While the Republican nomination contest has understandably been getting most of the attention in recent weeks, other elements of the 2012 election cycle have been coming into focus. After historic gains in state government in 2010, for example, Republicans have a growing number of opportunities to add to their majorities in governorships and state legislatures.
Right now, 29 of the nation’s states have Republican governors. Democrats hold 20 governorships, with one independent (Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island). If you throw in the five territories and commonwealths with governors, the split is 32 Rs, 22 Ds, one I. In presidential years, there are 11 races for governor around the country. Of these, the largest prizes are North Carolina, Missouri, Indiana, and Washington.
North Carolina’s embattled Democratic governor, Bev Perdue, just announced that she won’t run for a second term. Her approval ratings went upside-down within months of her election in 2008, and she never recovered. Her 2008 opponent, former Charlotte mayor Pat McCrory, is a shoo-in for the Republican nomination and would have beaten her easily. Now the Democratic field is wide open. Unless former Clinton aide Erskine Bowles get in and quickly raises a lot of money, McCrory will probably win this race.
In Missouri, the situation is better for the Dems. Two Republican businessmen, Bill Randles and Dave Spence, are competing to take on incumbent Gov. Jay Nixon, who has already banked about $5 million. Most pundits have an early lean-Democratic stance on this race.
In Indiana, Congressman Mike Pence is in good shape to keep the top job in Republican hands with Mitch Daniels retiring. Pence’s Democratic opponent will be either former Indiana House speaker John Gregg or businessman Thomas Lenfert.
In Washington, Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna is polling slightly ahead of Democratic Rep. Jay Inslee in the race to replace retiring Gov. Christine Gregoire. This is a toss-up race right now, but that qualifies as good news in a state that, like North Carolina, hasn’t elected a Republican governor in decades.
Republicans also have solid chances of capturing Democratic governorships in Montana and New Hampshire. All Republican incumbents appear to be safe. So it is quite possible that on Election Day, the GOP will win at least a 32-17 edge in state governors.