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Friday Governors Line: The First 15!

Gov. Jon Corzine (D-N.J.) and state Sen. Creigh Deeds (D-Va.). Photos by Chris Hondros/Getty Images and Bob Brown of AP Photo/Richmond Times-Dispatch

With 39 governors races up between now and November 2010, a Friday Line that only ranked the top ten races just wasn't enough.

So, we've decided to expand our governor's Line to include the top 15 races to give Fixistas a better sense of where the action will be in 2010.

Since we are expanding the Line -- and we are tasked with taking care of Charlie Fix today -- the writeup for each race will be shorter and, in some cases, there won't be a writeup at all.

Friday Line

The one notable omission in this month's Line that is worth explaining is Wyoming where Gov. Dave Freudenthal (D) is term limited out in 2010. There are still strong rumors circulating in the state that Freudenthal will challenge the term limits law and will have a good likelihood of winning that legal challenge -- meaning he could seek a third term in 2010. Until we hear Freudenthal say he will not do so, we are keeping it off the Line because if the Wyoming incumbent runs, he will almost certainly win.

As always, the number one ranked race is the contest we believe is most likely to switch party control. And, as always, your kudos and critiques of the Line are welcome in the comment section.

To the (expanded) Line!

15. Colorado (D): Gov. Bill Ritter (D) cruised into office in 2006 thanks to a weak Republican opponent and a Democratic shift in the Colorado electorate. But his first term in office has been rocky (!) and Republicans are very excited about state Sen. Josh Penry's (R) candidacy. (Previous ranking: N/A)

14. Wisconsin (D): The retirement of Gov. Jim Doyle (D) creates a very competitive contest in the upper Midwest that could serve as an early indicator of voter mood in the region heading into 2012. Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker is the preferred Republican nominee although former Rep. Mark Neumann is also running. Lt. Gov. Barb Lawton is the only Democrat in the race at the moment but the field could grow. (Previous ranking: N/A)

13. Florida (R): It's state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink (D) versus state Attorney General Bill McCollum (R). McCollum starts off with a name identification edge and a slight poll lead. (Previous ranking: 9)

12. Virginia (D): The revelation regarding a master's thesis penned by former state Attorney General Bob McDonnell (R) has the potential to fundamentally alter what looked like a Republican pickup a few weeks ago. The strong social conservative positions taken by McDonnell in the thesis could undermine his attempts to portray himself as a pragmatic centrist to voters in Northern Virginia. At the very least, the story has handed state Sen. Creigh Deeds (D) some much needed momentum. (Previous ranking: 8)

11. Minnesota (R): Every elected official in Minnesota appears to be running for the seat being vacated by Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R). (The Cook Political Report lists five announced candidates on the Democratic side and seven on the GOP side.) Because there are so many people in both fields, handicapping the race is tough but Minnesota has trended strongly toward Democrats in recent elections and voters are likely to be looking for a Democrat after eight years of Republican control of the governor's mansion. (Previous ranking: N/A)

10. California (R): Much like Minnesota, California is a Democratic leaning state that has been led by a Republican -- albeit it a Republican named Arnold Schwarzenegger -- for the past six years. Voters are likely to reverse that trend although Republicans hold out hope that if former eBay CEO Meg Whitman is their nominee, they can keep the seat on their side. Maybe. But it's still not clear whether the moderate Whitman can win her own primary. On the Democratic side, state Attorney General Jerry Brown looks like the frontrunner as San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom continues to struggle to get his campaign team in order. (Previous ranking: N/A)

9. Nevada (R): The decision by former state Attorney General Brian Sandoval to step down from the federal bench to (presumably) run for governor is a major recruiting success for national Republicans. Sandoval's presence in the race means that embattled Gov. Jim Gibbons (R) almost certainly won't survive a Republican primary -- a necessity if the GOP wants to hold the seat next fall. (Previous ranking: 4)

8. Michigan (D): The state's economy continues to struggle mightily and voters are sick of Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D). Republicans have a stacked field while Democrats, well, don't. If a Republican wins here in 2010, look for him to become a potential national leader in short order. (Previous ranking: 6)

7. New Jersey (D): Former U.S Attorney Chris Christie (R) has had a rough go of things the last few weeks. His spotty driving record and a personal loan he granted to a former colleague have helped Gov. Jon Corzine (D) rise from the political dead. Still, polling suggests that while the race has narrowed, Corzine still trails and runs in the upper 30s -- never a good sign for a well-known incumbent. We still believe this race will come down to a referendum on Corzine and his handling of the state's economy and that's bad news for Democrats. (Previous ranking: 10)

6. Vermont (R): Gov. Jim Douglas' (R) surprise retirement announcement creates a great pickup opportunity for Democrats in the Green Mountain State. Republicans are likely to line up behind Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie as he is, by far, their best chance of holding the seat. (Dubie has said he will announce his intentions "soon".) Democrats seem headed toward a crowded primary but the state's demographics are heavily weighted in their favor. (Previous ranking: N/A)

5. Oklahoma (D): President Barack Obama won 34 percent of the vote in the Sooner state in 2008. 'Nuff said. (Previous ranking: 7)

4. Tennessee (D): Two-term Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) has no obvious heir. (Previous ranking: 5)

3. Rhode Island (R): Former Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R) is aiming to make his political return with a run as an independent for governor in 2010. Given the power of his last name in the state and the very weak GOP field at the moment, Chafee would have a real chance of beating either state Treasurer Frank Caprio (D) or state Attorney General Patrick Lynch (D). (Previous ranking: 2)

2. Hawaii (R): National Republicans hold Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona in high regard but we just don't see it. (Previous ranking: 3)

1. Kansas (D): Gov. Sam Brownback (R). (Previous ranking: 1)

By Chris Cillizza  |  September 11, 2009; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  The Line  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Morning Fix: Joe Wilson and the Laws of Political Chaos
Next: The Most Important Number in Politics Today


I agree on the first few, but not all the way up the line. My top 15 would be:
1. Kansas
2. Oklahoma
3. Rhode Island
4. Tennessee
6. Virginia
7. New Jersey
8. Michigan
9. California
10. Vermont
11. Minnesota
12. Colorodo
13. Wisconsin
14. Nevada
15. Maine

Posted by: reason5 | September 14, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: seemstome | September 13, 2009 8:17 AM | Report abuse

I agree with Journalism 99 that CC does not understand OK politics.
TX will have a race if Goodhair is the R nominee but not if KBH is. The Ds now have two serious candidates meaning that many indies and conservative Ds will now vote in the D primary, instead of for KBH in the R Primary. This makes it possible for Goodhair to win the R Primary. I will almost certainly vote in the R Primary for KBH to whom I have already donated, but now I worry that she may lose.

The two serious Ds are Bob Schieffer's brother, Tom, owner of the Texas Ranger baseball team and GWB's Ambassador to Japan the conservative D, and Hank Gilbert, east Texas rancher, the populist D. Thus Ds have a real choice and that primary will siphon votes that would have gone to KBH in the R primary.

We have two chances to dump Goodhair and I will take both of them if I must. D operatives concede that KBH is unbeatable, but are pretty confident they can run either of their candidates even with Goodhair.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | September 12, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: JakeD | September 11, 2009 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Donate to Rep. Joe Wilson here:

If you prefer to mail a check the old fashioned way:

Joe Wilson for Congress
P.O. Box 2145
West Columbia, SC 29171

Posted by: JakeD | September 11, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Re the Sonora birther suit, contrary to what one poster said, there is a motion to dismiss the case pending. Moreover, birther atty. Taitz has presented to the court one of her "authentic" Kenyan birth certificates for BHO.

Posted by: broadwayjoe | September 11, 2009 2:45 PM | Report abuse

"That genius has given way to a vile political machine that is more interesting in branding critics as domestic terrorists than acknowledging the tragic losses inflicted by foreign terrorists on 9-11 -- and the real threat they continue to pose to the nation."
Reality check, pal: when you bring an AK-47 to a BHO speech, or drive to BHO's Joint Address to Congress with a shotgun in your trunk, or jack up elderly black women carrying Rosa Parks signs, you, IMO, are not planning to debate the public option. You are a domestic terrorist...and should be treated as such by law enforcement.

Posted by: broadwayjoe | September 11, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

SpeharFan writes
"Minnesota is tricky, but I think it is wrong to say Minnesota voters will be looking at a Democrat."

A lot will depend on the candidates. The Dems have done themselves no favors by nominating some real zeroes for the last three elections. Meanwhile 8 years of Pawlenty have left the state with the worst deficit projects ever seen; sure he can partially blame the economy or even the DFL controlled Legislature, but the fact is that his 'no new taxes' policies over the last 8 years have destroyed the state budget and NOT delivered the promised economic boom times. The state GOP is likely to nominate another candidate endorsed by the so-called Taxpayers League of MN, meaning Pawlenty-lite. It will be an interesting race.

Posted by: bsimon1 | September 11, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Aplogies to Chris - I posted after reading the line and before I got through the Chat. I disagree with the idea that an R is a dead duck in a Governor's race in MA (in contrast to Congress and Senate), and still think Baker is a much better candidate than Card.
"Gov. Deval Patrick is in TERRIBLE political shape and already faces a very serious fight from state Treasurer Tim Cahill who switched from the Democratic party to run as an independent in 2010.

If Patrick and Cahill split the Democratic and Democratic-leaning Independent vote, there could be a path -- albeit a narrow one -- for Card.

Still, having served as one of President Bush's right hand men isn't exactly a great resume to win political office in Massachusetts. "

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | September 11, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Organizing for America, President Obama's official campaign organization, issued an appeal urging supporters to act like "a true patriot" on Patriot Day, Sept. 11, by calling their U.S. senators and urging them to "defeat anti-democratic forces of hate ... while the public languishes under the burden of our present health care system."

The call to arms, which has since been removed from the Web site but is still viewable with Google cache, exhorted followers to "reclaim our land from the heirs of, yes: bin Laden." "All 50 states are coordinating in this -- as we fight back against our own right-wing domestic terrorists who are subverting the American democratic process."

How could something like this have made it onto the president's campaign Web site? The same way the White House Web site called on citizens to report "fishy" criticism of health care reform. The same way the White House vetted Van Jones, self-declared Marxist revolutionary and proponent of 9-11 conspiracy theories, to be a green jobs "czar." The same way Obama squandered a joint session of Congress to rehash a partisan agenda that a majority of Americans oppose.

The genius of the Obama campaign was its ability to connect with the feelings and concerns of so many Americans from so many different backgrounds. That genius has given way to a vile political machine that is more interesting in branding critics as domestic terrorists than acknowledging the tragic losses inflicted by foreign terrorists on 9-11 -- and the real threat they continue to pose to the nation.

Posted by: snowbama | September 11, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Deadbranch - I've flagged MA before to Chris. While he does not explain his reasoning, he must view Patrick to be a lock. It is a bit surprising because, last I saw, he polls behind both Tim Cahill and Charlie Baker in one on ones to date. The only polling where he comes out on top is in a 3 way, but it's very rare for neither of the challengers to push the other out of contention in the run up to the general election. Republicans had won 4 governors races from 1990 to 2002 (Weld 2x, Celluci, Romney) before Patrick, so I disagree with Gallenrod's observation that Patrick can win by just being the D. Given the tribal nature of MA politics, it is very easy for me to see the heir to the Dukakis / Harshbarger strain of MA politics being rejected by the same voters who turned against those politicians in the past.

Baker is an ideal Republican candidate due to his association with the moderate Weld / Celluci wing and his HMO, Harvard Pilgrim, being extremely well liked in state. He actually gets a plus for being a health insurance CEO!

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | September 11, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

The National Endowment for the Arts has reassigned former communications director Yosi Sergant, who had become the latest target of FOX News talk show host Glenn Beck.

Acting NEA communications director Victoria Hutter said Thursday that Sergant had left the communications post. The move came after he had come under attack from Beck, a conservative commentator who accused Sergant of attempting to use taxpayer money to fund art to support the president's initiatives.

Sergant's reassignment came after the resignation last weekend of environmental adviser Van Jones, who had been criticized for weeks by Beck.

In an alternate universe where the mainstream media were not left wing ideologues, Beck would be garnering Peabody awards and maybe even a Pulitzer Prize for uncovering misconduct in high places. But the media and academic establishments are far too corrupt and committed to propagandistic support of Obama for that to happen.

Meanwhile, newspaper and magazine circulations continue to decline, and broadcast network news ratings are in the toilet. MSNBC and CNN attract fewer viewers than last year. All the while, Beck's listenership and viewership soar, despite the attempt by an organization Van Jones founded fulminating at advertisers in order to encourage an advertiser boycott.

Thanks for hanging tough and exposing the creeps, Glenn!

Posted by: snowbama | September 11, 2009 2:03 PM | Report abuse

Federal judge allows Obama eligibility case to go forward

complete with kenyan birth cerfi-ticket

so there is hope.

Posted by: snowbama | September 11, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

broadway, I think Democrats are a bit tired in VA. Getting Obama elected and beating back McAuliffe was quite a binge of effort. Meanwhile, the state GOP has been propelled by pure existential dread into a fierce bout of activity. The Democrats are pulling themselves together to rally though. Expect a significant tilt in the polls to begin now that school in back in and people realize the election is around the corner.

Posted by: nodebris | September 11, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

If you're driving between the coasts or in the South and have AM radio on, it's just hate radio or religion stations. That's it. I know BHO is against the Fairness Doctrine but he'd better do sumpthin'. In Dayton, Wheeling, Savannah, etc. they actually believe a lot of that junk.

Posted by: broadwayjoe | September 11, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

I just don't get the Deeds race in VA.

In the end, he may win as result of McDonnell's Thesis and the uncovering of more Mac's views from the 30s--the 1830s--much the way Webb (who also ran a non-campaign) beat Allen because of macaca.

But Deeds's ad(s) are weak, his voice is barely heard; he has few signs up on No. Va. Deeds's' name can barely be seen on the sign he's using--bizarre. I understand he wasted mucho time in rural areas talking gun rights and has done no minority outreach. What's that about?

This feels like the flipside of the losing Kathleen Kennedy race for the MD governorship where she spent the campaign ignoring her base, especially blacks (turned off by her race-baiting of Steele, who was real popular at the time), and chose a retired GOP military guy as her running mate.

My take is McAuliffe kinda screwed things up by splitting the No. Va. vote with Brian Moran in the primary and allowing Deeds to squeak in. Had McAuliffe not run, Moran, very popular in No. Va., would have won, and he for sure would be ahead by double digits against McDonnell. In fact ANY generic pale male from No. Va. without a criminal record would be ahead of Mac by now. Oh well.

Posted by: broadwayjoe | September 11, 2009 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Yes indeed.
I used to be a high profile case (not me, the patient!) consultant and drove a lot between various prisons and hospitals. I'd keep Savage on to keep me awake (hypertensive actually).

Only in America. Earlier Bobby WC was going on about protecting haters and hate speech and how important that is. I am not convinced. Germans don't go there anymore and they should know. Poor Dr. Tiller.

Posted by: shrink2 | September 11, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

@shrink: Savage may find another radio station with a mic he can use to spew hate, but for now we'll just savor the wine. :)

Posted by: broadwayjoe | September 11, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Chris, don't you think the Oregon Governor's race is going to be competitive?

Just look at this tweet log from the GOP candidate-wannabe Allen Alley:

You can talk up political heavyweights all you want but that Pad [sic] Thai post, coming right on the heels of "Busy day- Hispanic dinner tonight."...this guy is the real deal.

Posted by: shrink2 | September 11, 2009 1:20 PM | Report abuse

TheBabeNemo, it's funny that you mention water as an issue. In Georgia one of our biggest issues is the Water War with Alabama, Tennessee, and Florida. In fact a court recently ruled that it is illegal for us to draw water from Lake Lanier reservoir which is entirely located within our state. Lt. Gen. David Poythress is the only candidate in the race with a water plan for Georgia.

Posted by: fpotus112 | September 11, 2009 1:11 PM | Report abuse

say it ain't so broadwayjoe!

That is great news.

Savage is a lunatic, btw, the New Yorker did a fine piece on him a few weeks ago.

Posted by: shrink2 | September 11, 2009 1:08 PM | Report abuse

You left out Pennsylvania. Ed Rendell is term-limited and not very popular right now. Attorney General Tom Corbett is the likely Repub. candidate and IS quite popular. The Dems. don't really have a strong candidate waiting in the wings.

Posted by: plurie | September 11, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse

I enjoyed reading this neutral thoughtful analysis of the top governors' races, CC.

Breaking News:

Hate radio icon Michael Savage has been dropped from his flagship station (where he actually broadcasts from). "People Power" works despite what Howie Kurtz might say.

From HuffPo minutes ago:

Posted by: broadwayjoe | September 11, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

True, President Obama didn't carry a single one of Oklahoma's 77 counties. But conservative Democrats can and do win statewide races there, as soon-to-retire two-term Gov. Brad Henry did, overwhelming a popular Republican U.S. representative in 2006. And don't discount the possibility that four-term state Attorney General Drew Edmondson just might succeed Gov. Henry. Edmondson has handily won four statewide races; in one of them, the Republicans didn't even put up a candidate to oppose him. The Edmondson name means something in Oklahoma: the attorney general's father was a long-time member of Congress, his uncle was a governor, and his brother sits on the state Supreme Court. The Fix might be taken aback if Oklahomans elect a Democrat to be their next governor, but I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Drew Edmondson win that job.

Posted by: Journalism99 | September 11, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Minnesota is tricky, but I think it is wrong to say Minnesota voters will be looking at a Democrat.

We Minnesotans seem to like balance. The state Senate has been in DFL control since the early 70s. Control of the House has changed, but right now the DFL has a 40 seat majority there too. In 2006, the state House saw major DFL wins, yet the GOP still kept the governor's mansion (though it certainly was close).

Considering the way opinion polls are shaping up, and the tendency of the party out of power to perform well in midterms, I'd say the GOP has an advantage in this race. (Though that could easily change with more than a year until election day.)

Posted by: SpeharFan | September 11, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Vermont: The Dems would have had a good chance this year even if Douglas hadn't retired. Secretary of State Deb Markowitz and former Lt. Gov. and State Senator Doug Racine are the strongest candidates the Dems have had since Howard Dean. canaldoc is right, though: the Progressives could rain all over the Dems parade. Again. Their gubernatorial candidate got more votes than the Dem last time, though Douglas got more than both of them put together. If the Progressives field a spoiler, Dubie or newly converted Republican state Auditor Tom Salmon could keep it in the R column.

Massachusetts: The state will not likely vote for a Republican no matter what they think of Gov. Patrick.

Kansas: Sam Brownback turns 53 tomorrow. Going from the Senate to being a governor is simply one more job to check off before he runs for President, maybe in 2012, but more likely in 2016.

Brownback vs. Mark Warner (VA) for President in 2016 -- let the handicapping (and political kneecapping) begin!

Posted by: Gallenod | September 11, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

i have to re-read it.
too much information.
what i will mention is that
any state who has access to water in any capacity, better start thinking water, so i would expect campaigns to address the issue. might be under the umbrella of Environmental Rights, etc...but it must be addressed.
Might change the outcome of alot of these elections.

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | September 11, 2009 11:49 AM | Report abuse

"8. Michigan (D): The state's economy continues to struggle mightily and voters are sick of Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D). Republicans have a stacked field while Democrats, well, don't. If a Republican wins here in 2010, look for him to become a potential national leader in short order. "

Even for the WaPo's chief of the republican cheerleadering squad, this is a ridiculous statement. Can you read the minds of voters, CC , to find that they are 'sick' of Granholm? That is ridiculously charged and partisan language. Not only that, but you just put out that that whatever anonymous Republican wins the governorship, they will become a national leader?

Maybe you aren't getting enough sleep, because you are starting to push wishful thinking into Delusion Land.

Posted by: drindl | September 11, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Draft Matt Dunne (D) for Governor in VT. Lost a close race to Dubie in '06. His brand of Service Politics is the future.

Posted by: jpgrinnell8 | September 11, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse


Let me just give you a bit of info about Vermont politics---the third party factor.
The only reason Douglas got into office in the first place was a man named Con Hogan ran the first time Douglas ran and split the progressive vote two ways, making Douglas a winner. After that, Vermont tends to re-elect incumbents.
If the progressives do not run a candidate up here (big IF) then likely the dems will pick up the seat,

Posted by: canaldoc | September 11, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

You missed Massachusetts where Deval Patrick is in electoral free-fall and Charlie Baker will clean his clock next year.

Posted by: deadbranch19 | September 11, 2009 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Hawaii should be (R). Okay, it SHOULD be a Democrat, but right now, it's Lingle.

Posted by: JackSlims | September 11, 2009 11:13 AM | Report abuse

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