Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: email@example.com
Here's one final day of governor's race ratings.
Ohio - Likely Democratic -- Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat, is more popular than your average governor, but he also has the unfortunate luck to have a top-tier challenger in former U.S. Rep. John Kasich. Many less popular governors don't yet have serious opposition. One guarantee: If Kasich does win, he'll get serious treatment in the 2012 Republican veepstakes -- just as Strickland was at the top of a lot of vice-presidential lists last year.
Oklahoma - Leans Republican -- A new poll showed Republican U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin in a strong position in this race. The Democratic candidates, Attorney General Drew Edmondson and Lt. Gov. Jari Askins, have five statewide wins between them. That means they shouldn't be counted out, but it also means they have excuse for polling so poorly against Fallin -- well, other than that Oklahoma is increasingly a Republican state.
Oregon - Leans Democratic -- Much of the speculation in Oregon centers on U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, a Democrat who has been in Congress for more than 20 years. DeFazio has a liberal reputation, but that doesn't stop him from being an electable candidate. One reason he's electable is that he represents a swing district. Barack Obama took 57% of the vote in Oregon, but only 54% in DeFazio's district. Republicans could nominate their own congressman, Greg Walden, who represents the one conservative district in this increasingly Democratic state.
Pennsylvania - Slight Lean Democratic -- Attorneys general have one of the best jobs in state government because they get to spend a lot of time investigating wrongdoing. Case in point: Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett, who is playing a key role in investigating the legislature's "Bonusgate" scandal. Bonusgate could be a bonus for Corbett, a Republican, as he raises his profile ahead of a likely bid for governor. The fundamentals of this race remain the same, however: Lots of promising potential candidates on both sides in a state that now leans a bit toward the Democrats.
Rhode Island - Leans Democratic -- This is the one race that doesn't quite fit my rating scheme. With term-limited Gov. Don Carcieri lacking an heir apparent, the G.O.P. seems nearly certain to lose this governorship. The question is whether a Democrat will win or whether it will be former U.S. Sen. Lincoln Chafee running as an independent. I'm not sure how strong of a candidate Chafee would be. If the Republican nominee wins the state's small conservative vote, will there be enough moderates to propel Chafee to victory?
South Carolina - Likely Republican -- Both the Democratic and Republican primaries appear massively crowded at this point, making this open-seat race nearly impossible to handicap -- other than to say that South Carolina is a state with a distinct Republican bent. One dynamic to watch: Outgoing Republican Gov. Mark Sanford has been controversial with his own party throughout his tenure, most recently turning himself into one of the nation's leading stimulus opponents. Will Republican candidates for governor embrace his legacy?
South Dakota - Slight Lean Republican -- This race can't really get started until U.S. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin decides whether she's in or out. Sandlin, a Democrat, is battle-tested (she's won statewide four times in this Republican-leaning state), she's a rising star and, if you believe the hype, she could be the first female president. But is she a candidate? Republicans are definitely treating her like one, trying to knock her down a peg or two before she even decides whether she is running.
Tennessee - Leans Republican -- You don't have to look at presidential voting to see that Tennessee is trending Republican. The G.O.P. made surprising gains in the state legislature in 2008. The Democrats best hope to hold off the Republican tide may be a famous name. Mike McWherter is the son of former governor Ned McWherter, but he's untested, having never held elected office himself.
Texas - Likely Republican -- Democrats will have a real shot at winning this one if incumbent Rick Perry, rather than U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, is the Republican nominee. The trouble for the Democrats is that their potential candidates have to decide now whether they're running, before they know whether Perry or Hutchison will win the Republican primary. That's probably why Houston Mayor Bill White and former Comptroller John Sharp, arguably the two best Democratic candidates in the state, both have decided to run for U.S. Senate, not governor.
Utah - Very Likely Republican -- With Gov. Jon Huntsman headed to China, we get to look forward to a new election. Republican Gary Herbert will take over as governor and seems likely to run for a full term, but he also seems likely to face intra-party competition. There are a few Democrats, especially ones with the last name "Matheson" (Jim is a congressman, Scott was the party's 2004 gubernatorial nominee) that could run a competitive race. But, even the perfect Democratic candidate faces long odds in Utah.
Vermont - Likely Republican -- Democrats clearly are being more aggressive in targeting Republican Gov. Jim Douglas than they have been in the past. Several Democrats, led by Secretary of State Deborah Markowitz, already are looking hard at the race -- quite early by Vermont standards. Still, Douglas probably is safe should he choose to run again. He hasn't won more than ten statewide elections by being an easy target.
Virginia - Slight Lean Republican -- We won't really know where this race stands until we get some polling after the Democrats pick their nominee in a couple of weeks. Attorney General Bob McDonnell, the Republican candidate, seems likely to start the general election with a lead, but that lead could be a couple of points or double digits. Democrats will hope history repeats itself: Four years ago, if memory serves, Tim Kaine trailed until October.
Wisconsin - Toss Up -- Will Gov. Jim Doyle run for a third term? Will former Gov. Tommy Thompson run for a fifth for the Republicans? A Thompson candidacy would be an unqualified coup for the Republicans, though they do have other solid candidates in former congressman Mark Neumann and Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker. Whether the Democrats would be better off without Doyle, who seems to be neither loved nor hated, is an open question.
Wyoming - Slight Lean Democratic -- Everyone's waiting for Gov. Dave Freudenthal to decide whether to seek another term by challenging the state's term limits law in court (he'd almost certainly win the case). While we wait, here's a question worth pondering: How much of a sure thing will Freudenthal be if he does run? Sure, he won with nearly 70% of the vote in 2006, but he is a Democrat in Wyoming and many governors have seen their approval ratings drop lately. I don't know about Freudenthal because for some reason Wyoming isn't polled very often.
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