Friday, September 26, 2014

Saturday, September 13, 2014

2014 Governor Election Update: Many Close Battles for State Houses

It’s a big year for our state houses:  36 out of our 50 governorships will be at stake come November 4th.  And an enormous number of these elections are up for grabs, with, by my count, 16 of them “in play.”  That is even more competitive races than in the Senate.

Why do gubernatorial races matter at the national level?  There is the obvious:  as chief executives of 50 good-sized economies, governors wield substantial influence on policy.  Often their programs serve as “laboratories” for national legislation, most famously (or infamously), perhaps, Mitt Romney’s mandate-driven health care expansion as Governor of Massachusetts, the very model for Obamacare. 

But of particular note is a governor’s influence on the redistricting process that occurs every decade with the new census.  The current Republican advantage in the House owes a great deal to savvy gerrymandering – I am forever pointing out that in 2012 the Democrats captured 49% of all votes for the House nationally versus 48% for the GOP (3% went to 3rd parties), yet ended up with only 46% of the House, while the Republicans ended up with 54%.  State legislatures typically control the redistricting process, but Governors often have veto power and frequently are highly influential in the process.

And of course, governors find their way into national elections, and do far better than Senators in actually winning the top prize, including George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan in recent memory.  (Barack Obama was the first Senator since JFK to get to the White House.)  Successful governors with national aspirations typically build strong records on domestic issues and then attempt to crash-course their way past obvious shortcomings in foreign policy, with mixed success -- note the recent troubles of Chris Christie on this front.

Governors like to point out that they are not Beltway folks, outsiders who disdain gridlock and hyper-partisanship, who make things happen in their states.  This has become an increasingly appealing message. 

Apart from Christie, a number of governors are making the polling lists for 2016, including Andrew Cuomo of New York, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Martin O’Malley of Maryland, John Kasich of Ohio, Mike Pence of Indiana, Susan Martinez of New Mexico and Deval Patrick of Massachusets.  They and others could also wind up on some short VP lists. 

As of now, the GOP controls 29 of the 50 state houses, and again the vast majority of governors are up for reelection this year, 36 out of 50. Of that group, eight are not on the ticket, either due to retirement (3), term limits (4) or losses in their own primary (the hapless Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii). 

I have looked at the latest polling information and despite all those hotly-contested elections, I am projecting exactly zero change in 2014…if the elections were held today, the GOP would continue to control 29 state houses.  Each side will swipe three from the other, with the Democrats picking up Pennsylvania, Kansas and Maine, and the GOP countering by taking Illinois, Connecticut and Arkansas.  As mentioned, fully 16 are competitive and of those, 10 are truly “toss-ups,” with the polling lead of one candidate over the other less than the margin of error.  Thus, while no change is the most likely outcome as of today, big changes could still be afoot in the next 7+ weeks.

Democrats Total
21
Dem Not Up
7
Dem Solid
8
Dem Lean
2
Dem Tossup
4
Rep Tossup
6
Rep Lean
4
Rep Solid
12
Rep Not Up
7
Republicans Total
29

Here is the scorecard that lists all 36 races in the format familiar to followers of Born To Run The Numbers.  The races are arrayed from top to bottom in order of the Democrats likelihood of winning, with the solid blue indicating the sure wins, the solid red indicating equally certain GOP wins, with the battleground states – those 16 races – in white in the middle.  I’ve thrown in the incumbents’ margin of victory in their last election to give some sense of the state of the state.


Inc.

% Vote
Retiring/
Dem
Rep
Poll
BTRTN
State
Party
Incumbent
Last
Running
Candidate
Candidate
Margin
Call
New York
D
Cuomo
63%
Running
Cuomo
Astorino

D Solid
California
D
Brown
54%
Running
Brown
Kashkari

D Solid
Vermont
D
Shumlin
58%
Running
Shumlin
Milne

D Solid
New Hamp.
D
Hassan
55%
Running
Hassan
Havenstein

D Solid
Maryland
D
O'Malley
56%
Term Limit
Brown
Hogan

D Solid
Pennsylvania
R
Corbett
54%
Running
Wolf
Corbett

D Solid
Oregon
D
Kitzhaber
49%
Running
Dorman
Richardson

D Solid
Minnesota
D
Dayton
44%
Running
Dayton
Johnson

D Solid
Mass.
D
Patrick
48%
Retiring
Coakley
Baker
D + 7
D Lean
Kansas
R
Brownback
63%
Running
P. Davis
Brownback
D + 4
D Lean
Maine
R
LePage
38%
Running
Michaud
LePage
D + 2
D Toss
Hawaii
D
Abercrombie
58%
Defeated
Ige
Aiona
D + 2
D Toss
Colorado
D
Hickenlooper
51%
Running
Hickenlooper
Beauprez
D + 1
D Toss
Rhode Island
D
Chafee

Retiring
Raimando
Fung
n/a
D Toss
Alaska
R
Parnell
59%
Running
Walker (I)
Parnell
n/a
R Toss
Wisconsin
R
Walker
53%
Running
Burke
Walker
R + 1
R Toss
Michigan
R
Snyder
58%
Running
Schauer
Snyder
R + 1
R Toss
Georgia
R
Deal
53%
Running
Carter
Deal
R + 1
R Toss
Arizona
R
Brewer
54%
Term Limit
DuVal
Ducey
R + 1
R Toss
Florida
R
Scott
49%
Running
Crist
Scott
R + 2
R Toss
Connecticut
D
Malloy
50%
Running
Malloy
Foley
R + 5
R Lean
Arkansas
D
Beebe
64%
Term Limit
Ross
Hutchinson
R + 5
R Lean
New Mexico
R
Martinez
53%
Running
King
Martinez
R + 4
R Lean
Illinois
D
Quinn
47%
Running
Quinn
Rauner
R + 9
R Lean
Nebraska
R
Heinman
74%
Term Limit
Hassebrook
Ricketts

R Solid
Ohio
R
Kasich
49%
Running
FitzGerald
Kasich

R Solid
Oklahoma
R
Fallin
60%
Running
Dorman
Fallin

R Solid
Texas
R
Perry
55%
Retiring
W. Davis
Abbott

R Solid
S. Carolina
R
Haley
51%
Running
Sheheen
Haley

R Solid
Iowa
R
Branstad
53%
Running
Hatch
Branstad

R Solid
Idaho
R
Otter
59%
Running
Balukoff
Otter

R Solid
Nevada
R
Sandoval
53%
Running
Goodman
Sandoval

R Solid
Alabama
R
Bentley
58%
Running
Griffith
Bentley

R Solid
Tennessee
R
Haslam
65%
Running
Brown
Haslam

R Solid
Wyoming
R
Mead
66%
Running
Gosar
Mead

R Solid
S. Dakota
R
Daugaard
62%
Running
Wismer
Daugaard

R Solid

I won’t review each race, but here are thumbnail sketches of the more notable ones:

·        Alaska.  This is a fascinating race, in which the Democratic nominee, Bryon Mallott, stepped down to race as Lieutenant Governor on the ticket with Independent Bill Walker in a bid to join forces to unseat Republican Governor Sean Parnell.  There are no polls since Mallott and Walker merged, but the two combined topped Walker in the last poll by five points.  Still, I’m calling this a toos-up to the GOP based on incumbency, but we will see.  Toss-up Republican.

·        Connecticut:  Democrat Dan Malloy is in a rematch with the man he ousted in 2008, former Governor Tom Foley, and at this point is in dire shape, down 5 points on average.  Lean Republican.

·        Florida.  Governor Rick Scott is holding on for dear life against former-GOP-Governor-turned Democrat Charlie Crist, up two points.  Toss-up Republican.

·        Georgia.  Jimmy Carter’s grandson Jason Carter is challenging incumbent Nathan Deal and putting up quite a fight, down by only a point in the polls.  Toss-up Republican.

·        Kansas:  Incumbent Governor Sam Brownback gave trickle down a big try in Kansas, cutting tax rates tremendously, which led to, guess what, a tremendous loss of revenue to now apparent benefit to the state, and many unpopular cuts to make ends meet.  He is on the verge of losing bright red Kansas to the Democrat Paul Davis.  Leaning Democrat

·        Massachusetts:  Martha Coakley, last seen on the national stage losing Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat to Scott Brown in a huge special election that lost the Democrat’s Senate’s supermajority of 60 seats and threatened the passage of Obamacare (Brown ultimately voted for it) is based and has a decent lead over Charlie Baker to succeed retiring Democrat Deval Patrick, despite a fairly tepid primary win last week.  Leaning Democrat.

·        PennsylvaniaGovernor Tom Corbett is going up against Democrat Tom Wolfe, and the unpopular governor is going to get trounced.  Solid Democrat.

·        Wisconsin:  Republican Scott Walker, a Tea Party favorite for his union-busting battles, survived a recall but is in a dogfight for reelection versus Democrat Mary Burke, up by just a point on average.  Toss-up Republican.