The battle for the big state governorships
While 37 states will cast votes for governor this November, a handful of those states matter more to the long term political fates of the two parties.
That list includes Pennsylvania, New York, California, Texas, Illinois, Ohio and Florida -- some of the largest states in the country that also are expected to either gain or lose congressional seats in the 2011 redistricting process.
Of the seven, six are genuinely competitive at the moment with New York being the lone exception -- although Republicans are genuinely excited about the candidacy of party switching Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy.
Three of the seven big state races crack our top 15 in this month's Line.
Republicans are rightly optimistic about their takeover chances in Pennsylvania while Ohio looks like a genuine toss up. California remains a solid pickup opportunity for Democrats although former eBay CEO Meg Whitman's (R) personal wealth gives her a fighting chance.
Off the Line, Democrats like the looks of the Texas race where former Houston Mayor Bill White is, they believe, the right sort of contrast to Gov. Rick Perry (R). Florida looks to be tilting slightly to state Attorney General Bill McCollum (R) although Democrats insist state CFO Alex Sink is a quality candidate. And, finally, in Illinois, it remains to be seen how badly damaged appointed Gov. Pat Quinn is from his bruising primary victory -- although state Sen. Bill Brady (R) was not regarded as the strong GOP candidate the party could put forward.
As always, the top ranked race on the Line is the most likely to switch sides in November. Kudos and critiques are welcome in the comment section below.
Coming onto the Line: Wyoming
Coming off the Line: Wisconsin
15. California (Republican-controlled): Whitman is soaring in the polls thanks to a barrage of television ads fueled by a $39 million personal donation. She appears to have made quick work of state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner in the primary, and a recent Field poll showed her running even with state Attorney General Jerry Brown. Republicans are jubilant but it's a long way until November. (Previous ranking: 14)
14. Ohio (Democratic-controlled): After bottoming out a few months ago, Gov. Ted Strickland (D) appears to be on the comeback trail with the latest Quinnipiac poll showing him re-taking the lead from former Rep. John Kasich (R). (Previous ranking: 12)
13. Arizona (R): Gov. Jan Brewer (R) is facing serious primary problems in the form of state Treasurer Dean Martin and free-spending businessman Buz Mills. At the moment, the party looks like they would be better off without the governor as their nominee. State Attorney General Terry Goddard is the Democratic nominee. (Previous ranking: 13)
12. Minnesota (R): With Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) retiring and former Sen. Norm Coleman (R) not running, Republicans have a low-profile field. Democrats seem headed to a competitive four-way primary between Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, state House Speaker Margaret Kelliher, former Sen. Mark Dayton and former state Rep. Matt Entenza. (NOTE: A previous version of this post accidentally omitted Rybak.)(Previous ranking: 11)
11. Connecticut (R): Democrats fret privately that Ned Lamont, the party's Senate nominee in 2006, might not be an ideal general election candidate. But, a new Quinnipiac poll puts him ahead of former Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy by ten points, and Lamont's personal wealth seems to put him in the driver's seat. For Republicans, wealthy former Ambassador Tom Foley is the clear favorite -- at least according to the Q poll -- over Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele. (Previous ranking: 8)
10. Pennsylvania (D): State Attorney General Tom Corbett (R) continues to run strong while Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato looks like the Democratic nominee. As political handicapper Stu Rothenberg has pointed out, Onorato is running against five decades of history in the Keystone State as the governorship has changed parties every eight years during that time. (Previous raking: 10)
9. Vermont (R): Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie (R) is the best candidate Republicans could hope for and Democrats have a crowded -- albeit it talented -- field in the open seat race to replace Gov.Jim Douglas (R). Another potential problem for Democrats is the possibility of a Progressive party candidate running for governor, a move that could divide the liberal vote. (In 2008, Progressive Anthony Pollina took 22 percent of the vote, the same percentage former state House Speaker Gaye Symington, the Democratic nominee, received.) (Previous ranking: 9)
8. Iowa (D): Despite flagging poll numbers, Gov. Chet Culver (D) continues to insist a path exists for him to win re-election -- even as top staffers continue to leave the campaign. If a path exists, it's very narrow as former Gov. Terry Branstad (R) is still popular and well-regarded in the state. (Previous ranking: 6)
7. Hawaii (R): Democrats seem to be headed to a contentious primary fight between former Rep. Neil Abercrombie and Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann. And, Republicans have long been enthusiastic about Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona. But, this is Hawaii -- a state President Barack Obama won by 45(!) points in 2008. That gives Democrats a lot of room for error. (Previous ranking: 7)
6. Michigan (D): The Democratic field looks to have (finally) settled in with Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero and state House Speaker Andy Dillon as the two frontrunners. But, the real story is on the Republican side where wealthy businessman Rick Snyder has catapulted himself into contention with a well-funded ad campaign touting himself as "one tough nerd". (Previous ranking: 5)
5. Oklahoma (D): Rep. Mary Fallin (R) continues to look like the next governor from the Sooner State even though Democrats have two quality candidates in state Attorney General Drew Edmondson and Lt. Gov. Jari Askins. (Previous ranking: 4)
4. Tennessee (D): Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam remains the frontrunner -- due to his massive personal wealth -- but Rep. Zach Wamp and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsay are fighting hard to emerge as the Haslem alternative. The primary, which is likely to get nastier before too long, isn't until Aug. 5 but Democrats acknowledge that whoever Republicans nominate is the fall frontrunner. (Previous ranking: 3)
3. Rhode Island: Former Sen. Lincoln Chafee is running as an independent for this open seat and by virtue of his well-known and well-regarded last name has to be considered the favorite this November. Democrats have a competitive (and late) primary between state Treasurer Frank Caprio and state Attorney General Patrick Lynch. (Previous ranking: 2)
2. Kansas (D): Sen. Sam Brownback (R) will be the next governor from the Sunflower State. (Previous ranking: 1)
1. Wyoming (D): Gov. Dave Freudenthal's (D) decision not to challenge the state's term limits law means that his seat -- in one of the most Republican states in the country -- will switch sides this fall. Republicans, not surprisingly, have a crowded field that includes state House Speaker Colin Simpson, who is the son of former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson, as well as state Auditor Rita Meyer, former U.S. Attorney Matt Mead and rancher Ron Micheli. (Previous ranking: N/A)
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