The Democrats are on their way to limiting their losses in the 2012 gubernatorial races with small but steady leads in two yet-to-be called states, Montana and Washington state. We rated both seats tossups, but going into Election Night, Republicans had high hopes of plucking both from the Democratic column. As of this writing, they hadn't been officially called, but the Democrats have an edge.
In Montana, with almost 94 percent of the vote counted, Democrat Steve Bullock is holding onto a roughly 10,000-vote lead -- or two percentage points -- over Republican Rick Hill.
In Washington state, a little over half the votes have been counted, but Democrat Jay Inslee is leading Republican Rob McKenna by about 50,000 votes, or more than 2 percentage points. Because populous King County (Seattle) is less than half counted -- and because Inslee is beating McKenna there by an almost two-to-one margin so far-- Inslee is thought to have the edge despite the large number of ballots still to be counted.
If Bullock and Inslee hold on to their leads, the Republicans will have netted one gubernatorial seat on Election Night -- an improvement, but at the lower end of the one-to-three seat gain we had forecast prior to the election.
As for attorney general races in these two states, the parties are on a course to split the contests.
In Montana, the Democratic AG seat held by Bullock looks like it's going to be occupied by Republican Tim Fox, who is leading Democrat Pam Bucy by a 53 percent to 46 percent margin.
In Washington state, the Republican AG seat being vacated by McKenna looks like it will go to Democrat Bob Ferguson, who is leading Republican Reagan Dunn, 53 percent to 47 percent.
If these trends hold, the parties will pull a draw in AG races for 2012 -- with one important exception. The Democratic takeover of the Maine Legislature provides the party with the opportunity to install a Democrat in a seat appointed by the outgoing Republican majority.