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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.

Friday Line

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

By Chris Cillizza  |  July 23, 2010; 1:42 PM ET
Categories:  The Line  
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Comments

Don't know why you took Vermont off your line, but once we get past the Aug 24 primary and get a democratic candidate, Vermont might go back up.
Dubie (republican nominee) is not that well liked and if we don't get a third party nominee (which usually is a progressive and throws the race to the republicans), this is
a very blue state and leans heavily democratic and with a 1/2 good nominee who
knows how to campaign, the dems will have a fighting chance here.

Posted by: canaldoc | July 24, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

MAINE >> Help by a dem --might go GOP. What do you think? Hopefully not since the GOP candidate is a loon, but polls seem to indicate it.

Posted by: beginningplace | July 24, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Take a look at Alabama's gubernatorial contest as Democrat Ron Sparks and Republican Robert Bentley fight to succeed term-limited Republican Governor Bob Riley. Bentley's relative electoral inexperience against a popular Agriculture Commissioner (since 2003) who solidly beat the establishment's pick in Rep. Artur Davis should make for a competitive race.

Posted by: bibbejr | July 24, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Brigade, Western Pennsylvania is happy with Onorato. Philadelphia and her suburbs will ignore his conservative social agenda and vot for him because he is a Democrat. That leaves Pennsyltucky and Lehighsville for Corbett (who looks really old and sounds very out-of-touch in his ads).

Pennsylvania stays with the Democrats.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | July 24, 2010 1:11 AM | Report abuse

I wouldn't count Texas out as a possible upset Democratic win. Bill White is raising more money than Perry. Perry is by no stretch a given this time around.

Posted by: JilliB | July 23, 2010 11:45 PM | Report abuse

And 21/2 months news media are push a republican advantage,but are the people YES I'M UPSET WITH THE DEMOCRATS

I'M MORE UPSET WITH THE REPUBLICANS DO NOTHING ATTITUDE

GREAT YEAR FOR INDEPENDANTS

Posted by: theoldmansays | July 23, 2010 11:22 PM | Report abuse

And 21/2 monthsnews media are push a republican advantage,but are the people YES I'M UPSET WITH THE DEMOCRATS

I'M MORE UPSET WITH THE REPUBLICANS DO NOTHING ATTITUDE

GREAT YEAR FOR INDEPENDANTS

Posted by: theoldmansays | July 23, 2010 11:21 PM | Report abuse

"Also, 10 of the 15 races you mentioned are going Republican. Ohio is still a nail biter too. So it seems that the Republicans will have a great night in November on election day. Posted by: gckarcher"

In Ohio the only nail chewing is being done by Kasich as his Lehman brother's stint keeps rising up and saying hi! to him. He has to wander the state, check his cue cards to remember what any given venue is famous for, and just how bad a time it has recovering from Big Finance and its shenanigans, followed by the great Elephantine melt down. And in every little town in front of the old First this town National bank with an out of state banking logo on it he has to talk about what it will take to bring back jobs to Upper Sandusky and Wilmington and Peebles and Paulding.

And those farmers get to listen to this mega banker tell them how dumb they were for using his bank.

Kasich made a great candidate until he had to campaign anywhere in Ohio.

Posted by: ceflynline | July 23, 2010 7:56 PM | Report abuse

The last 40 years of right-wing politics have all but destroyed our society. That was a goal from the Goldwater days.

Ever notice the GOP never has a solution for any of the problems they have caused. They want to do the same things over and over and over and the result is always, always, always worse than the last time.

Tax cuts for the rich do not create new jobs. Trashing the environment does not create new jobs. Attacking science and education does not change facts or create new jobs.

A free market system does not create new jobs unless it is a closed system which means it isn't free market. How come these delusionals think Americans with their quality of life expect to compete with child labor in Thailand for the same manufacturing jobs?

American voters should study some history, especially world history of right-wing societies. They all have commonality - few civil rights, fewer freedoms, little happiness and usually end in violence. Why would any rational human being want that? You end up with teabagger-types demanding the right to carrying guns and denying other people their rights.

Posted by: BigTrees | July 23, 2010 7:55 PM | Report abuse

I perused the list of D states predicted to go R and I thought of the Japanese commanders on Saipan, crawling out on a little ledge too small to permit them to at least face Tokyo in their white Kimono, and committing seppukku, and I think, "It couldn't happen to a more deserving crowd of Republicans."

All those most likely to switch states have a decided need for a Governor who will say the dreaded words, "Let's raise taxes." and every one of those republicans, nominated or awaiting the death sentence that final nomination will bring, without hope of clemency.

Waiting for Republican Governors everywhere to have to pick up the koan, "taxmetaxmetaxmetaxmetaxme" really reduces any anxiety I might otherwise feel at the thought that those poor states have to go through at least four years of a Republican Governor.

It almost breaks my heart.

Posted by: ceflynline | July 23, 2010 7:46 PM | Report abuse

margaretmeyers wrote,
"Corbett is not going to play in Philadelphia"
---
and Onorato isn't playing with a full deck.

Posted by: Brigade | July 23, 2010 6:56 PM | Report abuse

What a giggle.

Americans just aren't that stupid. They may be angry, but they're not insane. The Dems will be fine in Nov. Simply because the GOPers are useless and have nothing to offer. And they will only make matters worse. Much worse.

Obama and the Dems haven't fixed the ginourmous problems the GOPers saddled us with the last time either fast enough or fully enough.

But ANY vote for a GOPer in 2010 is a clear vote for sending us back to the economic cataclysm and the class warfare they gave us the last time.

Posted by: NYer125thSt | July 23, 2010 6:47 PM | Report abuse

Corbett is not going to play in Philadelphia, and Onorato will withhold Pittsburgh from him as well. You cannot lose both population poles and win in Pennsylvania.

Onorato was the BEST choice for Democrats to hold onto the Governorship of Pennsylvania.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | July 23, 2010 6:43 PM | Report abuse

Living in OK I can tell you that Fallin shouldn't count her votes. 2 different GOP insiders have told me that, though very well liked, Fallin isn't very bright and will lose serious ground against the Dem when debate time comes. She's never had serious competition before. Though she's spent her life in office, she really isn't tested. Then, there's the hole thing about her affair and messy divorce while Lt. Gov. which will surely come back to haunt her in today's environment. Don't count this chicken until it's hatched.

Posted by: onieman | July 23, 2010 6:18 PM | Report abuse

"The People in this country can NOT wait to send a message to Obama and the democrats."

Ooooo are you so mad you could stamp your feet? Bomb a building? Just vote.

Posted by: shrink2 | July 23, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Aaron Blake suggests the GOP Shelley Moore Capito (father served as WV Governor, three times, and in Fed Pen one time) might have an opportunity for a special election for WV Governor - prior to 2012 - assuming the current Governor Joe Manchin is a shoe in for Byrd's senate seat.

Posted by: newbeeboy | July 23, 2010 5:20 PM | Report abuse

In Vermont, Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie (R) is polling well ahead of the five Democrats facing off to run against him in their August 24th primary.

When you write that Vermont is "off the line," is that assuming that Dubie will win the election in November? If so, you are probably correct.

Posted by: rfc3370 | July 23, 2010 5:20 PM | Report abuse

Corbett in PA just lost an important First Amendment case in Federal Circuit Court. He was on the losing side in supporting secrecy in the state ethics complaint process. Siding with incumbents doing anything to stay in power is not a feather in his cap as current PA attorney general. Look for his poll numbers to take a hit.

Posted by: optimyst | July 23, 2010 4:49 PM | Report abuse

"The People in this country can NOT wait to send a message to Obama and the democrats."

THEY ALREADY DID -- THEY ELECTED THEM.

Posted by: drindl | July 23, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

All of these primaries coming up should make August a good political month. Colorodo Senate- R & D, Conn. primaries- Senate R & Gov. R & D, Michigan Gov., Ga. R Gov. run-off and a few more good ones. Kansas R Senate. It's going to be close ones til the end, very good primaries.

Posted by: reason5 | July 23, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

I would say this is the top 15:

1. Kansas
2. Wyoming
3. Tennessee
4. Oklahoma
5. Iowa
6. Rhode Island
7. Michigan
8. Hawaii
9. Pennsylvania
10. Ohio
11. New Mexico
12. Wisconsin
13. Illinois
14. Connecticut
15. Minnesota

Sam Brownback is sitting pretty right now, he's a shoo in. Tom Corbett (Pa.), Mary Fallin (Okla.) and Terry Branstad are also sitting very nice to win their races.

Posted by: reason5 | July 23, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

What about Georgia. A recent poll had former Governor Barnes polling ahead of both of the potential Republian nominees. Social conservatives don't trust Karen Handel and Nathan Deal makes Charlie Rangel look clean.They are sure to beat each other up over the next 3 weeks leading up to the runoff. This could be the surprise race of the cycle!

Posted by: nstudymine1 | July 23, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

p.s. MN primary day is Aug 10.

Jay Weiner digs into the predictions game here, with the best lede of the week:

http://www.minnpost.com/jayweiner/2010/07/23/19954/political_mathematicians_busy_speculating_on_best_formula_for_success_in_governors_race


"This is all idle speculation. There is no clear-cut evidence here. But where there is political smoke, some arson might be involved."

Posted by: bsimon1 | July 23, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

joeyjoejoe writes
"How Mark Dayton is the Dem nominee in MN is beyond me. I thought that his career in politics was finished after the office-closing nonsense in 2005/6."

Dayton is not the DFL nominee. The DFL endorsed MN House speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher for the job; but Dayton and former MN Rep Matt Entenza are running against her in the primary. Dayton probably holds the advantage in the primary because of name recognition & the senior vote, which still recalls fondly his 'busses to Canada' program before Medicare part D.

According to Rasmussen, both Dayton and MAK beat Emmer (and IP candidate Horner) in the general. In any other year Dayton would have a tough race; given Emmer as the Repub, I can see Dayton pulling it out. It might be tighter than expected; watch for a reminder that Dayton admitted to struggling with being bipolar the next time Emmer needs a distraction from a gaffe.

Posted by: bsimon1 | July 23, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

"I'd bet nearly anything Kitzhauber looses.
Posted by: mibrooks"

I'll take that bet! $1000, $2000, you name it. Proceeds to charity of winner's choice. C'mon, put money where your mouth is.

Posted by: shrink2 | July 23, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse

The People in this country can NOT wait to send a message to Obama and the democrats.


It is that simple.

Listen to Rachel Maddow - screaming NO COMPROMISE to the end.


.

Posted by: YouCanPostThis | July 23, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

the odd thing about Kansas is that Brownback will be the first hard-right conservative to hold the KS governorship in recent history. Given its deep-red blood, it's kinda stunning to know that only Democrats or moderate Republicans have held the governorship here for more than a generation.

Depressed Kansans should thank our lucky stars we've had such a good run...til now.

Posted by: DavidKG | July 23, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

"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."

I'm sorry, but that's nonsense. First of all, the current gallup generic ballot shows Democrats in the lead. Second of all, the reason why so many seats will change parties is because a bunch of Democrats are term-limited out (or in the case of Kansas, quit) in red states, and a bunch of Republicans are term-limited out in blue states.

Posted by: jgoodfri1971 | July 23, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

"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."

I'm sorry, but that's nonsense. First of all, the current gallup generic ballot shows Democrats in the lead. Second of all, the reason why so many seats will change parties is because a bunch of Democrats are term-limited out (or in the case of Kansas, quit) in red states, and a bunch of Republicans are term-limited out in blue states.

Posted by: jgoodfri1971 | July 23, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Pity poor, ignorant, backward Oklahoma.

Posted by: soonerthought | July 23, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

In your opening statement, you state that the Republicans can't claim as clear a victory at the governors level as at the federal level because 5 races are seemingly already decided. Yet, 4 of these 5 are going to the Republicans, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Kansas, and Tennessee, 4 states that are currently held by the Democrats. Yes, these are all states that are more Republican in nature, yet in the past they have elected Democrats as governors.

Also, 10 of the 15 races you mentioned are going Republican. Ohio is still a nail biter too. So it seems that the Republicans will have a great night in November on election day.

Posted by: gckarcher | July 23, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse

What about Oregon? Kitzhauber is a crooked rat and I don't know of *anyone* Democrat or Republican, that is going to vote for him. the polls and extremely close, with all of Kitzhauber's votes coming from the Portland and Eugene area. The public employee retirement system here is bankrupt and there is a lot of anger over the fact that they make double or more of what their private sector counterparts make. Then, too, there is the outsourcing issue. Kitzhauber is a free trade nut job. And Dudley is playing it smart, dodging the liberal western Oregon press. Their complaints about lack of access make them look childish and partisan. I'd bet nearly anything Kitzhauber looses.

Posted by: mibrooks27 | July 23, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

How Mark Dayton is the Dem nominee in MN is beyond me. I thought that his career in politics was finished after the office-closing nonsense in 2005/6. He also barely beat Rod Grams in 2000 despite Grams' massive weakness as an incumbent. I guess the MN caucus just likes their retread candidates, and Dayton ran for Senate as long ago as 1982, so he's the king of retreads (excepting Walter Mondale, perhaps the only living major party candidate to have lost elections in every state in the country).

Posted by: joeyjoejoe | July 23, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

New idea: How about a blog where all the posters come onboard to complain about what a terrible blog it is, how it is so one sided, how all the other posters are crazy and need to be banned, how nasty everyone can be, how no one wants to come back and post again, except to complain some more.

what do you mean it's not a new idea?


for my own input, I promise to come here every day and threaten to never return if I don't get my exact desired state of nature in the postings.

Heed my warning. I will NEVER come back. Until tomorrow for sure, that is.

Posted by: Dead_and_Barryd | July 23, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

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