Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Governors Races Close Across the Country

In Governor on October 29, 2014 at 10:08 am

Like the Senate and House races, 36 gubernatorial campaigns are also drawing to conclusion this week, and in as tight a fashion as the US Senate races that have dominated the political landscape.

Republicans hold a 29 to 21 advantage in the national gubernatorial division, but Democrats appear poised to gain a small number of state houses in this election. Strong competition is underway in 20 of the 36 states, a very high number. Nine races are thought to be too close to call headed into Election Day.

The tightest of all, not surprisingly, may be in Florida, where Gov. Rick Scott (R) and ex-Gov. Charlie Crist (D) are doing battle. Florida, as we know, is no stranger to tight campaigns, and the Sunshine State electorate will almost assuredly give us another one this year. The Scott-Crist race is a flat tie, with multiple polls yielding each candidate a very small lead. Democrats feel they have the ground game to win a close race, but Scott has the clear momentum fighting back from very poor approval ratings to force the race to a virtual draw.

One campaign that likely won’t be close is the Democratic conversion of Pennsylvania. Gov. Tom Corbett (R) has virtually no victory path and has trailed Democratic businessman Tom Wolf for the entire general election cycle, usually by double-digits.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) has also trailed for a good part of the cycle but has, like Florida’s Scott, battled back to a virtual tie. The last swing of this race could well tell the final tale. Like what happened to Ken Cuccinelli (R) in the Virginia governor’s race (2013), ex-Republican officials appearing in ads for the Democratic nominee, in this case state House Minority Leader Paul Davis, tend to have the intended effect of casting doubt over the incumbent among the party faithful.

Another dead heat is also occurring in Wisconsin, where Gov. Scott Walker (R) and businesswoman Mary Burke (D) are locked in a virtual tie. The governor may have the slightest of edges heading into the final voting.

The other toss-ups begin in Alaska. Gov. Sean Parnell (R) faces an Independent/Democratic slate of candidates that could topple him. Former Gov. Sarah Palin (R), who supported Parnell to become her lieutenant governor, has now endorsed Independent candidate Bill Walker because of her successor’s energy tax policies. This race is a legitimate upset possibility. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) continues to fight against a fierce challenge from former US Rep. Bob Beauprez (R), a Connecticut re-match of their razor-thin 2010 battle is drawing to a close between embattled Gov. Dan Malloy (D) and former US Ambassador Tom Foley (R), while Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) is continuing having problems shaking state Sen. Jason Carter (D), the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter.

Two governors thought to be headed for defeat who have now battled back to even footing are Maine’s Paul LePage (R), who may again win a three-way contest featuring Independent attorney Eliot Cutler. This time the Democratic nominee is Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME-2), a stronger opponent that LePage faced four years ago, but one who is just tied with the governor in three new polls. Illinois’ Pat Quinn (D) was trailing businessman Bruce Rauner (R) for most of their long general election cycle (the primary was back in March) but now has forged a small lead according to most polls.

Republicans have a good upset chance in Massachusetts, as late polling, even from the Democratic candidate, shows Republican businessman Charlie Baker moving ahead of Attorney General Martha Coakley (D). They are also poised to convert the Arkansas open seat (Gov. Mike Beebe (D), retiring) as former Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-AR-3) is leading ex-Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR-4) in virtually every public poll.

Finally, a prospective Republican Vice Presidential nominee needing a big re-election victory in her swing state appears ready to achieve her objective. New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R) holds a strong double-digit lead over Attorney General Gary King (D).

Both parties have seven hold-over governors who are not on the ballot in 2014. Adding these governors, Republicans appear to be leading in 24 races with Democrats ahead in 17. Nine are toss-ups, but it is conceivable the Democrats could win as many as six of those campaigns and the Independents one, thus driving the total Republican national number to as low as 26. On the other hand, the races are so close that the GOP could actually score a net gain of one state house, or even two.

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