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Posted at 12:25 PM ET, 02/ 4/2011

Key governors races will be fought on Republican-friendly turf

By Chris Cillizza

Of the 14 governors races on the ballot between now and November 2012, eight are in states won by Arizona Sen. John McCain in 2008 while six in Obama country.

But, those numbers alone don't accurately portray the tilt of the gubernatorial field toward Republicans in 2011 and 2012.

Friday Line

Democrats, coming off of a very solid 2008 governors cycle, have nine seats to defend. Of those nine, four -- Kentucky, Missouri, Montana and West Virginia -- are in states that McCain won in 2008. (And, remember, McCain didn't win all that many states in 2008.)

Of Republicans' five seats, just one -- Indiana -- is in a state won by Obama in November 2008. And the Hoosier State seems like a dwindling pickup opportunity for Democrats with former Sen. Evan Bayh (D) deciding against the race and Rep. Mike Pence (R) looking more and more like a candidate.

The Cook Political Report rates six Democratic-held seats as seriously competitive while no Republican races receive that rating.

And, Democrats hold all five of the seats we consider most likely to switch parties in 2011/2012.

You can see the full governor's Line below. The number one race is considered the most likely to switch parties.

Have thoughts of your own? Offer it in the comments section.

To the Line!

5. strong>West Virginia (2011) (D): Dates were just set for this special election
to replace Sen. Joe Manchin (D). The primary will be May 14 and special general election will be on Oct. 4. Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) faces a crowded field as he tries to keep the seat he assumed when Manchin was elected to the Senate last fall. Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, seen as Republicans' strongest contender, has said she won't run. That means the likely GOP nominee is former Secretary of State Betty Ireland although she won't likely have the field to herself. Tomblin's biggest primary challenge could come from Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, who would follow Sen. Joe Manchin's (D) path to power -- he went from that office to the governor's mansion in 2005. Tennant's most interesting attribute? She was the mascot for West Virginia University, the first woman to wear the coonskin cap and shoulder the musket. (Previous ranking: 5)

4. Missouri (2012) (D): Unlike the GOP field in the state's Senate race, the Republican nominee for governor is a foregone conclusion at this point; Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder is likely to face Gov. Jay Nixon (D). That's good news for Republicans, considering the GOP nominee again Nixon in 2008 was so badly wounded from a primary that he lost by 19 points -- even as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won the state narrowly in the presidential race. Nixon comes into the race with good approval ratings, but he's running in a tough state where Republican voters will be energized to turn out and vote against President Obama. (Previous ranking: N/A)

3. Kentucky (2011) (D): Gov. Steve Beshear (D) is doing everything he can to ward off defeat. He's beaten back any serious primary challenge, a move that allows him to husband his resources for the fall election. And, Republicans look to have an establishment versus tea party primary shaping up between state Senate President David Williams and businessman Phil Moffett. Still, Kentucky showed its conservative colors in 2010 and Beshear is going to have to run far and fast from the national party if he hopes to win a second term. (Previous ranking: 3)

2. Montana (2012) (D): There are no big names in this open seat race yet, and Rep. Denny Rehberg's (R) decision to run for Senate robs Republicans of their strongest potential nominee. On the Democratic side, state Attorney General Steve Bullock is often mentioned as a possible candidate. Currently, former Rep. Rick Hill and state Sens. Corey Stapleton and Ken Miller are running for the Republican nod, and state Sen. Dave Wanzenried is running on the Democratic side. Montana is likely to vote strongly for the Republican presidential nominee in 2012 and that should bolster the party's gubernatorial pick. (Previous ranking: 4)

1. North Carolina (2012) (D): It's never good for an incumbent when poll numbers that show you losing by seven points are viewed as positive news. But, that's where Gov. Bev Perdue (D) finds herself in what looks like a rematch against former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory (R). The x-factor in this race is what effect the fact that Democrats will hold their national convention in the Tarheel State will have on it. It should help energize Democratic base voters but could also remind Republicans that Perdue is part of a national party they do not like. (Previous ranking: 1)

With Aaron Blake and Rachel Weiner

By Chris Cillizza  | February 4, 2011; 12:25 PM ET
Categories:  The Line  
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