Republicans hold edge in fight for governorships
Of the 15 gubernatorial races most likely to switch parties this fall, Democrats currently hold 10 of them -- a sign that a national landscape tilted toward Republicans is affecting state races as well.
Because there are so many governorships up for grabs this fall (37 states) and a large number that are near-certain switches -- Oklahoma, Tennessee, Rhode Island, Kansas and Wyoming to name five -- it's not immediately clear that Republicans will be able to claim as clear a victory at the governors level as the party seems headed for at the federal level.
Still, Republicans have to be happy with where they sit today with a handful of sure-fire pickups and another group of races in Democratic-leaning territory -- New Mexico, Illinois, and Wisconsin -- that are shaping up as very competitive contests.
Democrats, particularly the Democratic Governors Association, are doing everything they can to lessen the blow this fall and have gotten some good news in recent weeks -- perhaps none better than former Gov. Roy Barnes (Ga.) convincing win in the Peach State primary, a victory that makes the state competitive in the fall.
But, the prevailing national winds combined with the Republican Governors Association's pronounced financial edge seem likely to make life difficult for Democrats running for governor this fall.
As always the top ranked race is considered the most likely to switch parties in the fall. And, as always, your kudos and critiques are welcome in the comments section below.
To the Line!
Coming off the Line: Ohio, Vermont, Florida
Coming onto the Line: New Mexico, Illinois, Wisconsin
15. New Mexico (Democratic-controlled): Doña Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez's (R) latest TV ad pretty much sums up the race: Lt. Gov. Diane Denish (D) is struggling to separate herself from the unpopular administration of Gov. Bill Richardson (D) while Martinez is running as an outsider who will shake up the system. Polls show the race is still neck-and-neck, but unless Denish can find a way to change the topic away from Richardson this could be perilous for Democrats in the fall. (Previous ranking: N/A)
14. California (Republican-controlled): The worries about state Attorney General Jerry Brown's (D) campaign went public recently in a Los Angeles Times story detailing his unorthodox -- to put it mildly -- general election campaign. Brown, who is running for the same office he first held in the 1970s, has a demonstrated record of electoral appeal in the state and so he may get more leeway than less proven candidates. But, former eBay CEO Meg Whitman (R) isn't going to stop spending her own millions (and millions) on ads and there is a danger that if Brown doesn't recognize the threat posed by Whitman soon he could be overwhelmed by her. (Previous ranking: 14)
13. Wisconsin (D): Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker is widely regarded as the candidate to beat on the GOP side but former Rep. Mark Neumann's self-funding should at least cost Walker some money in the Sept. 14 primary. Walker raised slightly more than Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) in the first half of 2010, but Barrett is able to leave more in the bank because he has an easier primary. (Barrett has nearly $3 million in the bank, to Walker's $2.5 million.) Still, after two terms of Gov. Jim Doyle (D) voters seem inclined to hand the reins of state government to Republicans. (Previous ranking: N/A)
12. Illinois (D): We hear almost nothing good about the campaign Gov. Pat Quinn (D) is running. It would seem that Quinn learned almost nothing from his near-death primary experience against state Comptroller Dan Hynes way back in February. The Democratic Governors Association is doing everything they can to keep the race within reach -- bashing state Sen. Bill Brady (R) on the television airwaves. But, campaigns with a hole in the middle -- i.e., the candidate -- rarely win. (Previous ranking: N/A)
11. Pennsylvania (D): Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato (D) has closed the gap with state Attorney General Tom Corbett (R) somewhat in recent polling, the result of a name identification boost following his big May primary win. (The latest Quinnipiac poll has Corbett leading Onorato 44 percent to 37 percent.) Corbett is still the favorite, and Onorato's primary cost him a chunk of money but Democrats are encouraged about how the race has developed since the primary. (Previous ranking: 9)
10. Minnesota (R): The buzz in Minnesota is that state Rep. Tom Emmer (R) leaves a lot to be desired as the party's gubernatorial nominee. But with the baggage of the Democratic favorite in the race, former Sen. Mark Dayton , this race appears to be anyone's ballgame. The real moment of truth for Emmer will be next week, when he has to file his pre-primary financial report. His only report so far, from 2009, showed a little more than $100,000 raised. He faces no primary opposition, so he should show some significant fundraising. (Previous ranking: 10)
9. Connecticut (R): The Democratic field remains unsettled ahead of the August 10 primary as 2006 Senate nominee Ned Lamont continues to lead former Stamford Mayor Daniel Malloy in the polls although Malloy has cut the gap to single digits. Regardless of who wins, both Democrats are polling far ahead of former Ambassador Tom Foley, the likely Republican nominee, who has been forced to explain several past run-ins with the law in recent weeks. Given the Nutmeg State's leftward lean, Democrats appear on track to recapture the governor's mansion for the first time in more than two decades. (Previous ranking: 11)
8. Michigan (D): With just 11 days left until the Republican primary, it looks like a three-way race between state Attorney General Mike Cox, Rep. Pete Hoekstra and wealthy businessman Rick Snyder. Cox is the best known, Hoekstra has the most reliable geographic base and Snyder will spend the most money. It's a genuine jump ball. No matter who wins, however, he will enter the general election against Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero (D) or state House Speaker Andy Dillon (D), who won the endorsement of Detroit Mayor Dave Bing this week, as the clear favorite. (Previous ranking: 8)
7. Hawaii (R): The battle to succeed term-limited Gov. Linda Lingle (R) remains a prime pickup chance for Democrats. Former Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D) and former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann are headed to a competitive September 18 Democratic primary. (As it happens, voters that day will also elect a successor to Hannemann, who said "aloha" -- heyooo! -- to his job this week to focus on his gubernatorial bid). Whichever Democrat emerges will be the favorite in the abbreviated general election campaign against Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona (R). (Previous ranking: 6)
6. Iowa (D): If you needed evidence of where national Democrats see this race, look no further than the $800,000 the Democratic Governors Association spent -- via a group known as Iowans for Responsible Government -- in the REPUBLICAN primary arguing that former Gov. Terry Branstad was insufficiently conservative. (The Fix, for one, loves that sort of political jujitsu.) While the DGA effort kept Branstad's margin down, he still won -- and that's very bad news for Gov. Chet Culver (D). (Previous ranking: 7)
5. Oklahoma (D): The difference between this and some other GOP-leaning governor races in the area of the country is that Democrats have two candidates with demonstrated electoral heft running. The bad news for Democrats is that even though people know who Lt. Gov. Jari Askins and state Attorney General Drew Edmondson are, they still trail likely Republican nominee Mary Fallin badly. A Sooner Poll last month had Fallin, a popular former three-term lieutenant governor and currently a member of the House, leading Askins and Edmondson by double-digits. (Previous ranking: 5)
4. Tennessee (D): A poll earlier this month showed Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, who won the endorsement of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney recently, leading the GOP field with 32 percent to Rep. Zach Wamp's 21 percent and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey's 11 percent. That seems about right given Haslam's heavy spending. We don't know why Tennessee's primary falls on a Thursday but we do know that the winner on the Republican side August 5 will be the odds-on favorite in the fall. (Previous ranking: 4)
3. Rhode Island (R): State Attorney General Patrick Lynch's decision to drop out of the race six weeks before the primary is a break for state Treasurer Frank Caprio and Democrats nationally. With Republicans not seriously contesting the race, it's a two-way fight between Caprio and former Sen. Lincoln Chafee who is running as an independent. Chafee's name is political gold in the state but he is an uneven candidate and fundraiser. (Previous ranking: 3)
2. Kansas (D): Sen. Sam Brownback (R) is going to be the next governor of the Sunflower State. (Previous ranking: 2)
1. Wyoming (D): The Wyoming Republican primary is Aug. 17 -- bet you didn't know that. The low key race to replace retiring Gov. Dave Freudenthal (D) amounts to a general election due to the state's strong Republican lean. It looks like a competitive contest with big names like state House Speaker Colin Simpson and state Auditor Rita Meyer in the mix. (Previous ranking: 1)
With Aaron Blake and Felicia Sonmez
July 23, 2010; 1:42 PM ET
Categories: The Line
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