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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.

Friday Line

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)

By Chris Cillizza  |  March 19, 2010; 2:15 PM ET
Categories:  The Line  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: The House health care undecideds: By the numbers
Next: Health care, health care and more health care


Chris, Pat Quinn wasn't appointed Governor of IL. He was elected LG and took over when Blago was impeached.

Posted by: JonSM99 | March 22, 2010 3:36 AM | Report abuse

WONDERFUL to know that the trolls are going to sleep very poorly tonight.

LOVELY to see them trot out the empty threats and hitting that backlash pipe.

37th seems especially beside himself. Hope you have a nice stroke, loser.

Posted by: Noacoler | March 22, 2010 12:15 AM | Report abuse

it appears as though 37th and O has become overheated and lost her brain.

Posted by: OHIOCITIZEN | March 20, 2010 4:39 AM | Report abuse

Why do you even bother, you compulsive burnout? Yelling on here won't affect a single vote. You keep screaming Nancy doesn't have the votes and the GOP will overturn it... first they would need the votes, and that's not going to happen in my lifetime or yours.

Why don't you check into detox.

Posted by: Noacoler | March 20, 2010 12:24 AM | Report abuse


All the risks the democratic House members might be taking on the health care bill are for NOTHING.

The bill will get DE-FUNDED and sent to the trashheap of history.

Along with all of Obama's empty campaign promises.


Posted by: 37thand0street | March 19, 2010 11:37 PM | Report abuse


The health care bill will be DEFUNDED next year

not the whole government, just the health care bill.




Posted by: 37thand0street | March 19, 2010 11:28 PM | Report abuse

If this bill is passed, it will be DEFUNDED NEXT YEAR…


The next time you're in the neighborhood, ask Newt how shutting down the government worked out for the Republicans in 1995. If Democrats have failed to learn the lessons of 1994, Republicans are no less ignorant of the lessons of 1996.

[And now, I presume the usual insults as a response.]


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | March 19, 2010 10:52 PM | Report abuse

If this bill is passed, it will be DEFUNDED NEXT YEAR.


No piece of legislation has ever survived in this country without bipartisan support - there is no bipartisan support for this bill.




Otherwise, the fight will be for de-funding and REPEAL.

Besides, 38 States don't think they have to implement the bill in any event - so there will be lawsuits.

It will not be over this weekend.

Are you delusional ????


Posted by: 37thand0street | March 19, 2010 9:37 PM | Report abuse

"To anyone who thinks their cause is just, I recommend reading and listening. The settler movement is absolutely abhorrent. Posted by: Noacoler"

Or try to decide just what it is that they are claiming for Israel

There are increments of the right that are progressively more extreme, but each claims that the lands of Israel, in antiquity, are lands given them by God and therefor are not something that can be taken from them. They DON'T say what the extent of the lands they are claiming is, but,

"From desert to desert, from the river to the ends of the earth" is a scriptural limitation. The deserts are essentially the desert of the North, roughly the southern border of Turkey, to the desert of the South, the Negev or Sinai. THE River is the Euphrates, and the ends of the earth is the Eastern Med.

Accepting that delimitation they would be claiming all of Syria, some of Lebanon, all of Jordan, and whatever of Sinai they choose to claim. They have a great deal of conquest still to come should that be the lands they are claiming, but they can make some biblical claim to them, based on the mythical extent of the Kingdom of David and Solomon.

The increment that would actually tell you even now that that is their aim is small, but not so small that they don't rate at least a seat or two in the Knesset, and just two seats, held by such extremists, is enough to leverage Israel's lands policy. Obviously that extreme cannot accept lasting peace, because peace, anent the occupation of said greater Israel, is tantamount to giving away God's gift.

Does anyone see a complication here?

Netanyahu is a totally incredible party in any negotiations, because it is he who announced that wonderful impediment to negotiations, when he declared that HE was not bound by any agreements made by his predecessors, (particularly the recently deceased Itzak Rabin, at Oslo) and thus declared to the Arabs that negotiation was futile, because the negotiators spoke only for themselves, and not necessarily even for themselves. When you know that the fruits of negotiation are already repudiated, what have you to negotiate?

Time is now for the U.S. to tell israel it has six months left in which to reach settlement, because six months from now all U.S. aid, and absolutely all military aid and ALL military sales are finished unless Israel has a signed peace deal and is implementing it.

The theory is that, if God is the guarantor of Israel's boundaries, the U. S. isn't needed, and we should stay out of God's wars in the area. Netanyahu is especially problematic, because he is so obviously unwilling or unable to control the eretz Israel faction, and therefore we can only look like we are enabling the war of annihilation factions in Israel, (and they certainly exist) and shielding their actions against the Arabs from any accountability.

Until Israel begins honest negotiations, we can do nothing, and SHOULD do nothing.

No Aid, No support, no sympathy.

Posted by: ceflynline | March 19, 2010 7:26 PM | Report abuse

I would be cool with a Holocaust against the Israeli settlers, a multinational force that would annihilate them with extreme prejudice.  Their settlements should be leveled, and that would be the best thing that could possibly happen to the Middle East … and to Israel.  No, I’m not joking, nor trolling.  Those people absolutely have to go.
Israel could not absorb the settlers.  It would have to jail every last one of them and suppress their violent outbreaks, which would be legion, and a lot of people would die in the process, decent humanitarian Israelis, whom last I checked outnumber the settlers several to one.  There is no path to peace that has the settlers living inside Israel; every one of them is a potential assassin and no Israeli would be safe from their guns.  Every last one of them is a potential Baruch Goldstein, every last one of them believes in the Meier Kahane outlook.  They would tear Israeli society apart.
The settlers are just charming.  They’ll barricade roads so Palestinians can’t reach their farms, depriving them of food and livelihood, and always with the Israeli military hovering helpfully nearby.  Then after a few months of isolating the Palestinians from their farms they declare the land abandoned and start building on it.  Again, the Israeli Army is ready to help, and even if they don’t the settlers are armed to the teeth.  They say that since God created the land and God is theirs that the land is theirs too, anywhere they can reach, any land they can steal.  They boast that Israel is unable to enforce its laws even were they willing to try, a “pragmatic” outlook of crime enabled by lack of cops.  First time I heard a settler woman on the radio she got an astonishing five lies in ten words.  It makes one’s head spin.

They bludgeon old women and shoot children in the back.
To anyone who thinks their cause is just, I recommend reading and listening.  The settler movement is absolutely abhorrent.

Posted by: Noacoler | March 19, 2010 6:47 PM | Report abuse

"The Israeli settler movement is going to be that nation's undoing..."

Imagine free property, you just say it is yours and then, like magic, you own it.
But greed kills.

A tragedy, slowly and sadly, Israel is incapable of saying enough, let alone giving back. All the smart Israelis know what a disaster these Right dominated coalition governments are, but those are the only stable governments Israel seems to be able to generate.

Eventually the American military caste is going to realize how much blood they spill for some crazy peoples' greed and stupidity. For now though, Americans do not understand the cost of supporting the Israeli Right.

Posted by: shrink2 | March 19, 2010 6:24 PM | Report abuse

"The GOP seems to have nothing cooking for 2012. That kitchen is cold, Michael Steele is no Howard Dean. 'spose They figure this November will change everything or they throw in the towel until 2016, who knows. Posted by: shrink2 "

Imagine a worst case result for the R's, they win no Senate contests, lose half of the R governorships and take none of the D's and lose fifty more House seats.

Think you that they would change their approach?

Of course not. They would sit around, stunned, for a couple of months. Then they would console themselves by remembering that after landslides the out party gains seats in the next election. THEN they would decide that they lost because their candidates weren't pure enough. What was left of their contingent in Congress would go back into total opposition mode, they would go back to demanding tax cuts and claiming that the Dems were totally responsible for every evil from athlete's foot to zoonosis.

CC will begin to see signs of republican resurgence.

The T-People, now thoroughly in charge, will find fifty more costumed crusaders to lead their campaigns and Sarah's stock in the remnant of the GOP will top 15,000.

Their platform will have Joe the (not really) plumber up on it talking about how health care will make it totally impossible for him to buy out the real Plumbing contractor who owns the company he wants to run.

Anything less than that total disaster will only encourage them, and, of course, the T-s are going to want to own the process. There is nodisaster so bad they can't rationalize it, and nothing so bad for the D's that they can actually win anything worth winning, and then it is two years and they try again.

Posted by: ceflynline | March 19, 2010 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio and California are the prizes. I'm suspicious of a rookie self-funded candidate in MI, so it may be that the Democratic nominee might be able to strip some of the bark off him. Democrats are clearly on defense, but this isn't a bad field for battle.

If any of his dad's charm has rubbed off on him, I'll cheer for Simpson in Wyoming. If anyone moves to the state to vote, try out Thermopolis.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | March 19, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Wyoming has elected more Democratic than Republican Governors over the last 40+ years. It's a two-party state when the statehouse is on the line.

Posted by: Digital_Voter | March 19, 2010 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Gaza rocket strikes south Israel
for fifth time in 24 hours

Seems that this is just fine with Ped and berry. No wonder liberal foreign policy is a world wide laughingstock.

I wonder how the Dalai Lama likes the cuff links berry so thoughfully gave him. I am confused how he will attach them to his robe, his only outfit. Probably about as much as the Queen likes berrys speeches on her ipod. and those US coded DVDs.

Who said you don't need any experience to run a country? I think berry would be better suited as an ESPN Reader. Of course, he will have to learn how to spell Syracuse.

Posted by: drivl | March 19, 2010 4:54 PM | Report abuse

For a guy who makes his living such as it is betting on ball games, you sure know how to pick the losers, zouk.

The Israeli settler movement is going to be that narion's undoing, a domestic Maurilito Boatlift of religious psychotics, armed to the teeth, a real phyisical threat to anyone who doesn't agree with their unhinged claims to any land they can steal.

America should cut them off until they figure it's time to throw out the trash.

Posted by: Noacoler | March 19, 2010 4:42 PM | Report abuse

New York - The Federal Reserve Board must disclose documents identifying financial firms that might have collapsed without the largest U.S. government bailout ever, a federal appeals court said. (Snip) The U.S. Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, ''sets forth no basis for the exemption the Board asks us to read into it,'' U.S. Circuit Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs wrote in the opinion. ''If the Board believes such an exemption would better serve the national interest, it should ask Congress to amend the statute.''

when transparency actually arrives, it will turn out that Barry saved nothing.

I think it is time for a new BS bingo card. although the pips labeled:

let me be clear
yes we can
back from the brink
I get lots of letters
at the end of the day

are still effective, they are not going to last much longer.

Posted by: drivl | March 19, 2010 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Why has President Barak Obama decided to foment a crisis in US relations with Israel? Some commentators have claimed that it is Israel’s fault. As they tell it, the news that Israel has not banned Jewish construction in Jerusalem – after repeatedly refusing to ban such construction – drove Obama into a fit of uncontrolled rage from which he has yet to recover.

US foreign policy is a total mess.

Posted by: drivl | March 19, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

cef, exactly.

and Noa, yeah, if they intend to get to the White House with any one of the intellectually disabled has-beens in this crop of candidates, they are going to have to buy their way in.

Even Obama, so fresh and charismatic had no chance against the Clintons without all the money his machine raised from people like me early on.

The GOP seems to have nothing cooking for 2012. That kitchen is cold, Michael Steele is no Howard Dean.

'spose They figure this November will change everything or they throw in the towel until 2016, who knows.

Posted by: shrink2 | March 19, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

There is GENERAL AGREEMENT around the country that this health care bill is the GREATEST ABUSE OF GOVERNMENT POWER IN THE HISTORY OF THE COUNTRY.

It is clear.

First, Obama's platform was NOT understand to include the CREATION OF A MASSIVE GOVERNMENT PROGRAM WITH MASSIVE NEW TAXES. This is the very definition of overreach.

Second, there is overwhelming opposition among the public for this bill.

Yet, Obama has persisted in pushing this bill through - Against all commentary recommending that he concentrate on the economy and jobs - Against the best judgeement of people all over his own party - Against all counsel of democratic pollsters writing in the Washington Post.

Obama has risked the destruction of the democratic party.

The thing is democrats all over the country are wondering why - why is this happening - and the only answer is this is a giant ego trip on the part of Obama -




Posted by: 37thand0street | March 19, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

"The GOP is going to have to get rid of Michael Steele if they are going to run any of the current crop. You can't get to the White House on a wing and a prayer. Posted by: shrink2"

They do believe they can get there on an extreme right wing and a lot of school prayer.

Posted by: ceflynline | March 19, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

"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)"

Kasich holds what votes he holds because he hasn't campaigned all that much. He has to explain how he will balance the state's budget, currently a much over patched innertube about to blow out for the umpteenth time. He can't reasonably attack Strickland's budget, especially after the republican Senate had the audacity to post a, "compromise" budget that would require every democrat to vote for it so that only five republicans wopuld have to join them to get it passed.

Since his current platform is essentially to do away with, (at least) the Ohio income tax, which provides 40% of the state budget, as well as perhaps another 20% in revenue in other tax elimination schemes, he has to say how he pays for Ohio's government with less than half the already insufficient revenue available to Strickland.

Still, if I wanted justice and not mercy, I would pray for the R's to get both Houses and Kasich, just to watch them have to tax everything that moves, breathes, or sits there and looks pretty, while imposing an ugly tax on everything else just to make ends meet, thus finally ending the Republicans use of the Jim Rhodes' strategy, wait for the Democrats to act like adults and then run against their means of balancing the budget.

Kasich is fully capable of electing Strickland all by his lonesome, and probably will.

Posted by: ceflynline | March 19, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Who would want to be a Governor - when Obama is about to dump a whole bunch of COSTS ONTO THE STATES - OPENING UP GIANT DEFICITS ????


Posted by: 37thand0street | March 19, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

The GOP is going to have to get rid of Michael Steele if they are going to run any of the current crop. You can't get to the White House on a wing and a prayer.
There’s one more thing the GOP needs for a 2012 run: a candidate.  There’s not a one of the crop who isn’t going to get stale as green bread after an extended presidential campaign.  Check it: when someone as plastic as Mitt “Touch Of Gray” Romney is the best contender, then there’s no chance at all, especially running against someone as popular as Obama is going to be after HCR, troops out of the Bush wars, and lower unemployment.
Imagine how hokey Huckabee would sound after nine months.

Posted by: Noacoler | March 19, 2010 3:29 PM | Report abuse

I think Georgia is def. in the top 10 range, although there is a good argument for each on your list. I might downplay MN in favor of GA.

Posted by: akinsdem | March 19, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Regarding Minnesota, please note that another strong contender in the democratic primary is Minneapolis mayor RT Rybak, who is (unscientifically) polling far ahead of Entenza.

Posted by: 32degrees | March 19, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Since we are off to a slow start here,

(cue the abc news breaking story jingle) reports GOP insiders think Michael Steele is a liability!

Well heuristic poll numbers may matter, but if they are not Right Now raising the money they need to run their candidate for the White House two years from now, they lose. There is no Barak Obama for the GOP, he was already on the scene in the Democratic hero savior role in 2006.

The GOP is going to have to get rid of Michael Steele if they are going to run any of the current crop. You can't get to the White House on a wing and a prayer.

Posted by: shrink2 | March 19, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

So you don't think the brick layer, the man who probably taught Shaq his free throw technique, Chris Dudley(R), can beat Dr. Kitzhaber? Thats ok, no one in Oregon thinks so either.

But in Idaho, I think the D, Keith Allred has a chance to beat Butch Otter, like, maybe 16th on this list.

Posted by: shrink2 | March 19, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

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