Rating the Governor's Races, Nebraska-Wyoming

I started on my 2009-2010 gubernatorial race ratings yesterday. Here are the second half of them. Nebraska - Likely Republican -- Without any national attention, ...
by | December 23, 2008

I started on my 2009-2010 gubernatorial race ratings yesterday. Here are the second half of them.

Nebraska - Likely Republican -- Without any national attention, Dave Heineman is one of the most popular governors in the country. He shouldn't have any problem winning another term.

Nevada - Toss Up -- Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons is so unpopular that it seems unlikely he will even be the Republican nominee in two years (although he says he's running). The Republican field is wide open, while Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley is the most likely Democratic nominee.

New Hampshire - Likely Democratic -- Gov. John Lynch won more than 70% of the vote in 2006 and again this year. He's as entrenched as any governor in the country.

New Jersey - Toss Up -- This is one I agonized over. Incumbent governors almost always win when they seek reelection -- as I mentioned the other day, they went 34 of 37 over the past four years. Plus, Democrats almost always win in New Jersey. But, Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine is quite unpopular. New Jersey's finances are a mess and Garden State residents have generally hated Corzine's ideas for tackling the problem. Republicans appear to have a dream candidate in U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, although he doesn't have much experience in electoral politics. This race and Virginia take place in 2009.

New Mexico - Leans Democratic -- Lt. Gov. Diane Denish will become governor, assuming Bill Richardson is confirmed as Commerce Secretary. Denish already was the leading Democratic candidate and now will have the advantage of incumbency. How she fares in 2009 will go a long way toward determining whether Republicans have a chance to beat her in 2010.

New York - Likely Democratic -- Yes, it's possible that Rudy Giuliani will run and it's possible he would beat Gov. David Paterson, but is Giuliani really going to want to enter a fight he has less than 50-50 odds of winning? Paterson caught a break when his strongest opponent, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, decided to seek reeelection in 2009.

Ohio - Likely Democratic -- Though Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland's popularity was a bit overstated when his name came up in the veepstakes this year, he is well-liked. John Kasich and Rob Portman, two former congressman whose names also came up in the veepstakes (this is Ohio after all), are potential opponents. Either could give Strickland a decent race, although he'd still be a clear favorite.

Oklahoma - Toss Up -- Oklahoma is trending Republican -- the G.O.P. just took the state Senate this year -- but Democrats still have a much larger group of statewide officeholders. Either Lt. Gov. Jari Askins or Attorney General Drew Edmondson would likely make a strong Democratic candidate to replace term-limited Gov. Brad Henry (a popular Democrat). Republicans will probably look to their congressional delegation for a nominee.

Oregon - Leans Democratic -- Gov. Ted Kulongoski is term-limited, creating a wide-open race, though one that leans toward the Democrats due to the nature of the state. The first big questions: Will former Gov. John Kitzhaber, a popular Democrat, run for his old job? Will outgoing Republican Sen. Gordon Smith, who was defeated for reelection this year, try to make a comeback by seeking the governorship?

Pennsylvania - Toss Up -- I've been using the phrase "wide open" a lot, but it applies here too, with Gov. Ed Rendell term-limited. Multiple statewide elected officials, congressman, local officials and others are eyeing this race.

Rhode Island - Leans Democratic -- Come 2010, Republicans will have controlled the governorship is this very Democratic state for 16 years, but face an uphill fight to control it for four more. Don Carcieri, the term-limited governor, isn't very popular. Democrats have a very deep bench. Steve Laffey, the man who nearly beat U.S. Sen. Lincoln Chafee in a 2006 Republican primary, is one likely candidate for the G.O.P.

South Carolina - Leans Republican -- The race in South Carolina should be mentioned in the same breath with Georgia and Alabama, three open-seat contest that will test just how solid the South has become for Republicans. The pool of possible Republican candidates is huge, but the Democrats have decent options too, including state Education Secretary Jim Rex.

South Dakota - Leans Republican -- The Dakotas are strange. Democrats tend to win congressional elections, but Republicans win everything else. All of the constitutional officers in South Dakota are Republicans, which is why, even with Gov. Mike Rounds term-limited, the G.O.P. starts out with an advantage. That would change instantly if South Dakota's at-large U.S. House member, Democrat Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, entered the race.

Tennessee - Toss Up -- With popular Democrat Phil Bredesen term-limited, it appears half the state's congressional delegation is thinking about running for governor. The biggest name in the mix is former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, well, at least since Tim McGraw said he's not running.

Texas - Likely Republican -- This will be a great race, but probably only on the Republican side. Gov. Rick Perry faces a likely challenge from U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a fellow Republican. Whoever wins that slugfest will be a heavy favorite because the two leading Democrats in the state, Houston Mayor Bill White and former Comptroller John Sharp, have their eyes on the Senate instead.

Vermont - Likely Republican -- In this very Democratic state in presidential politics, Republican Gov. Jim Douglas easily won reelection in 2006 and again this year. In fact, this year independent candidate Anthony Pollina took more votes than the Democratic nominee. Maybe Democrats will give in and nominate Pollina in 2010.

Virginia - Toss Up -- Democrats have had a lot of success in major statewide races in Virginia lately, winning the governorship in 2005, Senate races in 2006 and this year and, of course, the presidential race this year. But, Republican Attorney General Bob McDonnell is the only candidate running for governor who has actually won statewide. Plus, he probably won't race competition for his party's nomination, while the Democrats have a hot three-way race.

Wisconsin - Toss Up -- It's not clear whether Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, will seek a third term. It's also not clear whether Democrats would be better off with him or without him because Doyle is not all that popular. Republicans have a couple of strong candidates in Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen and Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker. If Tommy Thompson seeks to return to his old job, this one will instantly lean toward the G.O.P.

Wyoming - Leans Republican -- Wyoming is the mirror opposite of Hawaii. In this case, it's a Democratic governor term-limited in a very Republican state, rather than the other way around.  Republicans hold every statewide office other than the governorship, putting them in a good position to pick this one up. 

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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