With the race to the White House in full swing, “down ballot” races aren’t getting a lot of attention.
This time, I’d like to focus on the few states that are electing governors in the 2008 election cycle-and whether or not the seats could change hands between the parties.
Top Five States Likely to Switch Parties:
Number 1: Missouri (Currently Republican)
In 2004 Republican wunderkid Matt Blunt became the youngest elected governor in the nation. However, during his term his bright star dimmed and he decided against running for re-election. State Attorney General Jay Nixon was competitive in head to head match-ups with Blunt, but with Blunt out Nixon has been polling well ahead of his two potential Republican contenders. While Missouri seems to have a lot of love for McCain, it remains to be seen if that will be enough to turn the tide back towards Republicans.
Number 2: North Carolina (Currently Democrat)
Democrats have held the governor’s mansion since 1990 in North Carolina, the largest prize of this cycle. Incumbent Governor Easley is term limited and polling continues to show a tight race. However, the Democratic candidate St. Treasurer Bev Perdue has remained somewhat stagnant in the polls while the more moderate Republican candidate Pat McCrory has been gaining steadily. North Carolina will almost certainly be a battle ground state in November making it hard to predict the result. But this seat still seems highly likely to change hands.
Number 3: Indiana (Currently Republican)
In 2004 Bush’s “My Man Mitch” Daniels snuggled up to President Bush and successfully unseat a somewhat popular Democratic incumbent. But after one term, voters are only lukewarm towards Governor Daniels and his relationship with Bush that helped him so much in 2004 may be his un-doing this time. The problem? The Democrat’s preferred candidate narrowly lost the primary to former Congresswoman Jill Long, who even after a primary win bump in the polls is still behind the not-so-popular Daniels.
Number 4: Vermont (Currently Republican)
There is a lot of distance between the top three races and the last two. Republican Governor Jim Douglas isn’t in any particular danger other then the fact that he is a Republican in the North-east. Governor Douglas has an accomplished track record and has survived bad political environments before, but with Obama leading a ticket and Democrat turnout expected to be heavy, will he survive again?
Number 5: Washington (Currently Democrat)
Bringing up the rear in a distant fifth place is Washington state. In 2004 Democrat Christine Gregoire best Republican Dino Ross by about 200 votes out of 2.5 million cast, and 2008 will be a rematch between the two candidates. While Gregoire isn’t particularly popular and Republicans have been chomping at the bit to oust Gregoire, Washington’s Democratic leanings in a presidential year may put this race just out of the Republican’s reach.
The Other States:
Delaware: (Open, currently Dem) This open seat should have been a good pick up opportunity for Republicans. But the Democrats nominated a first tier candidate while Republicans had trouble finding…well anyone to run. The Democrats should keep this seat easily.
Montana: (Currently Dem) In 2004, Brian Schweitzer beat Republican Secretary of State Bob Brown 50-46%. This time Schweitzer will win with a landslide. No contest here.
New Hampshire: (Currently Dem) Since Democrat John Lynch unseated Craig Benson in 2004, Republicans haven’t been able to seriously target this seat. This cycle will be no different.
Utah: (Currently Republican) First time candidate Jon Huntsman performed somewhat below the typical Republican candidate in 2004 by only winning by 58-41%. Now that just about everyone in Utah loves the guy it seems that he is heading to a landslide victory.
West Virginia: (Currently Dem) While West Virginia is becoming more and more conservative and Obama probably isn’t going to do very well there, Democrats have a firm grip on the governor’s mansion. No contest here either.