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In Governors Races, Dems Hold Edge in Final Stretch

Less than three weeks away from the 2006 midterm elections, Democrats appear well positioned to add to their collection of governors' mansions across the country. Four seats -- New York, Ohio, Colorado and Massachusetts -- are looking increasingly like sure things. Arkansas has the look of a pick-up for Democrats as well.

2006 Election -- Interactive Map
Interactive Campaign Map: More Election Data and Analysis.

Beyond those five, Democrats are feeling optimistic about their chances of holding the open Iowa seat and reelecting Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) in Michigan.

Democratic incumbents in Maine, Wisconsin and Oregon bear watching as all three face serious challenges. But each should be bolstered by the demographic underpinnings of his respective state.

To the Line!

15. Alaska: After dropping the Last Frontier from the previous Line, we reinstate it this week. Former Gov. Tony Knowles (D) appears to be making some headway by questioning whether GOP nominee Sarah Palin, whose only previous elective experience is as mayor of Wasilla (population: 5,400), is up to being governor. In a state that depends so heavily on the experience and dexterity of its politicians to secure federal funds to drive the economy, this could be a potent argument. Still, Palin is the change agent in the race, a very powerful position to be in given the currents flowing through the country at the moment. (Previous ranking: N/A)

Candidate Profiles and Campaign Links: Knowles, Palin | Alaska Political Profile

14. Rhode Island: Gov. Don Carcieri (R) is smartly working to paint Lt. Gov. Charlie Fogarty (D) as just another corrupt Rhode Island politician. In a new ad, Carcieri accuses Fogarty of writing legislation that lets politicians "hide their backroom deals." The ad's narrator says: "Sorry Charlie. All the slick TV ads won't change the truth. You're part of the problem." Carcieri's attempt to claim the reform mantle may be the only way that a Republican can win reelection in a state as friendly to Democrats as Rhode Island. The message may be working, as Democrats are less gung-ho about Fogarty's chances than they were a few months ago. (Previous ranking: 13)

Candidate Profiles and Campaign Links: Carcieri, Fogarty | Rhode Island Political Profile

13. Nevada: This race edges up a single spot on the Line but could rise much higher in the coming weeks. Much depends on whether the allegation that Rep. Jim Gibbons (R) assaulted a woman outside of a restaurant has legs. The accuser says Gibbons shoved her; he says he was helping her get her balance. Until this revelation, Gibbons appeared to be lengthening his lead over state Sen. Dina Titus (D). If these allegations dominate news coverage in the coming days, Titus may be able to benefit from a rising anti-incumbent tide nationally. If not, Gibbons will win this open seat. (Previous ranking: 14)

Candidate Profiles and Campaign Links: Gibbons, Titus | Nevada Political Profile

12. Maine: Republican optimism has soured slightly here over the past few weeks. Interestingly, Gov. John Baldacci (D) seems to have found his stride by attacking Washington -- a place where he spent eight years in Congress prior to being elected governor in 2002. "In Washington it's getting hard to find a politician who is honest AND hardworking," says the narrator in a recent Baldacci ad. "Not in Maine. John Baldacci. A fighter and tireless worker for Maine people." Maine is less Democratic than commonly assumed (Al Gore won it by five points in 2000, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry by nine in 2004). But in a year where the national atmospherics so strongly favor Democrats, Baldacci should have the wind at his back. (Previous ranking: 9)

Candidate Profiles and Campaign Links: Baldacci, Woodcock | Maine Political Profile

11. Michigan: Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) has settled into a solid high-single digit lead over businessman Dick DeVos (R). It's not clear how DeVos can change the race's dynamics in the final two and a half weeks. He had Granholm on the run over the summer by successfully linking her to the faltering Michigan economy. But Granholm roared back by touting her work to bring jobs to the state while attacking DeVos's business practices as detrimental to the state. DeVos's ability to dump in unlimited amounts of personal cash in the race's final days keeps him in the game, but Granholm is looking better and better. (Previous ranking: 10)

Candidate Profiles and Campaign Links: DeVos, Granholm | Michigan Political Profile

10. Wisconsin: Democrats are feeling better about Gov. Jim Doyle's reelection chances. He is attacking Rep. Mark Green (R) for votes he cast in Congress that the Doyle campaign says hurt the middle class -- including opposition to a minimum wage increase. Green, Like Rep. Jim Nussle (R) in Iowa, may also be feeling the drag from the increasingly dim view the American public takes of Congress. A new independent poll released Thursday showed Doyle with a 51 percent to 38 percent edge -- his largest in months. (Previous ranking: 8)

Candidate Profiles and Campaign Links: Doyle, Green | Wisconsin Political Profile

9. Oregon: Democrats dismissed the Riley Research poll we cited in the last Line as not credible, but we hear that Republican polling shows 2002 candidate Ron Saxton (R) in a dead heat with Gov. Ted Kulongoski (D). Kulongoski is certainly acting like he's in a tight race -- running ads that attack Saxton's record on the Portland school board. There is considerable unrest toward the incumbent within the state as evidenced by the serious primary challenge Kulongoski faced earlier this year. The national political mood should aid the Democrat, but Republicans are growing increasingly optimistic about their chances here. (Previous ranking: 12)

Candidate Profiles and Campaign Links: Kulongoski, Saxton | Oregon Political Profile

8. Minnesota: We were stunned by a recent Minneapolis Star Tribune poll that showed state Attorney General Mike Hatch (D) with a 46 percent to 37 percent edge over Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R). Republicans admit that the national political environment -- particularly President Bush's woeful job-approval rating -- is having a deleterious effect on Pawlenty's reelection chances. The same poll that showed Hatch in the lead put Democrat Patty Wetterling (D) ahead of Republican Michelle Bachmann by eight points in the 6th District race. If those numbers are right, something is happening in Minnesota that could sweep Pawlenty out of office. (Previous ranking: 11)

Candidate Profiles and Campaign Links: Hatch, Pawlenty | Minnesota Political Profile

7. Iowa: Two new independent polls suggest that Secretary of State Chet Culver (D) has opened up a small lead over Rep. Jim Nussle (R) in the race to replace outgoing Gov. Tom Vilsack (D). A Selzer & Co. poll for the Des Moines Register put Culver at 46 percent and Nussle at 37 percent. A Research 2000 survey showed Culver with a 49 percent to 44 percent lead. While we long believed Nussle was the best possible candidate Republicans could have fielded in this race, the growing disgust with Washington has hobbled his candidacy. Democrats are better positioned for a hold here than anyone thought they would be six months ago. (Previous ranking: 6)

Candidate Profiles and Campaign Links: Culver, Nussle | Iowa Political Profile

6. Maryland: The central question in this race is whether Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R) can convince Maryland voters that Martin O'Malley's (D) performance as mayor of Baltimore makes him unfit to be governor. Ehrlich has pounded away at O'Malley for problems he says are plaguing the city -- from crime to education to budget issues. In a recent debate, O'Malley answered Ehrlich's attacks by noting: "This is a race for governor, governor. This is not a race for Baltimore City Council." Democrats see the coming week as make or break in the campaign, as Ehrlich is spending heavily on attack ads. A recent USA Today/Gallup poll suggests that O'Malley has something of a cushion heading into the final weeks -- pegging his lead at 12 points. (Previous ranking: 7)

Candidate Profiles and Campaign Links: Ehrlich, O'Malley | Maryland Political Profile

5. Arkansas: Former Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R) never seemed to get started in this race. State Attorney General Mike Beebe (D) grabbed the momentum earlier on -- both organizationally and financially -- and hasn't let up. An independent poll done in early October showed Beebe with a 45 percent to 31 percent edge over Hutchinson -- a lead that reflects the margin in previous polling done in the race. This one looks all but over. (Previous ranking: 5)

Candidate Profiles and Campaign Links: Beebe, Hutchinson | Arkansas Political Profile

4. Massachusetts: Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey (R) is bringing out the heavy artillery in her underdog race against former Assistant U.S. Attorney General Deval Patrick (D). In a new ad that began running yesterday, a woman is shown walking alone in a parking garage. The camera follows the perspective of a potential assailant while a narrator intones: "Have you ever heard a woman compliment a rapist?" The ad goes on to quote Patrick calling a man convicted of rape "thoughtful" and "eloquent." Patrick's comments were part of a public campaign that forced a DNA test to determine the man's guilt; the test later confirmed the conviction. The ad, as vicious as we've seen this cycle, is the equivalent of a Hail Mary pass. (Previous ranking: 4)

Candidate Profiles and Campaign Links: Democrats, Republicans | Massachusetts Political Profile

3. Colorado: Rep. Bob Beauprez, long considered a rising star with the Republican Party, has run a surprisingly poor campaign against former Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter (D). The latest misstep involves an investigation by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation into whether Beauprez's campaign illegally tapped into an FBA database to obtain information used in an attack ad against Ritter. Beauprez has said he obtained the information legally but won't reveal his source. Not exactly the public debate the Republicans wants to be having three weeks before the election. (Previous ranking: 3)

Candidate Profiles and Campaign Links: Beauprez, Ritter | Colorado Political Profile

2. Ohio: The collapse of Sen. Mike DeWine's (R) numbers in his race against Rep. Sherrod Brown (D) is simply the latest evidence that a day of reckoning is coming for Ohio Republicans on Nov. 7. Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (R) continues to lag farther and farther behind Rep. Ted Strickland (D) in the governor's race; a CBS/New York Times poll put the margin at 54 percent to 29 percent. Even more troubling for Blackwell is that just 16 percent of respondents viewed him favorably while 38 percent saw him in an unfavorable light. O-V-E-R. (Previous ranking: 2)

Candidate Profiles and Campaign Links: Blackwell, Strickland | Ohio Political Profile

1. New York: The fat lady has sung, showered and is currently sitting on her sofa watching "Desperate Housewives." State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer (D) will be New York's next governor. (Previous ranking: 1)

Candidate Profiles and Campaign Links: Faso, Spitzer | New York Political Profile

By Chris Cillizza  |  October 20, 2006; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Governors , The Line  
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