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Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 03/11/2011

Why governors races matter

By Chris Cillizza

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In the world of Washington politics, governors races are often overshadowed by the fight for control of the House and Senate.

But the last three weeks in Wisconsin have proven -- yet again -- that what goes on in the states has reverberations in politics across the country.

And, it's not just Wisconsin where newly elected governors are at the center of the budget fights and broader economic arguments that are impacting the country.

Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy (D) is facing down the Nutmeg State's budget gap and polling that suggests his proposed solutions is something short of popular.

Friday Line

Ditto New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), who has laid out a series of cuts designed to close a $10 billion budget gap.

In Ohio, Gov. John Kasich (R) is set to unveil what will undoubtedly be a controversial budget next week aimed at closing an $8 billion deficit.

With so many newly-elected governors stepping into the national spotlight, the 2012 gubernatorial elections, which will elect another crop of chief executives tasked with addressing the economic problems in the states, can't be ignored.

After the jump are the five governor's races most likely to switch parties in 2012. The No. 1 ranked race is the most likely to flip. What did we miss? The comments section awaits.

5. Washington (2011) (D): Republicans feel good about their chances if state Attorney General Rob McKenna (R) decides to run. McKenna won his second term as AG in 2008, winning 59 percent of the vote in a tough year for Republicans. More recently, he has gone toe-to-toe with Gov. Chris Gregoire (D) over President Obama's health care law and has accused her and other Democrats of "demagoguery." Sounds like the start of a campaign. On the Democratic side, it's not clear whether Gregoire will run for a third term. A top alternative would be Rep. Jay Inslee. (Previous ranking: N/A)

4. Missouri (2012) (D): Missouri moved heavily against Democrats in the 2010 election as Sen. Roy Blunt (R) easily won an open seat and longtime Democratic Rep. Ike Skelton (D) fell to defeat. And yet Nixon won the governor's mansion in 2006 by 21 (!) points and, in a recent Republican, yes, Republican, poll the incumbent had a 61 percent approval rating. Still, given Missouri's Republican roots -- it was the lone targeted state that Barack Obama lost in 2008 -- national GOP strategists see opportunity. Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder is the near-certain Republican nominee. (Previous ranking: 4)

3. Kentucky (2011) (D) -- A new poll from Braun Research shows Gov. Steve Beshear looking fairly comfortable -- he's 10 points ahead of Republican challenger and state Senate President David Williams. And, Beshear does even better against tea party candidate Phil Moffett or Jefferson County Clerk Bobbie Holsclaw. But Beshear is in a nasty budget fight, and he'll have to spend the rest of the year runningfrom President Obama in a conservative-minded state. (Previous ranking: 3)

2. Montana (2012) (D): Democratic state Attorney General Steve Bullock appears to be getting closer to running, as someone on his staff bought up the bullockforgovernor.com web domain in late February. But don't expect any kind of announcement at this weekend's big state party dinner. Democrats' chances to hold term-limited Gov. Brian Schweitzer's (D) seat would be much better with Bullock in the race. Republicans don't have anyone in the race with recent statewide experience, and Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) opted to run for Senate rather than governor. Still, Montana is a conservative-leaning state and won't be easy territory for Democrats. (Previous ranking: 2)

1. North Carolina (2012) (D): Gov. Bev Perdue's (D) poll numbers aren't great and former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, who narrowly lost in 2008, appears ready for a rematch. Much of Perdue's fate depends on how competitive the national Democratic ticket is in the Tarheel State. The fact that Obama is putting the 2012 Democratic National Convention in North Carolina suggests that he plans to fight it out in a state he carried in 2008. (Previous ranking: 1)

With Aaron Blake and Rachel Weiner

By Chris Cillizza  | March 11, 2011; 10:30 AM ET
Categories:  The Line  
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