Republicans always looked set to have a good year in governor’s races; what’s fascinating is how many of these races appear likely to be GOP blowouts. Still, the ones that look likely to slip through Republicans’ fingers — California, Massachusetts — are going to sting because of their symbolic value.
Still, if all goes as predicted below, the Republicans will have eight more governorships than they currently have. Some of them will be in key swing states: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Others will demonstrate the GOP’s ability to win statewide in traditionally blue states such as Maine, New Mexico, and Oregon.
Alabama: Republican Robert Bentley is heavily favored over Democrat Ron Sparks, and there is little sign of any potential for a massive upset.
Alaska: Suddenly promoted when Sarah Palin resigned, Republican Sean Parnell will get a full term of his own.
Arizona: Two years ago, Jan Brewer was the little-known Arizona secretary of state. Today, she is known for her deeply held opposition to illegal immigration, and she will win a full term.
Arkansas: While Republicans are drubbing Democrats in most of the state’s other races, Mike Beebe will probably win reelection by a comfortable margin.
California: This is perhaps the result I find most surprising and disappointing: Democrat Jerry Brown appears set to win by a healthy margin over Republican Meg Whitman. As one operative told me, a lot of Californians are too young to remember Brown’s first go-around as governor, and hundreds of thousands of transplants lived elsewhere during that time. Also, the late 1970s and early 1980s look like the Good Old Days in the Golden State; there’s actually some nostalgia for the Jerry Brown years. Californians have forgotten that he was managing what Ronald Reagan built — and Schwarzenegger has not laid comparable groundwork, to say the least.
Colorado: If Tom Tancredo is the next governor of Colorado, I owe Number-Cruncher a steak at Ruth’s Chris. I think Tancredo will come close, but fall short of Democrat John Hickenlooper.
Connecticut: Republican Tom Foley, a strong candidate with an unfortunate name, is making a strong push, but Democrat Dan Malloy will probably hang on in what remains a pretty deeply blue state.
Florida: The polls say Democrat Alex Sink has a very narrow advantage, but the early vote says Republicans are having a monster year in this state. Expect Rick Scott to be the winner, as this is the wrong year for Democrats to count on lucky breaks.
Georgia: A lot of Republicans are worried about former congressman Nathan Deal, and this could easily go to a runoff (to avoid that, someone has to win 50 percent). Still, it’s hard to see Georgia turning its back on Republicans in such a GOP year; the state knows what it gets with former governor Roy Barnes, unceremoniously ejected in 2002.
Hawaii: Some polls have indicated that Republican Duke Aiona is giving former congressman Neil Abercrombie a much tougher race than expected, but in the end, Abercrombie probably has enough respect and habitual Democratic voters to win.
Idaho: Republican Butch Otter, perhaps the best name in politics, will win a second term easily.
Illinois: Republican Bill Brady will defeat Democrat Pat Quinn in a very satisfying win for the GOP; they now have an enormous opportunity to prove that they can govern more effectively than the party of Rod Blagojevich.
Iowa: Former governor Terry Branstad will beat current governor Chet Culver by a wide margin.
Kansas: Onetime presidential candidate Sam Brownback will win easily.
Maine: A wild, hard-fought four-way race will end with Republican Paul LePage as the winner; he’s a little rough around the edges, but he has an inspiring life story and commonsense conservative values.
Maryland: A lot of Republicans surged in a lot of places this year, but Maryland was strangely immune. It’s not as if the past four years under Martin O’Malley have been a great ride, but in these closing days, voters seem distinctly unpersuaded that Republican Robert Ehrlich would make their lives considerably better.
Massachusetts: David Axelrod’s second-most-famous client, Democratic governor Deval Patrick, hangs on, mostly because the anti-incumbent vote is split. Watch for Democrats to talk up third-party options in the 2012 presidential contest.
Michigan: Democrat Jennifer Granholm left her state in a condition about one step above “post-apocalyptic wasteland.” Republican and self-described “tough nerd” Rick Snyder begins the long, hard work of rebuilding the state’s economy.
Minnesota: Another one of those odd three-way races, this one between Republican Tom Emmer, Democrat (Farm-Labor) Mark Dayton, and independent Tom Horner. Dayton has led all of the polling in October by a small margin. An upset win by Emmer wouldn’t be shocking, but in the end, Dayton will probably pull out enough Democratic votes.
Nebraska: Republican Dave Heineman will win reelection by a wide margin.
Nevada: Brian Sandoval, a GOP rising star, will beat Harry Reid’s son, Rory Reid, by an embarrassing margin. Like Snyder in Michigan, Sandoval will have his work cut out for him.
New Hampshire: Republican John Stephen showed some signs of competitiveness after his primary win, but the conditions in this state apparently aren’t bad enough for voters to ditch incumbent Democrat John Lynch.
New Mexico: Remember the name Susana Martinez, as this tough Republican district attorney will quickly become a rising star and probably get briefly considered as the 2012 GOP running mate.
New York: Democrat Andrew Cuomo will win easily. Having failed to persuade New Yorkers to clean up Albany with a baseball bat, unorthodox Republican nominee Carl Paladino will announce a new ambition: to become cleanup hitter for the New York Yankees using only a mop.
Ohio: This one is deeply satisfying: Incumbent Democrat Ted Strickland, who insisted that the state’s economy wasn’t creating enough jobs in 2006 and promised to change that, will be tossed to the curb over high unemployment today. John Kasich will be one of the country’s most economically savvy governors.
Oklahoma: Republican Mary Fallin has been favored since the primary, and will win easily.
Oregon: It’s been a long, tough, hard-fought race, but in the end, if a well-known Democrat hasn’t closed the deal in this state by now, they really don’t want to elect him. Republican and former NBA star Chris Dudley will beat former governor John Kitzhaber.
Pennsylvania: Republican Tom Corbett has led this race consistently, and he, along with Toomey, will help Pennsylvania Republicans enjoy a roaring comeback.
Rhode Island: This is another odd three-way race, featuring Democrat Frank Caprio, independent Lincoln Chafee (formerly the non-Republican head of Republicans for Obama), and Republican John Robitaille. Caprio and Chafee have battled for the lead in the past months; I’m putting my faith in Rasmussen and predicting a narrow win for Chafee.
South Carolina: Nikki Haley by a country mile, in one of this cycle’s biggest feel-good stories. In eight years, people will talk about her as a potential presidential candidate.
South Dakota: Republican Dennis Daugaard beats Democrat Scott Heidepriem, in a race that has never polled closely all year.
Tennessee: This state has trended red for many years, and has now reached the point where the governor’s race never really got competitive. Republican Bill Haslam should beat Democrat Mike McWherter by a wide margin.
Texas: When I was in the Houston area last month, a surprisingly common yard sign read: “SOLD.” Even more bizarre, I saw houses under construction. Here in northern Virginia, we’ve forgotten what that looks like. This is a roundabout way of pointing out that the Texas economy is doing pretty well even as the national economy limps along, and Texans know they’re in good shape compared with those who live in most other places. Chalk up another four years for Republican Rick Perry.
Utah: Republican Gary Herbert, who took over when Jon Huntsman was nominated to be ambassador to China, will win a full term of his own.
Vermont: Can Republican lieutenant governor Brian Dubie win? Just watch what Dubie Dubie do. Vermont is a heavily Democratic state, but sometimes heavily Democratic states like having a GOP governor to apply the brakes now and then (see Massachusetts).
Wisconsin: Republican Scott Walker has led Democrat Tom Barrett consistently and should win by a healthy margin.
Wyoming: Republican Matt Mead should defeat Democrat Leslie Peterson by a wide, wide margin.
– Jim Geraghty writes the Campaign Spot blog on NRO.