Cover Story

States' fights

"States' fights" Continued...

Issue: "2010 Election: The Governors," Oct. 23, 2010

Widespread angst with how a Democratic president and Congress have handled the wounded economy may drive voters to Republicans in congressional and gubernatorial elections. A dramatic example is in the Rust Belt states-where Democratic governors and persistent unemployment have a stronghold. The once reliably Democratic states may turn to the GOP.

Strickland's opponent-Republican John Kasich-has equated his fight against Strickland to a fight against President Obama. "Stop Ted Strickland, Stop Barack Obama," says his campaign website. Wisconsin Republican front-runner Scott Walker features Obama on his website, criticizing the stimulus plan for creating "unnecessary boondoggles." In a close race in Texas, Republican Gov. Rick Perry says Democratic opponent Bill White will follow an Obama slogan when it comes to raising taxes in the Lone Star State: "Yes We Can."

The Democratic counterpunch: Equate Republicans with Wall Street. Strickland has pounded Kasich for once working for Lehman Brothers. In California, Democrat Jerry Brown underscores that his Republican opponent, former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, once worked for Goldman Sachs.

Another national thread runs through this year's gubernatorial contests: presidential elections in 2012. Sabato downplays the presidential significance of potential Republican wins in swing states like Ohio, saying there's little relationship between the party that controls the governorship and the party that wins the White House in each state. But party operatives say gubernatorial wins in swing states strengthen their hand in presidential contests. GOP consultant Curt Anderson told the Post: "the industrial Midwest is the measure of success or failure for the Republican Party."

In Ohio, Strickland is directly tying his contest to the 2012 presidential election. "We are coming after you, Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin and Tim Pawlenty and all of the right-wing extremists," he shouted at a campaign stop in Akron. "We are coming after you in 2012, and we will reelect Barack Obama to be a second-term president of the United States of America."

That may be a risky strategy for Strickland and other Democrats looking for wins: With the president fighting his own growing disapproval ratings, a battle cry for a second term in office may pack the wrong kind of punch.

Realignment

Key races to watch on the way to a Republic majority among 50 governors

By The Editors

Democrats currently hold the majority of governorships, 26 , and Republicans control 23. Florida Gov. Charlie Crist-who left the Republican Party for his Senate run-is the only independent governor.

Thirty-seven states will hold elections for governor in November. Of those races, 24 are open seats-no incumbent is running. With so many open seats, a majority of governors next year are likely to be newly installed executives.

RealClearPolitics projects that Republicans will control at least 27 governor's mansions after the elections and that Democrats will control at least 14. Another nine races are toss-ups. Here are some to watch:

The Rust Belt

States in this manufacturing strip of the Midwest and Northeast may turn to the GOP out of economic frustration. In Michigan, Republican Rick Snyder has enjoyed a 22-point lead over Democrat Virg Bernero in a state hit hard by the auto industry's decline. Republican Tom Corbett is leading Dan Onorato in Pennsylvania, where current Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell has vociferously supported the president.

In President Obama's home state of Illinois, Republican Bill Brady has led Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn-a candidate plagued by the taint of impeached former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. In Ohio, Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland has remained in a tight race against Republican candidate John Kasich.

The tight spots

As many as seven states are still toss-ups, including three of the biggest states in the country: In California, Democrat Jerry Brown is in a tight race with Republican Meg Whitman-a candidate battling both her opponent and the unpopularity of current Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In Florida, Republican Rick Scott stunned the GOP by defeating state Attorney General Bill McCollum in the primary. He's been in a dead heat with Democrat Alex Sink, the state's chief financial officer.

Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry is in a tight race with Democrat Bill White, the former mayor of Houston, in a state that hasn't had a Democratic governor in nearly 15 years. Though Perry began closing the gap in late September, the race remains too close to call.

The Intriguing

Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts is finding a tighter race than he expected against Republican Charlie Baker. A handful of polls heading into October put Baker slightly ahead. A Republican win would add insult to injury for Democrats in Massachusetts still smarting from Republican Scott Brown's unexpected Senate win to replace former Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy.

Republican Carl Paladino may have an uphill battle to defeat Democrat Andrew Cuomo in New York, but many pundits say Paladino may be closing the gap. The no-holds-barred Republican is a Tea Party favorite for his stance on smaller government, but Paladino's brash style and harsh language may hurt his prospects with moderates. The real estate mogul-who defeated former Republican Rep. Rick Lazio in the primary-called former Gov. George Pataki "a degenerative idiot" in an interview. And despite the remark, Pataki looked ready to endorse Paladino.

Jamie Dean
Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the national political beat and other topics as news editor for WORLD. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.

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