Articles and Analysis


Races For Governor: Republicans Poised for Big Gains

On the basis of current polling, Republicans stand to gain roughly a dozen governorships, and possibly more. Right now, 26 of the nations governors are Democrats and 24 are Republicans. Our trend estimates based on public polls in the 37 states holding elections for governor this year show Republicans on the verge of gaining at least 11 seats.

Our focus this week has been largely on the U.S. Senate and particularly the outcome of the Delaware primary, which has boosted the prospects for that state's Democratic candidate and with it, the odds that odds that Democrats will maintain their Senate majority (despite significant losses). But the larger ongoing story this year is about a gale-force wind blowing in the Republican direction, and nothing demonstrates that trend as clearly as polling in the governors races.

The contests for governor have more potential volatility because more states (37) hold their gubernatorial elections this year and because so many of those (24) involve open seats. "It is always easier," writes Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Political Report (gated) "for the opposing party to win an open contest than it is to defeat a sitting governor." This higher than usual vacancy rate gives Republicans a better chance of capitalizing on a favorable political environment.

You can see that impact in the following table, which shows our current polling trend estimates in states now represented by Democratic governors. Polling in 13 states shows the Republican candidate leading, and 11 of those contests are open seats. The only incumbent Democrats currently trailing are Iowa's Chet Culver and Ohio's Ted Strickland.


Two more incumbent Democrats are in potential jeopardy. In Maryland, Democrat Margin O'Malley leads by a "toss-up" margin of less than three points (46.0% to 43.4%). In Massachusetts, Democrat Deval Patrick leads Republican Charlie Baker by roughly five points (40.1% to 34.7%), but Patrick's margin has narrowed over the summer as support for independent Tim Cahill's support has trended down.

Meanwhile, Republicans are running comfortably ahead in holding most of the states currently represented by a Republican. All of the five seats either trending Democratic or in the toss-up category are open.


Only Connecticut and Hawaii look like probable Democratic pick-ups based on current polling. Hawaii holds its primary elections tomorrow, and the two candidates competing for the Democratic nomination-- Neil Abercrombie and Mufi Hanneman -- both hold comfortable leads over likely Republican nominee Duke Aiona.

Our trend estimates do show Democrats with nominal advantages in Minnesota, Florida and Rhode Island, but all three margins are close enough to merit a "toss-up" designation.

Add it all up, and we show Republicans on the verge of flipping 13 states from blue to red, and Democrats on the verge of flipping two states from red to blue, for a net Republican gain of 11 seats. One small consolation for Democrats: Of the four contests currently close enough to merit our "toss-up" designation, three are currently represented by Republican governors.

But a caution: These statistics are all based on constantly evolving polling "snapshots" which reflect preferences "if the election were held today." In some states, the number of polls is small and their reliability may be questionable. Moreover, the efforts of some campaigns to communicate via paid advertising are just getting underway in many states.

On that score, it's worth noting that the Cook Political Report, which considers more than just polling in its assessments, still rates as toss-ups six of the states where we show Republicans on the verge of a pick-up (Illinois, Iowa, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon). It also still rates Maine as lean Democrat. So public polls alone may not tell the full story in some states

Still, a quick glance at the many statewide polls available -- including nearly 50 released in September -- makes it very clear that Republicans stand to make major gains in races for governor in 2010.

[Cross-posted to the Huffington Post]



The Pollster.com estimate for today shows the Massachusetts Gubernatorial race moving closer to being a toss-up: 42.3% (D), 39% (R), 8% (I). The margin is now only +3.3% Democrat.


Field Marshal:


It would be interesting to see how many congressional districts are in these 11 states and how many districts would be under GOP governor "control" assuming an 11 gain for purposes of redistricting.



Can someone updated the Vermont race please. Shumlin is up by 3 and the other poll was done back in May



I think the latest poll in Vermont has the Democrat up by three. This would be a pick up if this result holds.


Field Marshal:

Who cares about VT?!?! It only has one congressional district so no redistricting is needed. And that is one too many... LOL!



Ok serious question:

So how do you poll a write in candidates support?

You can't name the person when you poll. I assume you can only count other as possibly for that candidate, or specfically allow voters to name the "other" they support.



And in a automated poll, if you let those polled spell out M U R K O W S K I on their phone, what if they spell it wrong?

Very tough to poll I think, and any poll is going to seriously over estimate her real write-in votes.


Gary Kilbride:

Thank you. I'm always amazed there isn't more emphasis on gov races. 2010 always loomed a likely disaster for Democrats, based on all the unlikely pickups in 2002 that held via incumbency in 2006. There was no reasonable expectation to maintain control in states like Tennessee, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Kansas, plus the uncertainty of major northeastern and midwestern states we carried in 2002 then held, like Pennsylvania and Michigan.

That's why I never got carried away with predictions of a Democratic tide post 2008. The GOP bench was all but guaranteed to fortify through gov races in 2010.

I would have liked a crack at Gibbons in Nevada but Republicans were too smart to nominate him again. That was a missed opportunity in 2006.



The only states that matter for districting purposes are the ones losing or gaining seats, most importantly the ones losing seats.

Those most likely will be:

Gaining: TX (+4), GA, FL, SC, WA, NV, AZ, UT (all +1).

Losing: OH (-2), MN, IA, IL, MI, NY, PA, NJ, MA, LA (all -1).

All things being equal, republicans should gain about net 10 seats, but undoubtedly some of the growth regions are places where there are lots of democrats. This is definitely the case in TX, at least one of those 4 new seats, and probably 2, should be in areas that will be lean dem.

Governors don't necessarily control the whole process, state legislatures are important in this process too. Also judges, since there was a lot of litigation in the last round. Judges ultimately had to sign off on 7 states' maps.

Also, new districts do not always vote the way the people who drew them intended. Growth patterns sometimes outfox the gerrymanderers. This was a problem for republicans in PA.

There are no permanent majorities. Everyone should remember that.




While I appreciate the unemotional nature of your post (unlike most lefties here), this statement is one of the most bizarre I've seen here:

"..undoubtedly some of the growth regions are places where there are lots of democrats."

Huh? Well on one level, I suppose EVERY region has "lots of democrats" in an absolute sense. Hell, Utah and Idaho have hundreds of thousands of them....but that doesn't mean much.

Unles you mean that, though, here is the list of states you provided and their 2008 presidential votes:

TX - McCain 54%/Obama 44%
GA - Mccain 52%/Obama 47%
FL - Obama 51%/ McCain 48%
SC - McCain 54%/Obama 45%
WA - Obama 57%/McCain 41%
NV - Obama 55%/McCain 43%
AZ - McCain 54%/Obama 45%
UT - McCain 62%/Obama 35%

That looks like 2 states you would really call Democrat states (FL was too close, especially given how big the Dem win was), and 5 states you would unequivocally call GOP satates, with FL being a tossup. Looks like GOP pickups on every state but WA and NV.





Alaska seems to be fairly relaxed about write-in canditates although voters will probably need to at least try to name murkowski even if they spell the name wrong.



I think Aaron means that within those republican states, the areas of growth are ones which the democrats might not do badly in the House.



John, I know that Alaska will count a misspelled Murkowski, but how does an automated poll count it?

So in that case a misspelled Murkowski should count on a poll but won't.

It's just going to be a race that is next to impossible to poll.

I don't think pollster can supply her name, as her name won't be on the ballot. They would have to allow the people polled to come up with her name. And again what if someone says they are voting for Senator MacDonald. Does that count??????? How about Senator Lisa MacDonald as a write in.

Very difficult.




Ah, I see. Good point. I would imagine what they will give an option in the original question as 'others' and then ask a follow-up question where they give murkowski as one of the options but I could be wrong.

This might end up inflating Murkowski in the polls, but then again the polls in Alaska were not exactly great in 2008, they had Berkowitz up 6.5 point over Young. I would imagine if Murkowski is not leading in the polls by election night, she will be very unlikely to win. If she is, then it might be interesting.



Are there rules for in what order the ballots need to be counted in? For instance, on election could they just set the write in votes aside, count the votes for Miller, count the votes for McAdams, and then see if there's enough votes left for Murkowski to win?



"this statement is one of the most bizarre I've seen here:

"..undoubtedly some of the growth regions are places where there are lots of democrats."

Huh? Well on one level, I suppose EVERY region has "lots of democrats" in an absolute sense. Hell, Utah and Idaho have hundreds of thousands of them....but that doesn't mean much."

With this statement I'm thinking precisely *where* the growth is occurring within those states. I'm not sure about all the states, but if you were going to draw 4 new house seats in TX where the the growth is occurring, they *should* be in the following areas

1) DFW - one to the north somewhere, a likely R seat.

2) Houston - one to the west & south, a swing seat, lean R

3) Central Corridor - the most contentious region, because you could draw this to be either very R, very D, or in the middle. This region is very gerrymandered and needs a complete re-draw.

4) Border region - this area probably has the highest percentage growth, likely D.

The most republican parts of the state - the counties in the deep east & west, are not growing, they are declining or maintaining at best. They should lose a seat in favor of new suburban ones.



Another phenomenon that can confound gerrymandering efforts is demographic creep.

Cities bleed not only their population but their political habits as city dwellers spread outward, while the people that don't like that flee further out into the exurbs.




It makes sense that if the write in bubble is filled in those ballots get set aside for visual id of the candidate being voted for. This wouldn't need to happen right away if there aren't enough votes to make a difference.

This process will take along time. The question is will Alaska's polls submit results for the non write-in or will we wait days or even weeks to find out who won in Alaska.

I think she needs to be polling at about 50% to have a shot, assuming the polls are 10% over her actual vote count, which is Nate Silver's guesstimate.

If she is polling at 30%, which is what the only poll of the three way race that has been done shows, she doesn't have a chance because that means about 20% at the polls.

I really think her endevour is futile, foolish, divisive, destructive, and hopeless, but she has a right to do it.

I place bets on 20% if she runs a great campaign and gets to keep all her funds. 15% if she doesn't, which is more likely.

But we'll see. The polls will all be wrong though for sure. There's no way to accurately poll this race.

What polls will be able to tell us is which candidae loses votes to her, Miller or McAdams and that's still unclear.



Yeah, I was asking for purely selfish reasons. Hoping to know the result relatively quickly, not having to wait weeks on end.


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