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The Governors: Judge 2018 by the Big States By Kyle Kondik

A Commentary By Kyle Kondik
Democrats will net governorships, but which ones those are will define November’s true winner

Dear Readers: We realize that our pieces can get quite lengthy sometimes. While we know that all readers read every single word (wink wink), we’re going to start offering brief synopses at the top of our longer articles to allow readers who are in a hurry to get the gist. We will include any ratings changes, and our current ratings map for the group of contests in question, at the top of the article as well.

— The Editors

 

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KEY POINTS IN THIS ARTICLE:

— Democrats should end the year with more governorships than they hold now. One reasonable way to measure Democrats’ success is whether they get into the 20s — they have 16 governorships now, so that would mean a gain of four or more.

— The Republicans are on the defensive in too many states to realistically expect them to net seats, and they have to deal with the handicap of holding the White House in a midterm. They have 33 now, and staying in the 30s would represent a great cycle for them.

— The one ratings change we’re making this week is moving the open seat in Maine from Toss-up to Leans Democratic. That makes the Democrats favored outright to add at least two net governorships, Maine and New Mexico.

— But these are small states. So are two of the states where Republicans have the best chance to score takeovers, Alaska and Connecticut.

— These small-state races matter, but which party has the better gubernatorial election this year will be determined in the bigger states, mostly in the Rust Belt.

— To really have a strong year, Democrats need to win some of the bigger states, and several major states with Republican governors should be very competitive: Florida, Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio all qualify. Democrats realistically have only one big-state governorship that might be tricky to defend, Pennsylvania.

— If we consider those five states the true prizes of 2018, then perhaps the better way to measure Democratic success is whether they can net at least two of them, giving them a majority among these five states, all of which rank in the top 10 in population among the states nationally.

See below for the full piece and analysis of all 36 gubernatorial races this year.

Table 1: Crystal Ball gubernatorial ratings change

Skelley - Table 1 - January 11, 2018

Map 1: Crystal Ball gubernatorial ratings

Kondik - Map 1 - January 11, 2018

 

 

THE GOVERNORS

Democrats had a simple objective in 2017 to keep them on track for gains in 2018: Sweep the two gubernatorial contests being held. They did so, holding Virginia by a bigger-than-expected margin and capturing New Jersey from Republicans. Still, 2017 saw no net change to the number of governorships controlled by the two parties: While Democrats picked up the Garden State, Gov. Jim Justice of West Virginia switched parties and is now a Republican. So the Republicans continue to control 33 of the 50 governorships, while Democrats hold 16 and an independent, Gov. Bill Walker of Alaska, holds one.

The GOP gubernatorial roster continues to be the largest the party has enjoyed in the post-World War II era , although the total number of governorships a party controls does not mean much collectively: It’s not as though there is a national legislature made up of governors where the Republicans have outsized control, although obviously a party wants to hold as much power as possible.

By that measure, the Democrats did see their state-level power expand slightly in 2017 . They traded the governorship of a small state, West Virginia, for that of a considerably bigger one, New Jersey, and they added the Garden State and Washington state (thanks to a special election victory in a key state Senate race) to their small group of state government “trifectas,” states where one party controls the governorship and both chambers of the state legislature. The Democrats will now have eight trifectas, up from six at the start of 2017, according to Ballotpedia , while the Republicans now have a whopping 26, up from 25 at the start of 2017 (the Republicans also control another key trifecta — the presidency and both houses of Congress).

In assessing 2018’s gubernatorial landscape, the question is not whether the Democrats will add more seats to their gubernatorial stable, but rather how many and which ones.

The Republicans are at such a high-water mark that it will be hard for them to net seats . They are defending 26 of the 36 seats being contested this year, while the Democrats are only defending nine. Add to that challenging map the fact that half of the 26 Republican-held governorships are open seats, as well as the usual midterm trend that breaks against the White House even in non-federal races, and it becomes even harder to imagine a net Republican gain.

Realistically, the Republicans will have had a strong night if they maintain control of 30 governorships, meaning that they only suffer a net loss of three or less. Likewise, Democrats will have had a good night if they can get into the 20s in terms of total seats, or a net gain of at least four. One wrinkle in the math here is that the Republicans’ best takeover opportunity, Alaska, is held by an independent, not a Democrat. So a GOP win there is not really a Democratic loss.

But more broadly, not all governorships are created equal, unlike seats in the House and Senate.

More than half of the United States’ population lives in just the 10 most populous states, and nine of those states have a gubernatorial election this year. Given that these are the states where the identity of the governor and that person’s priorities impacts the most people, perhaps it’s best to judge this year’s results by what happens in those states.

The Republicans currently hold six of the governorships in the 10 most populous states. The two most populous states, California and Texas, look like easy holds for, respectively, the Democrats and Republicans. New York, now the fourth-largest state, should be an easy hold for Democrats. North Carolina, the ninth-most populous, is the only one not on the ballot this year (Democrats captured it in 2016), while Georgia, the eighth-biggest, is competitive, but the Republicans are favored to hold it.

That leaves five others: Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Republicans hold all but the Keystone State right now. Three are Toss-ups, while Republicans start the year with a modest edge in Ohio and Democrats a modest edge in Pennsylvania.

Whichever party wins a majority of these five governorships probably will have had the better night in November , particularly because all five governors play a key role in congressional redistricting, which is coming after the 2020 census and will be overseen by the governors elected this year in these (and many other) states. (The Supreme Court may place limits on gerrymandering this year, but for the time being let’s set aside that possibility.) Illinois is home to one of the few Democratic gerrymanders in the country, while the maps in the other four states all significantly favor Republicans (even after a court decision somewhat dulled the GOP edge in Florida).

So while the gubernatorial races in every state should matter quite a bit to the voters in those states, for those following the races at the national level, how these five states shake out will play a big part in determining which party did better at the state level this year.

What follows is an assessment of the state of play in all 36 states with gubernatorial races this year.

Across the nation

Let’s start in New England, a Democratic bastion where some moderate Republicans are well-fortified to defend themselves even in a possible Democratic wave year. All six New England states have gubernatorial races this year; the region is also home to the only two states, New Hampshire and Vermont, that elect governors to two-year terms as opposed to four-year ones.

Govs. Charlie Baker (R-MA) and Phil Scott (R-VT) are both considerable favorites next year, as they sport lofty approval ratings and have thus far avoided truly strong Democratic opponents. Both could potentially get swept up in a huge wave, but Democrats do not appear to be prioritizing either race. A key part of Baker and Scott’s electoral success is that they generally support abortion rights in liberal states. So does Gov. Chris Sununu (R-NH) , who is potentially more vulnerable in November but still starts as a favorite. Democrats hope that their 2016 nominee, former Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern, takes another run at Sununu.

Republicans currently hold four of the six New England governorships. The Democrats’ best chance to cut into that edge comes in Maine , where Gov. Paul LePage (R) is term-limited after winning the governorship twice with a plurality. Both parties seem to see the Democrats with an edge in this seat, particularly after Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) decided against running. State Attorney General Janet Mills (D) may be the Democratic favorite, although she has plenty of competition (her post is elected by the Maine state legislature). A wild card is state Treasurer Terry Hayes, an independent and former Democrat. A Republican path to an upset might involve her hurting the eventual Democratic nominee, but at this point a GOP win would be an upset, and we’re moving Maine from Toss-up to Leans Democratic .

It is possible that Republicans could actually sweep the New England governorships this year. That is not likely, but if they can hold Maine and the other aforementioned states, they do have two credible targets in Connecticut and Rhode Island .

Connecticut is an open seat after unpopular Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) opted against running for a third term. We get the sense that neither party is all that thrilled with the slew of candidates in the mix, a group that includes several mayors on both sides. One thing that Democrats hope can save them in the Nutmeg State is animus toward the president in a blue state, particularly in Fairfield County, the wealthy, highly-educated southwest satellite of New York City that casts about a quarter of the statewide votes and that a winning Republican gubernatorial candidate likely would need to at least come close to carrying. Malloy narrowly won it in 2014 after losing it in 2010, but President Trump lost it by about 20 points in 2016, the worst showing for a Republican there since 1964. If this county votes the way Northern Virginia, another affluent anti-Trump region, voted in the Virginia gubernatorial race last year, Republicans’ chances of winning Connecticut sharply decrease. Still, Connecticut really is a true Toss-up, at least for now.

Next door in Rhode Island , Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) has been hit from both left and right, but Republicans may not have a top-tier challenger to exploit her weak approval rating. There could be one or more prominent third-party candidates, including Trump-backing former GOP state Rep. Joe Trillo, whose presence in the race probably helps Raimondo. In both Connecticut and Rhode Island, Republicans likely would benefit from a free-spending outsider in the mold of Govs. Rick Scott (R-FL) or Bruce Rauner (R-IL) emerging, but it’s unclear if one will.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) appears set to seek a third term, and the GOP lacks a credible challenger to him or to other top Democratic statewide officials. Cuomo should be fine regardless but a weak statewide ticket could hurt Republicans down the ballot in several key U.S. House races: Democrats found out the dangers of effectively not challenging incumbent Republican governors in Nevada and Ohio in 2014, when they suffered wipeouts down the ballot because of poor turnout. This is also a good place to break from our otherwise geographic order of races to address California and Texas . The former is an open seat that Democrats are almost certain to hold, and it’s possible two Democrats could advance to the general election because of the state’s top-two primary rules (two Democrats could also advance to the general in the U.S. Senate race). That possibility, and California’s increasing Democratic lean, may also hurt Republicans down ballot and may have contributed to the decisions by Reps. Darrell Issa (R, CA-49) and Ed Royce (R, CA-39) to retire this week, moving Royce’s seat from Leans Republican to Toss-up and Issa’s from Toss-up to Leans Democratic in our ratings.

Gov. Greg Abbott (R) seems almost certain to hold the Texas governorship, although Democrats hope that either former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez or businessman Andrew White (son of Mark White, a former Texas governor) can at least run a respectable race to give voters a reason to turn out down the ballot — the Senate race between Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D, TX-16) may help with turnout, too, even though Cruz is clearly favored (just not by as much as Abbott is). That’s about all we have to say about the three gubernatorial races in megastates that have more than a quarter of the nation’s population but hardly any two-party competition at the top of the ticket.

Back to the Northeast. Gov. Tom Wolf (D-PA) does not have dynamite approval numbers, but it’s not clear that the Republican candidate will truly be able to push him even in a state that is trending Republican and that Trump narrowly carried. The likely GOP nominee is state Sen. Scott Wagner, businessman Paul Mango, or state House Speaker Mike Turzai. If Republicans are to beat a Democratic incumbent, it would likely either be Wolf in Pennsylvania or Raimondo in Rhode Island. Their field of candidates may be stronger in Pennsylvania, but Wolf has a better approval rating than Raimondo. Both remain Leans Democratic in our ratings.

Another mid-Atlantic incumbent who gets the benefit of the doubt is Gov. Larry Hogan (R-MD) , whose sky-high approval numbers probably mask his vulnerability when he faces an electorate that loathes the president. Hogan could not have been pleased to see Northern Virginia reject Republican gubernatorial nominee Ed Gillespie so strongly last year given that so much of Maryland is similar to Northern Virginia. Democrats have to sort out their primary field first, though, and they might be mindful of the fact that Hogan got elected in 2014 as part of what was effectively a tax revolt against then-outgoing Gov. Martin O’Malley (D). That may be a reason for the eventual Democratic nominee to tack closer to the middle, if at all possible in a big, competitive primary. The leading candidates are Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker (D), who led a recent primary poll by solid Maryland pollster Patrick Gonzales, as well as Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and former NAACP President Ben Jealous. Gonzales found all three trailing Hogan by double digits, but the incumbent was slightly short of 50%

Now, to the Midwest:

In Ohio , Attorney General Mike DeWine (R) is the likely nominee for this open seat. His union with Secretary of State Jon Husted (R), with Husted taking the lieutenant governor slot, was the first big surprise in Ohio politics over the past couple of months. The second was last week’s decision by state Treasurer Josh Mandel (R) to drop out of the U.S. Senate race against Sen. Sherrod Brown (D). Mandel had long sought a rematch of his unsuccessful 2012 challenge to Brown, but exited the Senate race to help his wife with a health issue. In our ratings, the Ohio Senate race remains Leans Democratic as we wait and see who emerges to challenge Brown.

The DeWine-Husted ticket still faces a primary, and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor (R) is still running (she picked a running mate on Wednesday). But the other GOP gubernatorial candidate, Rep. Jim Renacci (R, OH-16), appears likely to switch to the Senate race. In any event, DeWine is a very big primary favorite as he seeks a capstone — winning the governorship — to his long political career.

While the GOP primary field has contracted, the Democratic one is still large. The late entry of former Attorney General Richard Cordray (D)[1], who has been in Washington the past several years as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, seemed to give the race a new favorite. And while he probably is the likeliest nominee given his fundraising potential and likely support from Democratic heavyweights, he is far from dominating and has not really scared off his rivals. Cordray named former Rep. Betty Sutton as his running mate on Wednesday, removing one of the other candidates from the race. But former Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D), the two-time presidential candidate who was most recently a Fox News commentator, appears set to enter the race, so one former Northeast Ohio House representative, Kucinich, likely is taking the place of another, Sutton. Also, state Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill — one of only two Democratic statewide officeholders in Ohio, and author of some very piggish comments on his sexual history — also is staying in, and we’ve heard rumors that O’Neill, who possesses a golden last name for Ohio voters (which is why he got elected to the court in a technically nonpartisan race), may be leading at least one private poll, although O’Neill won’t have any money to spend and should be easy to attack if it comes to that. Three other candidates who have been in the race for much longer than the three previously mentioned candidates are Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, state Sen. Joe Schiavoni, and former state Rep. Connie Pillich.

If it is indeed DeWine vs. Cordray for the Ohio governorship, it would be a rematch of their 2010 battle for attorney general, when DeWine beat the then-incumbent Cordray by a little over a percentage point. Despite the AG’s office carrying with it another “AG” moniker — “aspiring governor” — a Cordray-DeWine contest would produce the state’s first governor who was a former attorney general since the 1950s, though many attorneys general have tried for the top job since then.

Even before Trump comfortably won this historic bellwether state by a considerable eight-point margin in 2016, Republicans have largely dominated state politics for the past quarter-century, and DeWine likely would start a general election with a considerable polling edge given his name ID. Those are two reasons why we currently give the Republicans a small general election edge. But this should ultimately be a very competitive race. So Leans Republican for now, but maybe Toss-up by the summer depending on how the primary shakes out and where the national environment is headed.

Michigan , a bluer state that also has an open governorship, is already a Toss-up. While he faces credible primary opposition from Lt. Gov. Brian Calley (R) and others, state Attorney General Bill Schuette (R) is the likely GOP nominee. Former state Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D) is the likeliest one to emerge from a crowded Democratic field. Term-limited Gov. Rick Snyder (R) is likely more of a burden than a help for the GOP nominee at this point, and if Democrats can’t win Michigan with an unpopular Republican in the White House, they may regret the decisions by some bigger-name possibilities, like Sen. Gary Peters (D), Rep. Dan Kildee (D, MI-5), and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan (D), to take a pass on the race.

From the shores of Lake Michigan to Chicago’s Michigan Avenue, Illinois features the most vulnerable Republican incumbent in the country, first-term Gov. Bruce Rauner. With an approval rating significantly underwater, Rauner seems like a sitting duck, and if the election was today, we’d likely pick against him. But the election is many months away, and the likeliest Democratic nominee, J.B. Pritzker, doesn’t provide much of a contrast with the incumbent: both are uber-wealthy businessmen who are likely to steamroll each other in the most expensive gubernatorial race ever. And, again, incumbent governors do not often lose — in the postwar era, about three-quarters (73%) have won reelection. Losing this race would be a nightmare for Democrats, and if Rauner survives he could force a deal with the Democratic legislature to weaken the state’s Democratic U.S. House gerrymander (which, it should be said, is not as extreme in the Democratic direction as Republican maps in Ohio and Pennsylvania are in the GOP direction).

In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker (R) , unburdened by term limits, is seeking a third term and a fourth statewide victory (he won regular elections in 2010 and 2014 and a recall in 2012). His three elections were very similar — he won between 52%-53% in all of them, and the Democrat won between 46%-47%. With the national dynamic now different, and the White House burden now falling on the GOP side instead of the Democratic one, it’s easy to imagine an even closer race. So like Ohio, this may be a Toss-up before too long. But not yet: There is yet another giant Democratic primary field of questionable strength to sort out. The leading candidates are probably state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, 2012 recall lieutenant governor nominee and state firefighters union head Mahlon Mitchell, and state Rep. Dana Wachs. Liberal Madison Mayor Paul Soglin (D) just entered the race earlier this week.

In what is an ongoing theme, the Democratic field is also big and uncertain in Iowa , where Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) should be the GOP nominee after taking over for Terry Branstad (R), now the ambassador to China. One of the emerging trends nationally last year was Democratic overperformance in special elections across the country, with Democrats running significantly ahead of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 showing in many districts. Some of those strong showings came in a handful of races in Iowa, and that combined with a recent Des Moines Register poll showing Trump at a weak 35% approval in the Hawkeye State makes one wonder if Trump’s strong performance in Iowa is not built to last.

That poll also provided conflicting information about Reynolds herself. On one hand, she had a 51%-30% approval rating; on the other, just 35% said they’d vote for her while 49% thought it was “time for someone new.” We tend to think the approval rating is more important, which is part of the reason we think she’s a small favorite. But if Trump is at 35% (or even in the low 40s) in Iowa, he probably is underwater in every state with a competitive gubernatorial race in the Midwest. If it persists, Trump’s weak standing could erase the small edge we currently give the GOP in Iowa, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

The final competitive Midwest gubernatorial race is in Minnesota , a swing state where the Democrats are likely to have the stronger gubernatorial nominee. That said, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) could still run for his old job or for the new Senate special election being held this fall. If he ran for governor, we’d move the gubernatorial race from Leans Democratic to Toss-up. If he ran for Senate, we would probably still have appointed Sen. Tina Smith (D) as a small favorite because it would be easier for Pawlenty to separate himself from a potential Trump drag in a state-level race.

Republicans should be fine in defending Gov. Pete Ricketts (R-NE) and open seats in Idaho , South Dakota , and Wyoming .

Kansas is a harder GOP hold, although Republicans might have gotten a break recently with the entrance of Greg Orman into the governor’s race. Orman, an independent, was the de facto Democratic nominee against Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) in 2014, and any votes he might get for governor might be likelier to be Democratic rather than Republican votes. It may be that despite Kansas’ dislike for outgoing Gov. Sam Brownback (R), they might replace him with someone as equally or even more conservative: Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, last seen leading the president’s now-defunct election integrity commission. Brownback seemed certain to leave the governorship early to take an appointment from the president, giving Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer (R) a weak form of incumbency to use in the primary, but Brownback’s nomination has stalled. Democrats should have a credible nominee: likely one of state Sen. Laura Kelly, state House Minority Leader Jim Ward, former state Agriculture Secretary Josh Svaty, or former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer.

Oklahoma is a longer-shot Democratic target, although Democrats have also put up some strong special election performances there and outgoing Gov. Mary Fallin (R) has weak numbers. Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb is probably the likeliest Republican nominee, and former state Attorney General Drew Edmondson, who narrowly lost a gubernatorial primary in 2010, probably leads the Democratic field. Democrats might have a better shot here if Edmondson did not support abortion rights — remember, as noted above, Republicans have successfully won some dark blue states in part by finding candidates who fit their states on social issues like abortion. Democrats might want to follow suit in some places — just look at red state Gov. John Bel Edwards (D-LA), who is anti-abortion. Then again, nominating such candidates even in red states can be a challenge: Svaty, one of the Kansas Democrats mentioned above who could potentially be the party’s strongest nominee, had an anti-abortion voting record when he served in the state legislature, which could hurt him in the primary.

That observation on abortion extends to a group of southern races where Republicans are clearly favored but where Democrats could potentially spring an upset, particularly if they can find nominees who fit these conservative states. The only elected incumbent running in the South is Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R-AR) , whose breezy path to reelection faces an annoyance in the form of a very hard-right primary challenger. Govs. Kay Ivey (R-AL) and Henry McMaster (R-SC) took over after the departure of their predecessors mid-term; both are favorites to win their nominations in competitive primaries. Democrats see slivers of hope in both states but we have both as Safe Republican. Open seats in Georgia and Tennessee seem more two-party competitive but Republicans start clearly favored in both.

The main event in the South, and arguably the nation, is Florida , where Democrats are trying to win the governorship for the first time since 1994.

The Republican primary field received a jolt when Rep. Ron DeSantis (R, FL-6) entered the open-seat race with President Trump’s endorsement in hand. DeSantis complicates the path for favorite Adam Putnam, a former congressman who has been the state Agriculture Commissioner since 2011 and has been preparing his gubernatorial bid for years. On the Democratic side, former Rep. Gwen Graham (D) is a soft favorite, though she is being pushed by Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and others. The primary is not until late August, so this race will take a long time to develop, but it will feature a very expensive 10-week sprint in the fall. A wild card is the influx of as many as hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans to Florida following Hurricane Maria’s devastation of the island. Democrats could reap benefits if they can get some of these American citizens to register and go to the polls later this year.

Out west, Democrats in Nevada are also trying to win the governorship for the first time since 1994. State Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R), a somewhat accidental winner in 2014 who was aided by a collapse in Democratic turnout, is the likely Republican nominee, and he may be a little too hard-right for the electorate here. But Nevada expert Jon Ralston sees him with a possible general election edge because of the possibility that a strong Democratic candidate, Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak, could get tripped up in the primary by his commission colleague, the more liberal Chris Giunchigliani. We expect another Toss-up open-seat race in a Toss-up state.

Both parties agree that New Mexico is a top Democratic pickup opportunity in a likely open-seat battle between two U.S. House members: Michelle Lujan Grisham (D, NM-1) vs. Steve Pearce (R, NM-2). In a state that is getting bluer, Pearce probably needs more crossover appeal than he possesses.

Colorado is another place where the Democrats are more bullish after Virginia, given the similarities between the two states in terms of education level and diversity (although Virginia is much more African American while Colorado is more Hispanic). Rep. Jared Polis (D, CO-2) is probably the Democratic primary leader, although former state Sen. Mike Johnston and Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne are credible candidates, too. The Republican field is also strong, with Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, state Treasurer Walker Stapleton (a Bush family relative) and businessman Doug Robinson, nephew of Mitt Romney, all running. So too is former Rep. Tom Tancredo, the anti-immigration bomb-thrower who Democrats hope gets nominated as they attempt to win the governorship in the Centennial State for the fourth-straight time.

Republicans haven’t won a gubernatorial race in Oregon since 1982, but they see this year’s contest as a dark horse pickup opportunity. Gov. Kate Brown (D) is seeking a full term after winning a special election in 2016 by a somewhat unimpressive seven points, and state Rep. Knute Buehler (R) is a potentially impressive opponent who has caught the eye of Nike co-founder Phil Knight, who gave Buehler a $500,000 contribution. A Brown-Buehler contest would actually be a rematch: She defeated him in Oregon’s 2012 secretary of state election.

In Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey (R-AZ) should be fine, although heavy Democratic investment in the state’s U.S. Senate race and a few House races combined with potentially heavy Hispanic turnout keeps this on our radar as a deep sleeper. In Hawaii , Democrats seem like a lock to hold the governorship, but there should be a very competitive Democratic primary between Gov. David Ige and Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D, HI-1).

We conclude with probably the most confounding race of them all: Alaska , where independent Gov. Bill Walker is running for a second term. The state is facing economic problems tied to the low price of oil, and several Republicans are aiming to win back the governorship. Complicating matters is the possibility that Walker could be nominated in the Democratic primary, or there could be a three-way race featuring former Sen. Mark Begich (D), who hasn’t ruled out a bid. We would think a split vote would benefit the eventual GOP nominee, but this is a strange race that is probably the best Republican pickup opportunity in the country.

Given their liabilities elsewhere, a Republican takeover in Alaska is probably needed to keep them over 30 governors. But the real winners and losers of the national gubernatorial battle will be decided elsewhere — in the interior west, the heartland and, of course, Florida.

Footnotes

1. In the interest of full disclosure, I worked for Cordray while he was Ohio attorney general from 2009-2010. Any analysis of the Ohio gubernatorial race, such as here, is circulated among the entire Crystal Ball team to insure fairness.

Kyle Kondik is a Political Analyst at the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

See Other Political Commentary by Kyle Kondik.

See Other  Political Commentary

 

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