has taken on some water over questions on his ethics isn't a good sign for Republican hopes in the fall. (Previous ranking: 8)
8. Virginia (D): Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe still looks like the frontrunner in next month's primary but polling shows the race could be won by any of the three candidates -- McAuliffe, former state Del. Brian Moran or state Sen. Creigh Deeds. (We were impressed -- and a little surprised -- by the strength of Deeds' fundraising over the first three months of the year.) State Attorney General Bob McDonnell has largely avoided the spotlight, content (smartly) to let the Democrats beat one another up while he stows away cash for the general election. If McAuliffe winds up as the Democratic nominee, this race will take on a national profile almost immediately -- a development that could work in McDonnell's favor. (Previous ranking: 10)
7. Michigan (D): For the first time in a very long time, the American auto industry got some good news this week with the announcement that Chrysler would emerge from bankruptcy thanks to a partnership with Fiat. The fate of the auto industry is directly tied to next year's Michigan governors race. The Republican field is deep and strong with state Attorney General Mike Cox and early but no means overwhelming favorite. Lt. Gov. John Cherry is in the race for Democrats and state House Speaker Andy Dillon is thinking about the race. The better the Michigan economy, the better chance Democrats have to keep this seat in their column. (Previous ranking: 7)
6. Tennessee (D): Democrats' chances of holding the Tennessee governorship improved slightly last week when Mike McWherter, the son of legendary Volunteer State Governor Ned Ray McWherter, announced he would seek the state's top office. Thanks to his well-known last name, McWherter is the favorite in the Democratic primary although it remains to be seen how good a candidate he will be in his own right. Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslem remains the frontrunner for the GOP nod and would start a general election with an advantage over any of the Democratic candidates. (Previous ranking: 5)
5. California (R): As expected, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom entered the California governor's race to much fanfare last week. Newsom is set on painting the Democratic primary with state Attorney General Jerry Brown as a generational contest. The wildcard is Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa who still remains undecided on a gubernatorial bid in 2010 and could upset Newsom's best laid plans. On the Republican side, most Republicans believe former eBay president Meg Whitman will be the nominee but state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner has significant personal money and appears willing to spend it. (Previous ranking: 6)
4. Oklahoma (D): The reddest state in the country, according to the 2008 presidential election results, Oklahoma seems poised to elect a Republican governor after eight years of Democratic control. Republicans, however, don't seem thrilled with their current crop of candidates -- Rep. Mary Fallin and state Sen. Randy Brogdon -- and national operatives have worked to convince former Rep. J.C. Watts to run. Watts, a former star quarterback at the University of Oklahoma, seems to be leaning toward a bid and would immediately emerge as the favorite to replace term limited Gov. Brad Henry (D). Democrats have two strong potential candidates; Lt. Gov. Jari Askins is in the contest while state Attorney General Drew Edmondson continues to ponder a bid but is raising money like a candidate.
3. Nevada (R): Democrats are content at the moment to watch Gov. Jim Gibbons (R) twist in the wind in the midst of a series of personal and professional problems that have sidetracked his administration from almost the minute he was sworn in. Most Democrats believe Clark County Commission Chairman Rory Reid will be their party's nominee in 2010 although state House Barbara Buckley is also seriously considering a run. Gibbons will face a primary challenge from former state Sen. Joe Heck and possibly others. (Previous ranking: 1)
2. Kansas (D): Sen. Sam Brownback (R) is well-known, well-liked and well-financed in gubernatorial race. The new governor of Kansas -- Mark Parkinson -- has already made clear that he will not run for a full term in 2010, leaving Democrats in a huge lurch. The bench is extremely thin and those Democrats with statewide ambitions likely view the open seat being vacated by Brownback as their better chance. Anything can happen in the course of a campaign but Brownback is a strong frontrunner today. (Previous ranking: 2)
1. Rhode Island (R): Former Sen. Lincoln Chafee's (accidental) announcement that he will run as an independent for governor in 2010 opens up the very real possibility that he could be elected to the state's top job next November. Democrats are gearing up for a crowded primary and the Republican field isn't particularly strong while the Chafee brand in Rhode Island is extremely strong -- thanks in large part to Chafee's father, John, a longtime elected official in the state. Odds are that either Chafee or the eventual Democratic nominee winds up as the state's next governor, a scenario that makes this our new number one race on the Line. (Previous ranking: 4)
May 1, 2009; 3:15 PM ET
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