Volatile environment endangers more governors
It's hard out there for a governor.
The national economic slowdown has forced the hand of almost every governor in the country -- creating a politically unsavory choice between raising taxes and cutting services to keep their budgets in balance.
And, the distrust with Washington has begun to foment a broader distaste for incumbents generally as the "throw the bums out" mentality of voters seeps into the state level.
In an election where a whopping 37(!) governors races are up -- and an amazing 22 of them are open seats -- that sort of volatility makes choosing the 15 races most likely to switch sides this fall a difficult chore.
But, that's why they pay the Fix the big bucks!
As always the top ranked race is the most likely to switch parties in November. Disagree with our rankings? You can rate the races yourself at the bottom of this post.
To the Line!
Coming off the Line: Colorado
Coming onto the Line: Wisconsin
15. Wisconsin (Democratic-controlled): The upper Midwest has been hit the hardest by the economic downturn and, as a result, voters are looking for change. That change sentiment is compounded by the fact that retiring Gov. Jim Doyle (D) has held the office for eight years and is leaving amid faltering poll numbers. The Republican establishment believes Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker is a star but no one has told former Rep. Mark Neumann who is also still in the primary race. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who remains a hero in the state for breaking up a violent attack last August, is the odds-on Democratic nominee. (Previous ranking: N/A)
14. California (Republican-controlled): With every passing day, the general election picture in the Golden State comes into clearer focus. Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D) unsurprising decision to take a pass on a gubernatorial bid means that state Attorney General Jerry Brown will be the Democratic nominee. And, former eBay CEO Meg Whitman continues to lengthen her lead over state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner on the Republican side. A Brown-Whitman general election is intriguing as it pits the ultimate insider (Brown has been in and out of elected office in California for four decades) against a free-spending outsider with deep business credentials. A recent Field Poll showed Brown ahead by double digits but with Whitman gaining considerable ground. (Previous ranking: 12)
13. Arizona (R): Gov. Jan Brewer (R) has struggled badly since taking over from Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano (D) last year. Brewer has already drawn a serious primary challenge in the form of state Treasurer Dean Martin but there is talk within Republican circles that if her numbers don't improve soon that she should consider stepping aside for the good of the party. Democrats have coalesced around state Attorney General Terry Goddard. (Previous ranking: 13)
12. Ohio (D): Gov. Ted Strickland wasn't on many target list a year ago but the struggles of the Ohio economy and the surprising fundraising strength of former Rep. John Kasich (R) have turned the Buckeye State into a tight race with major implications for the 2011 redistricting process and the 2012 presidential race. While the polling in this race is not exactly top-of-the-line stuff, the trend line is clear -- and not good for Strickland; Kasich holds a seven-point edge in Real Clear Politics' polling average on the contest. (Previous ranking: 14)
11. Minnesota (R): Minnesotans do love their public service. There are ten Democrats and six Republicans running for the seat being vacated by Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) in November. With such large fields, it's a bit tough to handicap but the Democratic favorites appear to be former Sen. Mark Dayton, former state legislator Matt Entenza, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and state House Speaker Margaret Kelliher. On the Republican side, state Rep. Marty Seifert looks to be the frontrunner. Rybak and Seifert won the statewide, non-binding straw poll held during the state's caucuses earlier this month -- an early test of organizational strength. (Previous ranking: 10)
10. Pennsylvania (D): The Democratic field grew smaller on Thursday when Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty dropped out of the race to run instead for the state Senate. (We featured Doherty as part of our "Rising" series last year.). But, Doherty's departure doesn't change much about the race including the fact that state Attorney General Tom Corbett (R) looks like a solid favorite to replace retiring Gov. Ed Rendell (D) this November. (Previous ranking: 11)
9. Vermont (R): New independent polling in the Green Mountain State shows Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie (R) running very competitively against all of the serious Democratic candidates. Republicans note that Dubie is a proven vote-getter in the state but still have to hope that the GOP tilt of the national playing field can counteract the strong Democratic lean of Vermont. (Previous ranking: 7)
8. Connecticut (R): The race to replace retiring Gov. Jodi Rell (R) features competitive primaries in both parties. For Democrats, Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy and 2006 Senate nominee Ned Lamont will square off while Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele and former Ambassador Tom Foley are competing for the Republican nod. Independent polling shows a close race no matter which candidates wins their respective party primaries but Connecticut's Democratic lean would seem to give either Lamont or Malloy the slight edge. (Previous ranking: 8)
7. Hawaii (R): Democrats are heading for a nasty primary between Rep. Neil Abercrombie, who is expected to resign his House seat later this month, and Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann. Abercrombie's attack on Hannemann for refusing to formally declare his candidacy while acting like a candidate is only the start. Republicans have been united behind Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona for some time now. That said, this is Hawaii and it's hard to imagine the White House will let Democrats lose the governorship in President Obama's home state. (Previous ranking: 5)
6. Iowa (D): Gov. Chet Culver is in deep trouble in his bid for a second term. A new poll conducted for the Des Moines Register showed Culver trailing former Gov. Terry Branstad (R) 53 percent to 33 percent and with just one in three (36 percent) of Iowans approving of the job he has done in his first three-plus years in office. If Culver's poll numbers remain that dismal, the talk of him stepping aside will almost certainly grow louder. (Previous ranking: 9)
5. Michigan (D): Things have gone from bad to worse for Democrats in Michigan over the past few weeks. First, Denise Ilitch, the wealthy daughter of the owner of the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Tigers, decided against a bid. Then former state Treasurer Robert Bowman, who could have brought his own significant personal resources to the contest, said no. That leaves Democrats with Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero and state House Speaker Andy Dillon as their leading candidates in what is looking increasingly like a quixotic bid to hold the Wolverine State governorship. (Previous ranking: 6)
4. Oklahoma (D): State Attorney General Drew Edmondson (D) ended
2009 with nearly double the cash on hand of Rep. Mary Fallin (R), an encouraging sign for Democrats hoping to keep the seat of term limited Gov. Brad Henry. But, Edmondson has a serious primary in the form of Lt. Gov. Jari Askins and, even if he wins, he must overcome the strongly Republican nature of the Sooner State. (Previous ranking: 4)
3. Tennessee (D): The drama in the governor's race is entirely focused on the Republican primary as Democrats readily acknowledge they are almost certain to come up short this fall. Rep. Zach Wamp said earlier today that the race is rapidly becoming a two-man fight between he and Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam and called on Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsay to get out of the race. Democrats are likely to nominate Mike McWherter but it probably won't matter much. (Previous ranking: 3)
2. Rhode Island (R): Republicans concede they have no potential candidates in the mold of term limited Gov. Don Carcieri (R) -- although Carcieri's communications director is running for the GOP nod. The Democratic primary between state Treasurer Frank Caprio and state Attorney General Patrick Lynch is shaping up to be a good one and former Sen. Lincoln Chafee, who is running as an independent, will be waiting in the general election. (Previous ranking: 2)
1. Kansas (D): Gov. Sam Brownback (R). (Previous ranking: 1)
February 19, 2010; 12:57 PM ET
Categories: The Line
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