Rating the Governors' Races

Today on Governing.com we've debuted a new feature: Alan Greenblatt and myself are squaring off with other members of the pundit-o-sphere to forecast this ...
by | September 8, 2008

Today on Governing.com we've debuted a new feature: Alan Greenblatt and myself are squaring off with other members of the pundit-o-sphere to forecast this year's 11 gubernatorial races.

Here's a few words on each state to explain my ratings:

Delaware: Likely Democratic

Tomorrow, finally, Democrats in Delaware will pick a nominee for governor. Whoever wins -- whether it's Lt. Gov. John Carney or State Treasurer Jack Markell -- will be better funded than Republican Bill Lee and will have the advantage of running in a Democratic state with Joe Biden on the ticket.

Indiana: Likely Republican

Gov. Mitch Daniels once looked like he was in big trouble, but a recent poll showed the Republican leading Democrat Jill Long Thompson by 18 points. Long Thompson's best chance may be that the national economy gets even worse over the next two months -- and pulls the Indiana economy down with it.

Missouri: Leans Democratic

A few months ago, when Republican Kenny Hulshof was locked in a tight primary battle, polls gave Democrat Jay Nixon unsustainably large margins of 15+ points. Nixon's lead now is probably in the high single digits or low double digits. That's a good place to be, but, in a state that always seems to produce close elections, Nixon isn't invincible.

Montana: Safe Democratic

Gov. Brian Schweitzer's speech in Denver made him one of the big winners coming out of the Democratic convention. Ever poll indicates he'll be a winner Nov. 4 too.

New Hampshire: Safe Democratic

After winning reelection by a record margin in 2006 (74%-26%), polls show that the state of the economy is taking a toll on Governor John Lynch. He's only getting around 60% this time.

North Carolina: Leans Democratic

I came closer to listing North Carolina as a toss up than I did any other state. The most recent poll actually has Republican Pat McCrory tied with Democrat Bev Perdue. Almost all polls before that one gave Perdue a small lead, however, so I'm giving her the edge for now.

North Dakota: Safe Republican

Cause for celebration here at 1100 Connecticut: We have polling in the North Dakota governor's race! Republican Gov. John Hoeven leads Democrat Tim Mathern 63%-19%.

Utah: Safe Republican

There's reason to doubt that the Democratic nominee, Bob Springmeyer, will be able to break 15%. If you want to know who is Sarah Palin's competition for most popular governor in the United States, the answer is Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman.

Vermont: Likely Republican

While some of my fellow prognosticators list this race as safe Republican, I actually was tempted to place it in the "leans" category. Republican Gov. Jim Douglas won reelection in 2006 with 56% of the vote. On paper, his opponent this year, House Speaker Gaye Symington, is a tougher foe than his 2006 opponent. And, if Douglas doesn't receive at least 50% of the vote, the election is thrown into the state House of Representatives. Still, without any polling -- or any real indication that Vermonters have soured on Douglas -- the governor has to be given the edge.

Washington: Leans Democratic

More than any other gubernatorial race in the country, I feel as though I have a good handle on where this one stands. It's not rocket science: Democrat Christine Gregoire and Republican Dino Rossi appeared on the same ballot in August under Washington's unusual primary system. Gregoire won 48%-46%, which gives this race an ever-so-slight Democratic lean.

West Virginia: Safe Democratic

In a place where Republicans have gained the advantage in presidential politics, it's pretty remarkable how lifeless the state G.O.P. looks. That isn't likely to change this year, with governor Joe Manchin cruising to reelection.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com  | 

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