Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: email@example.com
A guessing game for you: Which incumbent Democratic governors does the executive director of the Republican Governors Association think are vulnerable in 2010?
Here's what Nick Ayers told Tom Schaller of fivethirtyeight.com:
538: Again for 2010, how about Democratic incumbents. Are there any you think are vulnerable enough to defeat?
Ayers: We don't like to broadcast our strategy, but there are at least 7 incumbents who are vulnerable.
Ten Democratic governors are both eligible to run for reelection in 2010 and haven't ruled out seeking another term. They are:
-Mike Beebe, Arkansas
-Bill Ritter, Colorado
-Pat Quinn, Illinois
-Chet Culver, Iowa
-Martin O'Malley, Maryland
-Deval Patrick, Massachusetts
-John Lynch, New Hampshire
-David Paterson, New York
-Ted Strickland, Ohio
-Jim Doyle, Wisconsin
Actually, there's an 11th Democratic governor who seems fairly likely to be running for reelection in 2010: Dave Freudenthal in Wyoming, who mulling a court challenge to the state's term limits law. Ayers counted Wyoming among the open seats in an earlier question, though, so we'll leave it aside.
So, our goal is to identify which seven governors Ayers thinks are definitely vulnerable and which are only potentially vulerable or not at all vulnerable.
The easy place to start is with the governors who look completely safe. Lynch and Beebe both have high approval ratings. To date, strong challengers haven't emerged for either. Both look as though they will win another term.
Here's where it gets harder. Let's work from the other end -- governor who are definitely in trouble.
Paterson has terrible approval ratings. Doyle has two top-tier challengers. Polls lately have shown Strickland in quite a bit of trouble. Massachusetts Republicans recruited likely their strongest possible challenger in Charlie Baker to run against Patrick. Leading Republican legislators plan to run against Culver. Ritter faces major opposition too.
So, that leaves O'Malley and Quinn. O'Malley has lousy approval ratings, but Republicans haven't been able to find a proven candidate to run against him. Maryland is a very Democratic state.
Quinn has good approval ratings, but he faces a challenging budget situation that is leading him to push for an income tax increase. For now, the Republican field is made up of respectable second-tier contenders.
Which one is definitely vulnerable in Ayers' mind and which one isn't? If I had to guess, I'd say he probably thinks O'Malley is vulnerable. You can always find a decent challenger when the governor is unpopular. Even faced with difficult circumstances, you can't always count on a popular governor becoming an unpopular one.
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