Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Yesterday I kicked off my latest gubernatorial ratings. Here's a second round of them.
Iowa - Likely Democratic -- Remember when George W. Bush was winning Iowa? That was just five years ago. This year's governor's race will be a good test of how blue Iowa has really turned, with incumbent Democrat Chet Culver joining the crowd of governors with mediocre approval ratings. Two potential Republican nominees, U.S. Rep. Steve King and businessman Bob Vander Plaats, may be too conservative for the state.
Kansas - Very Likely Republican -- How can an open seat be this uncompetitive? Republicans have two candidates in U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback and Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh who between them have won seven statewide elections. Democrats are still looking for a candidate who has won any election.
Maine - Leans Democratic -- Democrats appear to have a strong candidate in former Attorney General Steven Rowe. However, the party has a rather weak term-limited governor in John Baldacci, to whom voters never really seemed to warm. If Baldacci remains unpopular, Republicans may be able to argue that it is time for a change.
Maryland - Likely Democratic -- Even if Democrat Martin O'Malley isn't all that popular, I struggle to see how Republicans will beat him. With a large African-American population and a large liberal suburban vote, Maryland is just a tough state for the G.O.P. O'Malley also was smart enough to raise taxes at the very beginning of his term. Those tax increases will be ancient history by November 2010.
Massachusetts - Likely Democratic -- Notice a trend? Gov. Deval Patrick isn't popular, but it's tough to see how the Republicans win this one. If Patrick's popularity continues to slide, he may be ousted in a primary by another Democrat, but the G.O.P. chances aren't great in this Democratic state. That said, the bad blood between Patrick and the Democratically controlled legislature is serious, which could prevent the party from having a united front.
Michigan - Slight Lean Republican -- With term-limited Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm very unpopular and with no super-strong Democratic standard-bearer to take her place, we'll know that Michigan has turned against the Republicans if the G.O.P. is unable to win this race. Both sides seem likely to have muddled primaries, so I'll be watching whether they turn divisive.
Minnesota - Slight Lean Republican -- New polling in Minnesota helped clarify where Gov. Tim Pawlenty stands. He leads every likely Democratic challenger, some by small margins and some by large ones. If Pawlenty runs, he'll have a tough race in which he will be the favorite. But, knowing that he'll have a tough race, he may decide two terms is enough and turn his attention to the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.
Nebraska - Very Likely Republican -- In 2006, Gov. Dave Heineman won with more than 70% of the vote. I've seen nothing to indicate he's in any trouble.
Nevada - Slight Lean Democratic -- No surprise: A new poll showed Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons to be very unpopular. But, that poll also showed that Clark County Commissioner Rory Reid, one possible Democratic candidate, has surprisingly high unfavorables. That's almost certainly because of voter antipathy for his father, Sen. Harry Reid. Nevada voters seem reluctant to vote for one Reid in 2010. Will they really vote for two?
New Hampshire - Very Likely Democratic -- He may sometimes madden his fellow Democrats with his triangulating (see the recent gay marriage debate), but New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch has succeeded in winning broad approval. Twice in a row, Republican nominees haven't been able to crack 30% against him.
New Jersey - Toss Up -- The conventional wisdom says that Republicans would be better off with Chris Christie as their nominee than Steve Lonegan. The conventional wisdom is probably right (we'll find out the nominee next Tuesday). Still, Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine's fundamental problem is that this election is about Jon Corzine.
New Mexico - Slight Lean Democratic -- Last November, Barack Obama took 57% of the vote in New Mexico, which in the two elections before that was a consummate swing state. Was that a one-time occurrence, or the reflection of Democratic gains and demographic changes? I tend to think Republicans have at least a chance to rebound, but they have to find a candidate first.
New York - Likely Democratic -- Irony alert: Republicans would have a better chance in this race if Democratic Gov. David Paterson were a little more popular. As it stands, Paterson is unpopular enough with his own party that he's not likely to run or, if he does, he's likely to lose to Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo will be tough for any Republican to beat -- even Rudy Giuliani.
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