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The Great Big Gubernatorial Race Roundup

From the midweek Morning Jolt:

The Great Big Gubernatorial Race Roundup

Yesterday’s big roundup of the outlook for the GOP in the congressional races spurred a predictable amount of “I’m staying home, the GOP is a bunch of sellouts, I’ll start voting again when the party stands for principle and nominates some true conservatives” responses. You may have seen my reaction here.

On to the gubernatorial races . . . 

Let’s begin with the states where Democrats said they would be competitive . . . and they just aren’t. Wendy Davis is not going to derail Greg Abbott in Texas; she’s probably going to have the biggest hype-to-performance ratio of this cycle. Vincent Sheheen finished surprisingly close in 2010 against Nikki Haley in South Carolina, but he’s not even close this year. Asa Hutchinson has enjoyed a small lead over Mike Ross in Arkansas for most of the year.

OHIO: You know how it feels like Republicans never get any breaks? They get them every once in a while, it’s just that we don’t dwell on them. In Ohio, Ed Fitzgerald turned out to be a disastrous candidate for the Democrats — one dumb, weird scandal after another. What’s astounding is that state Democrats were fairly unified in the idea that he was the best candidate to take on GOP incumbent John Kasich. The Columbus Dispatch poll has Kasich up 30, what the paper called an outlook for an “epic defeat” for state Democrats. (Quinnipiac put Kasich up by a mere 22 points.) Now the state’s Democrats are just hoping to salvage something, somewhere on the ballot this fall.

If Kasich really does win by 30, he may get some mostly undeserved presidential buzz, because of the perception that he’s a lock to carry Ohio.

NEW MEXICO: You’ll also hear a lot of talk that incumbent Republican Gov. Susana Martinez should be on the GOP ticket. She’s a solid lock for reelection, even though Republicans aren’t getting traction in the state’s Senate race.

MASSACHUSETTS: I know, I know, you never want to hear about a Republican governor of Massachusetts again, just in case some future one ends up running for president and disappointing you. Charlie Baker ran for governor in 2010 and came within 6.5 points of incumbent Democrat Deval Patrick. A lot of people would say that a Republican who ran and lost in 2010 won’t be able to win anywhere. He trailed almost every poll that summer and fall. Now the last few polls show a neck-and-neck race: Democrat Martha Coakley by one, Baker by one, Baker by two, Baker by one. Maybe this time Coakley won’t scoff at shaking hands of Red Sox fans again.

WISCONSIN: Republican incumbent (and potential presidential candidate) Scott Walker has enjoyed a very small lead in most polls against Mary Burke. Probably too close for GOP comfort; this is still a “purple” at best state, where the GOP candidate probably has a ceiling of about 52 percent or so. Hopefully Walker and the RGA have a strong push planned for these final five weeks.

MICHIGAN: Rick Snyder’s lead is similarly small but consistent, usually a point or two better than Walker is up in Wisconsin. For an incumbent Republican governor in a deep blue state, there’s not a lot of margin for error.

FLORIDA: Rick Scott has polled pretty badly throughout his first term as governor, but his team is kicking it into high gear when it counted and Florida’s enjoying a relative boom. Scott enjoyed a very small lead, pretty consistently, all summer long. Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist is a known quantity for Florida voters.

At this point, it’s fair to characterize Walker, Snyder, and Scott as slight favorites, and if all three are reelected, it will be a deeply disappointing night for Democrats.

MAINE: On paper, Republican incumbent Paul LePage is too conservative, too confrontational, too prone to controversial remarks for the political culture of a state like Maine. And yet, he’s trailing by a razor-thin margin in a three-way race.

Speaking of three-way races…

HAWAII: Republican Duke Aiona has a real shot in this usually heavily-Democratic state. Polling is infrequent, but he hasn’t trailed by more than four all year.

COLORADO: In one of the biggest races for the National Rifle Association, Republican Bob Beauprez is keeping it neck-and-neck with incumbent Democrat John Hickenlooper. (For what it’s worth, Quinnipiac found Beauprez up by 10.) Hickenlooper’s got real problems for an incumbent, consistently polling in the mid-40s. But Colorado is the kind of state where nothing comes easy for Republicans.

CONNECTICUT: Connecticut voters do not like incumbent Democrat Daniel Malloy. Here’s his share in every poll this year: 42, 43, 38, 41, 42, 43, 40. Tom Foley doesn’t have this locked up, but he’s got an excellent chance of winning on Election Day.

GEORGIA: Democrats are high on the chances of Jason Carter, grandson of the former president. But it’s been an astonishingly long time since Democrats won a statewide race in Georgia — 1998, in fact. So that should make Republican Nathan Deal the favorite . . . except every streak has to end sometime. Most polling shows a razor-thin margin for either candidate.

KANSAS: Incumbent Republican Sam Brownback needs help — money, volunteers, luck, you name it. You haven’t heard much about Democratic candidate Paul Davis. If he wins, expect him to become the national media’s hero, and the subject of nauseatingly gushy profile pieces, about how he’s leading the Democrats in the heartland, blah blah blah.

ALASKA: Polling is sparse, but incumbent Republican Sean Parnell could be in trouble. (Alaska is allegedly particularly difficult to poll anyway.) The Democrats dropped their candidate’s bid and are backing “independent” Bill Walker.

ILLINOIS: What the heck happened, Bruce Rauner? You had a huge lead not long ago. Now this one looks neck-and-neck. Okay, this is Illinois, where Democrats do hold big institutional advantages, except Democrat incumbent Pat Quinn has managed to alienate most of the party’s traditional allies.

RHODE ISLAND: Republican Allen Fung is an underdog, but not a big one, in one of the country’s most heavily Democratic states. The problem is that a Democrat like Gina Raimondo can just go out and try to boost turnout; most undecideds are used to voting for Democrats.

ARIZONA: How is it possible no one polled the Arizona governor’s race in the month of September? Republican Doug Ducey should be the favorite, considering the partisan lean of the state . . . but the August polls had it close.

The leftovers . . . In Pennsylvania, incumbent Republican Tom Corbett looks like toast. In California, incumbent Jerry Brown is going to win another term, easily, and in New York, Andrew Cuomo looks pretty safe, despite the cloud of scandal over his head. It’s rather shameful for the Republican party that they have no real functioning or competitive state party in either the Golden State or Empire State. Finally, there’s no indication that incumbent Democrat John Kitzhaber will suffer for having the state’s most terminally dysfunctional and wasteful Obamacare exchanges in Oregon.


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