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Change is the name of the game in governors races

It's a testament to the volatility -- and near-certain change this fall -- in governor's races that every one of the top 15 contests on our Line this week would switch parties if the election were held to day.

And, there are a handful of races -- California, Georgia, Oregon, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Maine and Maryland to name just a few -- that are genuine toss ups but didn't make our Line for sheer space reasons.

That suggests a very high likelihood of a major overhaul in state capitals around the country this fall as the combination of term limits, a struggling national economy and an angry electorate combine to make voters ready for change.

Friday Line

Republicans are poised to make gains at the gubernatorial level although the size of those gains remains an open question. The first eight races on our Line are near-certain switches, a scenario that would net Republicans four seats.

The next dozen or so seats -- number 9 through 15 on the Line as well as the races mentioned above -- will determine just how good a night it will be for Republicans. Victories in places like Ohio, Wisconsin or Maine combined with wins in GOP-held seats like Georgia and California could yield major gains.

But, Democrats, to their credit, have kept enough competitive Republican seats on the board at this last date in the election cycle to potentially limit what look like certain GOP gains.

As always, the number one ranked race is considered the most likely to switch party control in the fall. Have thoughts on our Line? Offer them in the comments section below.

To the Line!

15. Wisconsin (Democratic controlled): Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker (R) has opened a lead on Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) following his primary victory two weeks ago. Democrats continue to swear by their candidate -- and he has a tremendous personal story -- but this one is threatening to get away from them. And with the state legislature also threatening to flip, Wisconsin could be a big state for the GOP's redistricting plans. (Previous ranking: 15)

14. Florida (Republican controlled): A CNN poll earlier this month showed state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink (D) taking 49 percent to free-spending businessman Rick Scott's (R) 42 percent in the race to succeed Republican-turned-independent Gov. Charlie Crist. Scott has been aggressively tying Sink to President Obama and national Democrats in his TV ads, but Democrats are growing more and more confident of their chances in the Sunshine State. (Previous ranking: 14)

13. Ohio (D): The two parties vehemently disagree about the direction the race between Gov. Ted Strickland (D) and former Rep. John Kasich (R) is headed. Republicans believe an onslaught of ads funded by the Republican Governors Association that hit Strickland on his job creation record have permanently damaged the incumbent. Democrats insist Kasich is a flawed candidate thanks to his work for Lehmann Brothers and is vulnerable to the sort of sustained attack Strickland will put on him over the next five weeks. What isn't up for debate: Kasich is ahead today. (Previous ranking: 15)

12. New Mexico (D): Republicans are growing increasingly confident in Dona Ana District Attorney Susana Martinez's (R) chances in the Land of Enchantment, releasing internal numbers earlier this week showing her with a double-digit edge over Lt. Gov. Diane Denish (D). Denish has struggled to effectively distance herself from unpopular, term limited Gov. Bill Richardson (D). (Previous ranking: 13)

11. Illinois (D): The departure of pollster John Anzalone from Gov. Pat Quinn's campaign earlier this week is the latest sign of the Democrat's flagging hopes. Quinn has been an uneven -- at best -- candidate and, despite the Democratic lean of Illinois and the fact that Republican nominee Bill Brady is a little known presence statewide, it appears as though the incumbent is in position to lose the race. (Previous ranking: 11)

10. Hawaii (R): Last Saturday's Democratic primary between former Rep. Neil Abercrombie and former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann was supposed to be a squeaker. Instead, Abercrombie dominated his opponent, 60 percent to 38 percent. That Abercrombie won so resoundingly -- and that Republicans didn't get the brutal intra-party battle they were hoping for -- bodes well for Democrats in November, although the Republican Governors Association is investing resources into Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona's (R) bid. (Previous ranking: 9)

9. Pennsylvania (D): Three polls in the last week have shown state Attorney General Tom Corbett (R) leading Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato (D) by between eight and 15 points. And, independents are flocking to Corbett -- a major problem for the Democrat. It's difficult to see where and how Onorato closes the gap in the last six weeks of the campaign. (Previous ranking: 10)

8. Connecticut (R): Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy (D) continues to run strong against former Ambassador Tom Foley (R) in the open seat Nutmeg State race. After electing Republicans as governor for the past 16 years, it's looking like a stronger and stronger bet that Connecticut voters will turn to a Democrat on November 2. (Previous ranking: 8)

7. Iowa (D): Of the five former governors looking to win back their old jobs this fall, former Gov. Terry Branstad (R) is the most likely to win. That's due in no small part to the struggles of Chet Culver (D) who is looking more and more like a one-term governor. (Previous ranking: 7)

6. Oklahoma (D): Rep. Mary Fallin (R) hasn't done much to call into question her status as the presumptive successor to Gov. Brad Henry (D), but the Republican Governors Association still felt the need to launch a preemptive attack ad against Lt. Gov. Jari Askins (D) earlier this month. The RGA help is key for Fallin, especially considering Askins self-funded $775,000 in the primary and could spend more on the general election. But mostly, Republicans just want to put this one away early. (Previous ranking: 5)

5. Michigan (D): Only one poll since the early August primary has shown Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero (D) within 15 points of businessman Rick Snyder (R). Eight polls have shown Snyder's lead bigger than that. Democrats have thrown in the towel here, barring scandal. (Previous ranking: 6)

4. Tennessee (D): A new independent poll out this week confirms that Republicans are on track to win back the governor's mansion; the survey shows Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam (R) trouncing businessman Mike McWherter (D) 55 percent to 24 percent. McWherter, the son of former Gov. Ned McWherter (D), is running a credible campaign, but this is simply not a good year to be a Democrat in the Volunteer State. (Previous ranking: 4)

3. Rhode Island (R): State Treasurer Frank Caprio (D) and former Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee (I) are jockeying for the top spot in the three-way battle to succeed term-limited Gov. Don Carcieri (R) as Republicans have all but conceded the race. A poll this week showed Caprio with a 12-point lead over Chafee, a sign that the Democrat's aggressive ads hitting his independent rival are hitting home. (Previous ranking: 3)

2. Kansas (D): Sen. Sam Brownback (R) is running against a state senator named Tom Holland - which is fitting, because Holland has exactly the same chance of becoming the next prime minister of the Netherlands as he does the next governor of Kansas. (Previous ranking: 2)

1. Wyoming (D): Gov. Matt Mead (R). Get used to saying it. (Previous ranking: 1)

With Aaron Blake and Felicia Sonmez

By Chris Cillizza  | September 24, 2010; 10:29 AM ET
Categories:  The Line  
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