Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: email@example.com
Here's the fifth and final installment of my gubernatorial ratings.
South Carolina -- Leans Republican: One lesson I took from Scott Brown's victory in the Massachusetts Senate race is that you don't have to be a great politician or even a good one to win a downballot statewide race (which is how Martha Coakley could be attorney general). South Carolina Democrats seem to have taken that lesson to heart. They only have one statewide officeholder, State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex. Yet increasingly the party seems to be uniting not around Rex for governor, but rather Vincent Sheheen, who, like Brown before him, is only a lowly state senator.
South Dakota - Leans Republican: Especially given their Republican-tilting house effect, Rasmussen's poll showing Democrat Scott Heidepriem, the South Dakota Senate's minority leader, competitive with the various Republican candidates (and actually leading a couple of them) was a surprise. South Dakota has elected lots of Democrats to Congress, so why not a Democratic governor? The biggest reason why not is probably the large campaign warchest of Lieutenant Governor Dennis Daugaard and the popularity of the man he's trying to replace, fellow Republican Mike Rounds.
Tennessee -- Likely Republican: Knoxville Mayor and Republican frontrunner Bill Haslam has taken some lumps, but I still think he'll be the G.O.P.'s nominee. Why? Tennessee is one of the few Southern states without a primary runoff run. Three other credible candidates are running for the Republican nomination besides Haslam. While these candidates might, with sustained attacks, be able to persuade a majority of Tennessee Republicans to vote for someone other than Haslam, the mayor won't need a majority to become his party's standard-bearer.
Texas -- Slight Lean Republican: Yes, Bill White is a better candidate than Democrats have had in quite a while in Texas. But, consider this: As good as 2006 was for Democrats, they only knocked off one incumbent Republican governor and that was in Maryland, one of the nation's most Democratic states. Gov. Rick Perry isn't loved, but that's never stopped him from winning before.
Utah - Very Likely Republican: Gov. Gary Herbert is probably relieved that the Utah legislature has adjourned for the year. He served as arbiter on a variety of hot-button issues and, after opposing tax increases, reluctantly accepted a cigarette tax increase at the insistence of legislative leaders. That's probably not enough to make him truly vulnerable against Peter Corroon, the presumptive Democratic nominee.
Vermont -- Leans Democratic: All of the Democratic candidates for governor said early on that they opposed the continuing operation of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant beyond 2012. More and more, that's looking like a politically advantageous move. Public sentiment seems to have turned against Vermont Yankee since news broke that the plant's operators had hidden the existence of pipes that were leaking radioactive tritium. That puts Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie, the Republican candidate, in an awkward position because outgoing Republican Gov. Jim Douglas long has defended Vermont Yankee.
Wisconsin - Toss Up: So much attention has focused on Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett's role in stopping a domestic assault at the Wisconsin State Fair that, at least outside of Wisconsin, there hasn't been much scrutiny of his record. One thing that could come up: Milwaukee's mishandling of the 2004 presidential election, when John Kerry won Wisconsin by 11,000 votes. While allegations of widespread fraud turned out to be overblown, administration of the election clearly was a mess and the city's top elections official, a Barrett appointee, resigned soon afterward.
Wyoming -- Very Likely Republican: Before we instantly assume that Democratic Gov. Dave Freudenthal's decision not to seek reelection hands his office to the Republicans, it's worth remembering that Democrats have won 7 of the last 9 governor's races in Wyoming and that Freudenthal was first elected in 2002, a year that wasn't especially kind to Democrats nationally. Still, Republicans start out with the bigger names and, as a result, begin with a real advantage.
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