Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
I haven't updated my gubernatorial race ratings since May, so all this week I'll be bringing you new ratings for the 37 governor's races that will take place next year. With the elections a year away, I still stubbornly refuse to call any seat "safe" for either party (though Nebraska is getting close).
So, my rating categories will be the same as last time: toss up, slight lean, leans, likely, very likely.
Now, this timing might seem a little peculiar. Why am I updating 2010 race ratings when there's so much to talk about in the 2009 elections?
The answer is that I got married yesterday and I'll be honeymooning this week. So, the ratings were something I could write up in advance. That also means that if you point out any errors of fact or judgment I won't be able to respond until I return.
Here's the first set of ratings:
Alabama - Leans Republican - Artur Davis remains the clear Democratic frontrunner, while Bradley Byrne remains the less clear Republican frontrunner. What's new is an interesting sideshow. Republican candidate Bill Johnson, who just months ago was working for term-limited Gov. Bob Riley as the state's economic development director, is now accusing Riley of having conflicts of interest in his interventions into Jefferson County's financial problems. Regardless of the merits of Johnson's complaints, it's a strange political strategy. Riley's approval rating with Republicans is over 80%.
Alaska - Likely Republican - Everyone, including both Republicans and Democrats, seemed to act as though Sean Parnell was a pushover when he became governor, but I'm not sure why. So far, the governor has seemed downright boring compared to his predecessor - and that's probably a good thing. Unless Parnell starts to get some negative press, he may be the Republican nominee by default.
Arizona - Slight Lean Democratic - Gov. Jan Brewer's poll numbers are poor and she's likely to have to compete in a multi-candidate Republican primary if she wants another term. She's almost certainly the second most vulnerable Republican incumbent in the country after Nevada's Jim Gibbons.
Arkansas - Very Likely Democratic - Even as polls in the state show President Obama very unpopular and Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln vulnerable, Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe's numbers remain strong. Republicans in the state seem to have their eyes focused squarely on Lincoln, which may mean the governor gets something close to a free pass.
California - Leans Democratic - There's been some talk that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger could name Tom Campbell as the state's lieutenant governor if, as expected, the current lieutenant governor is elected to Congress in a special election. But, would that actually help Campbell, who has been the third banana to Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman in the Republican primary so far? Running as a continuation of the Schwarzenegger administration isn't likely to work in a Republican primary or a general election. I think the moderate Campbell could really make an impact if he ran as an independent instead (though money would be a problem). By the way, Jerry Brown continues to look strong, largely because everyone else continues to look weak.
Colorado - Slight Lean Democratic - New York Gov. David Paterson's U.S. Senate appointment was, it seems, the moment that marked the beginning of the end of his governorship. So why doesn't Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter get more grief for his own Senate choice which, from the standpoint of partisan politics, was worse? By passing over Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, Ritter ensured a hotly contested Democratic primary and has given Republicans a good pickup opportunity. While Ritter's move might not have marked the beginning of the end of his tenure, the governor still is in plenty of trouble.
Connecticut - Slight Lean Republican - Gov. Jodi Rell, a seemingly impenetrable Republican, has taken some lumps lately amid accusations that she used public money to conduct political research. Nonetheless, my rating mainly reflects the growing possibility that Rell won't run again. She basically isn't raising any money.
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