Monday, January 22, 2018

This Year's Gubernatorial Races-- How Republicans, Steeped In Denial About A Blue Wave, See Them


Blue America is primarily a PAC that vets and supports candidates running for the House. That's our bailiwick. We get involved with a few Senate races and a handful of state legislative races and in 2016, for the first time, a presidential race, now a 2020 presidential race. This year we're also involved in trying to help a few gubernatorial races... just a few.

Will the blue wave which looks like it will wipe out Ryan and his congressional caucus, spill over into the gubernatorial races. I think so; others don't. Yesterday Reid Wilson, writing for The Hill tried answering the question why Democrats keep winning special elections, noting that "Republicans across the country were shaken this week when Democrat Patty Schachtner won a special election in a rural Wisconsin district that President Trump won by 17 points. In a tweet after the polls closed, Gov. Scott Walker (R) called the results "a wake up call for Republicans in Wisconsin." Scott Walker is running for reelection himself this year. And Wisconsin looks like a big target for the blue wave.
The race, and others like it since Trump’s inauguration, should sound alarm bells for Republicans across the country. Schachtner’s victory was just the latest special election where Democratic voters showed up to the polls up at higher rates than Republicans.

Schachtner took 12,139 votes in Tuesday’s election, about a third of the total vote that the last Democratic candidate in the district won. But her Republican opponent, state Rep. Adam Jarchow, took 9,865 votes-- just 11 percent of the total the last Republican incumbent won.

That difference in drop-off, pollsters and voter targeting experts say, is the result of the advantage that Democrats now have when it comes to voter enthusiasm-- a gap that might be a harbinger of major Democratic gains in this fall’s midterm elections.

...The dozens of special elections that have occurred since Trump took office indicate the enthusiasm gap is real: Compared with prior elections, Democratic voters have shown up at higher rates in ordinarily low-turnout special elections than Republicans have.

...[I]n special elections during the Trump era, a clear pattern has emerged. Of the 98 special legislative elections over the last year, 37 were held in districts that were contested by both parties both in the specials and in the last regularly scheduled election. In 27 of those 37 seats, Democrats have seen their vote shares increase.

...A Pew Research Center survey released this week shows 69 percent of Democrats and lean Democratic voters say they are “looking forward” to the midterm elections. In contrast, just 58 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning voters say they are eager to vote in November.
Goal ThermometerThere's no reason to think that the blue wavier going to sweep away members of the House and Senate and state legislators and ignore Scott Walker and other GOP governors and GOP gubernatorial candidates. RRH Elections did a thorough-- and very right wing look at this years gubernatorial races around the country. It's a best case scenario for the Republicans. Lets; look at a few key races they've analyzed in depth. The Blue America gubernatorial thermometer on the right is for contributing to proven progressives in a few races.Take a look.

Now remember as you're reading, this is strictly an admitted analysis from the right, not a non-partisan view:

The second half of 2017 was far from kind to Gov. Bruce Rauner (R). After spending the first two years fighting all-powerful State House speaker Mike Madigan (D) to a Ypres-worthy stalemate in the battle to right the state’s consistently abysmal finances, the dam seemed to break in the second half of last year-- and not in Rauner’s favor. Some background: unlike his fellow deep-blue state Republicans in Maryland, Massachusetts, and Vermont, Gov. Bruce Rauner has eschewed playing nice with his liberal state legislature and instead launched into a head-on war with Madigan. Madigan has dominated Illinois politics since the 1980s and has successfully implemented a large number of budget-busting fiscal liberal policies. Furthermore, he has a reputation for being both a hard-nosed political brawler and ruthless machine boss that few anywhere can match. Rauner saw a major loss in the summer as several Republicans voted with Madigan to override his veto on a reform-free budget. Then Madigan put the Governor in a very tough position in the fall by sending him a bill that instituted public financing for abortion. Mindful of his general election prospects in the blue state (and his own social liberalism), Rauner signed the bill-- which unleashed the fury of the state’s GOP grassroots, who had tolerated the Governor’s moderate to liberal social instincts in hopes of having someone to go toe-to-toe with Madigan. Rauner now faces a serious primary challenge from State Rep. Jeannie Ives (R), a little-known conservative who has nowhere near the Governor’s fundraising prowess and would likely be DOA in a general election in the blue state… but who could be the beneficiary of a motivated and high-turnout social conservative base in the GOP primary. Assuming Ives doesn’t obviate the general election with a primary win, Rauner will face a tough general election fight with businessman and Madigan lackey JB Prtizker (D). Both Rauner and Pritzker have unlimited personal wealth and have already started freely spending to knock the stuffing out of each other. Pritzker is looking like a very strong favorite in the primary because of his institutional support, though he does face some significant rivals in businessman and Heir Force Maj. Chris Kennedy (D), State Sen. Daniel Biss (D), and local superintendent Bob Daiber (D). Pritzker’s rivals are hitting him from both sides, on anti-Madigan and left-wing themes, but because they can’t match Pritzker’s cash, an upset seems unlikely. Assuming Pritzker and Rauner make it to the general, it will be a high-dollar and hard-fought contest. Illinois is a blue state and a liberal one, and Rauner is far from popular. Rauner’s best bet is to drag the race even deeper into the mud to convince the state that as bad as the war of attrition has been, turning over the keys to the state solely to Madigan and his lackeys would be worse. That’s a hard sell to make, and as a result we are marking him as the most vulnerable Governor and an outright underdog for re-election.

New Mexico

Rep. Michele Lujan-Grisham (D) continues to look like the front-runner to pick this seat up for Democrats. Lujan-Grisham has successfully (and somewhat surprisingly) avoided attracting “A” list opponents for this race such as AG Hector Balderas (D), and she benefits from having the lean of the state on her side and high name recognition from her three terms representing the Albuquerque area. Two lesser-known Democrats are also in the race and could have the ability to upset Lujan-Grisham in the primary: State Sen. Joe Cervantes (D) and media exec Jeff Apodaca (D), son of 70s-era Gov. Jerry (D). Republicans have received their own strong entry into the race in the form of Rep. Steve Pearce (R). Pearce has run statewide multiple times before with somewhat poor results, losing disastrously in his 2008 Senate bid. But he has essentially cleared the GOP primary field, and his experience locking down a light-red House district should not be understated.  Due to Pearce’s poor prior statewide performance, along with the light-blue lean of the state and year, we are pushing this race back over the line into the Lean D category, though it might be best to think of this race as teetering on the Lean D/Tossup line. Overall Lujan-Grisham looks like a mild but significant favorite to flip the seat.


The silver state has been somewhat enigmatic in recent years. Though it is diversifying dramatically, Republicans have remained more competitive than the state’s demographics might suggest, and the state remains bright purple. As a result, this open seat race looks set to be fiercely contested. The GOP primary front-runner is AG Adam Laxalt (R), grandson of former Sen. and Gov. Paul (R) (and until-recently-unacknowledged son of NM Sen. Pete Dominici (R)). Laxalt was a surprise winner in 2014 on the long coattails of Gov. Brian Sandoval (R); he has been something of a polarizing conservative in office but is popular with the state’s GOP establishment. Laxalt has fundraised very well, but will not have a cleared primary, as State Treasurer Dan Schwartz (R) is also in the race. Schwartz is known as mavericky and somewhat more moderate than Laxalt, and could have the chance to pull the upset. For Democrats, Clark County commissioner Steve Sisolak (D) looks like the primary front-runner and has fundraised well, but he is facing a serious challenge from fellow Clark County commissioner Chris Giunchigliani (D). With the support of the still-strong Reid machine and the lean of the year, either Sisolak or Giunchigliani could have a strong chance to flip this seat. Overall this race belongs well within the Tossup category, though perhaps a hair more likely than not to flip.


This race is probably a solid bet for the most chaotic race of all. First off, both major parties look set to have crowded primary fields. Three Republicans have entered the race. LePage administration official Mary Mayhew (R) is casting herself as a conservative defender of the LePage legacy, while three members of legislative GOP leadership, State Senate President Mike Thibodeau (R), State Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason (R), and State House Minority Leader Ken Fredette (R), seem to be more establishment-friendly. And there is also 2010 Indie candidate Shawn Moody (R), who is somewhat centrist but also has ties to LePage personally. Democrats’ picture is even more complicated, with (deep breath!) ex-State House Speaker Mark Eves (D), appointed AG Janet Mills (D), State Sen. Mark Dion (D), ex-State Sen. James Boyle (D), ex-State Rep. Diane Russell (D), ex-Biddeford mayor Donna Dion (D), former congressional candidate Adam Cote (D), lobbyist Betsy Sweet (D), and veteran Patrick Eisenhart (D) in the race-- and multiple others considering. And this being Maine, there are also three credible centrist independent candidates: appointed State Treasurer Terry Hayes (I), a former moderate Dem legislator, ex-State Sen. Jon Jenkins (I), who also served as mayor of both Lewiston and Auburn, and well-known comedian Karmo Sanders (I). Oh, and one more wrinkle: the state’s Instant-Runoff Voting proposal, thought dead after a court decision, might actually be revived, making this race run under a totally different set of rules. All in all there’s far too much uncertainty here to label this race as anything other than a pure Tossup.


Both sides have crowded primaries for this open seat. On the Dem side, ex-State Sen. Gretchen Whitmer (D) was heavily recruited in 2014, but demurred and has now pulled the trigger on a run this cycle. Whitmer has strong establishment support, but she is facing three other Democrats. One of them, businessman Shri Thanedar (D), has self-funded his way into a considerable cash advantage over Whitmer, while businessman Bill Cobbs (D) and Detroit city official Abul El-Sayed (D) also seem credible. One other candidate who is considering, Macomb CE Mark Hackel (D), could be a strong contender from his history of wins in the large suburban county, though time is getting very late for him to actually pull the trigger and CW is that he will not run. For Republicans, moderate LG Brian Calley (R) and the more conservative AG Bill Schuette (R) have been shadow-boxing for years for this race and are the front-runners in the race; Schuette is generally thought to have a slight but significant advantage. Two others, antiestablishment conservative State Sen. Patrick Colbeck (R) and physician Jim Hines (R), are also serious and could surprise. All four could be credible general election candidates. In newly-purple Michigan, any of the pairings seem likely to be competitive, especially the most likely pairing of well-known “A” listers Schuette and Whitmer. For now it’s hard to do better than simply holding this race at a pure Tossup.


Gov. Dan Malloy (D) is retiring after two terms, leaving behind a legacy of major achievements in the liberal policy department and very low approval ratings from a series of tax hikes and high-profile corporate exoduses. (Gee, you think the two might be related?) As a result, while the toxic Malloy not trying to run again has helped Democrats’ odds here, this is still a top-tier GOP pickup opportunity. Republicans’ problem is that too many of them may be smelling opportunity in the water. Without a field-clearing front-runner, that has led to an absurdly crowded primary field of “B” and “C” listers. Rattling off the candidates, there are (deep breath): Danbury mayor and 2014 candidate Mark Boughton (R), State Sen. Toni Boucher (R), State Rep. Pradad Srinivasan (R), Shelton mayor Mark Lauretti (R), Trumbull mayor Tim Herbst (R), ex-US Comptroller General and 2014 LG candidate David Walker (R), 2014 SoS nominee Peter Lumaj (R), and local official Mike Handler (R), with a couple more Republicans exploring. There is no clear favorite for the GOP nomination, meaning the possibility of a weaker general election nominee should not be discounted. However, Democrats’ field is not looking terribly impressive either, as the entire “A” list Dem bench of the state has declined to run. They also have a crowded field of “B” and “C” listers, including businessman and 2006 US Senate nominee Ned Lamont (D), Hartford mayor Luke Bronin (D), Bridgeport mayor and convicted felon Joe Ganim (D), Malloy admin officials Jonathan Harris (D) and Sean Connolly (D), and Dem official Dita Bhargava (D). A credible centrist indie, businessman Oz Griebel (I), is also in the race. It’s too early to know how much of a factor he will be, but Griebel’s campaign seems centrist enough to pull from both sides. Overall, the surprising lack of strong Democrats and Malloy’s unpopularity leads us to mark this as the GOP’s best pickup opportunity, but Connecticut is still a blue state and the year is likely to be Dem-friendly. Thus it’s hard to see this race as anything other than a pure Tossup.


Democrats have a slight primary front-runner for this race in ex-Rep. Gwen Graham (D), who benefits from inherited statewide name recognition from her father, ex-Gov. and Sen. Bob (D), as well as her impressive 2014 win for a conservative Tallahassee-area House seat. [Alarm bells: the seat was quite blue when she won it and has been since gerrymandered to be a safe red seat, causing her to run for the hills.] Graham however, faces a crowded primary field of wealthy Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine (D), Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum (D), whose campaign has been in a slow-motion implosion as corruption allegations swirl around him, and businessman Chris King (D). Across the aisle, Republicans’ primary was thrown for a loop over the last few months. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam (R) still looks like a strong contender, as he has been transparently prepping his bid here since leaving Congress for his row office in 2010. Putnam is a mainstream conservative and considered a strong candidate due to his statewide name recognition, but he will face a tough primary. His prior main rival, moderate State Sen. Jack Latvala (R), imploded in the #pervnado, but the void was filled by Rep. Ron DeSantis (R). DeSantis is a more antiestablishment conservative who notably got a tweet of praise from Trump before he even entered the race. The primary clash between Putnam and DeSantis is likely to be a hard-fought contest over both style and ideology between two strong candidates. A third Republican, State House Speaker Rich Corcoran (R), is still considering, but seems a longer shot. Overall, due to low Dem base turnout, Florida has had a small but durable light-red tilt in midterms, and that combined with the two “A” list contenders in the GOP field in Putnam and DeSantis leads us to place this race toward the R-leaning side of the Tossup category. But this race is sure to be among the most hotly-contested and expensive races of the cycle. [Another comment from your editor: a big part of the case for Gillum is that he is the only Democrat running who can inspire the Democratic base-- and in a wave election cycle, that's what matters.]


Colorado’s open seat has what are likely to be crowded primaries on both sides. Democrats’ front runner looks likely to be Rep. Jared Polis (D). Polis is a progressive with libertarianish tendencies who benefits from high name recognition from his decade representing a heavily Democratic Boulder-area seat, as well as extensive personal wealth. Polis’s entry was enough to push out his most prominent rival, establishment-friendly fellow Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D). However, he does face several somewhat lesser-known candidates in the Dem primary, including LG Donna Lynne (D), ex-State Treasurer Cary Kennedy (D), ex-State Sen. Mike Johnston (D), and businessman Noel Ginsburg (D), all of whom have a chance to pull the upset. The GOP field is far more muddled, with three obvious headliners. From the establishment side of the party, two statewide Row Officers, AG Cynthia Coffman (R) and State Treasurer Walker Stapleton (R), start out as front-runners due to their high name recognition and establishment connections. Conversely, from the antiestablishment side, ex-Rep. Tom Tancredo (R) is making a third run after losses as an Indie in 2010 and a GOP primary candidate in 2014. Tancredo has a strong grassroots following for his hard-line immigration-restriction stance, though he would likely be a weak and polarizing general election candidate. Beyond those three, a pair of wealthy businessmen are also already in the race, ex-State Rep. Victor Mitchell (R) and Romney relative Doug Robinson (R), and could surprise. Two others, Larimer County commissioner Lew Gaiter (R) and ex-Parker mayor Greg Lopez (R) are also in the race but seem less serious. Due to Polis’s stronger position in his primary than any of the Republicans, as well as the potential for a Tancredo nomination that would send Republicans’ general election odds cratering, we are placing this race toward the Dem-leaning side of the Tossup category. However, Colorado is still a bright purple state and it’s still too early to say much more than the fact that this race belongs well within the Tossup column.


Gov. Bill Walker (I), a former Republican, declared his candidacy for re-election and announced he would once again run with his Democratic running mate, LG Byron Mallott (D). Most establishment Democrats seem to be on board with Walker as their best chance to maintain influence in the red state. However, Walker is an awkward fit for Democrats as a genuine centrist who has made friends and enemies in both parties. Many more liberal Democrats appear to be looking for an alternative, and Sen. Mark Begich (D) has indicated interest in a bid. State Sen. Bill Wielechowski (D) has also said he would consider running if another more liberal candidate does not emerge. A Democrat entering the race against Walker would likely mean mutually assured destruction, as Walker likely cannot afford a split in the center and center-left vote against the state’s large conservative Republican base. For Republicans, State Sen. Mike Dunleavy (R) once again looks like a strong contender after suspending and then re-starting his campaign due to a since-resolved health issue, but he faces serious primary opposition from State Rep. Mike Chenault (R) and businessman Scott Hawkins (R). All seem credible “B” list candidates, but Republicans’ odds here likely depend on whether a credible Democrat emerges. For now if Walker is able to keep his coalition together he seems likely to be favored, but with many questions about the race still unanswered, overall it’s hard to mark him more than the slightest favorite for another term.


Gov. Sam Brownback (R) is set to depart the state early for a low-level Trump administration job (whenever his interminable confirmation proceedings finally end), a move that looks less like a promotion and more like an escape hatch from his disastrous gubernatorial tenure. Brownback has succeeded in implementing a conservative agenda, but he has done so in an inept manner, and dragged his own popularity down to toxic levels in the process. The situation has become so bad for Brownback and his faction of the state’s GOP that conservative Republicans lost de facto control of both houses of the legislature last cycle to a coalition of RINOs and Democrats. LG Jeff Colyer (R) is now set to take control of the governor’s mansion when Brownback vacates it, but as a relatively unknown foot soldier of Brownback’s agenda seems unlikely to be an imposing candidate even as an incumbent. Indeed, the most prominent conservative in this race is SoS Kris Kobach (R), who has become nationally known for his staunch support of immigration enforcement and restrictions. Though Kobach’s polarizing nature could prove problematic, it could also give him a point of personal brand differentiation from Brownback, potentially paradoxically making him a stronger general election candidate. The Republican primary looks set to be crowded with candidates from both sides of the moderate and conservative chasm in the state’s GOP. While Kobach and Colyer are squarely on the conservative side, several moderates, such as ex-State Sen. and 2006 nominee Jim Barnett (R) and ex-State Reps. Mark Hutton (R) and Ed O’Malley (R), are in the race. Two others, Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer (R) and businessman and 2010 KS-4 candidate Wink Hartman (R), somewhat straddle the moderate-conservative divide. The primary is chaotic and other than pegging the well-known Kobach as the slight overall front-runner, it’s hard to handicap. Democrats have a seriously-contested primary in the state for the first time in memory, with four credible candidates in State Sen. Laura Kelly (D), ex-Wichita mayor Carl Brewer (D), State Rep. Jim Ward (D), and ex-State Rep. and Sebelius admin official Josh Svaty (D). It’s too early to tell if any of them will emerge as the front-runner. Given the problematic Brownback legacy, this race is a top-tier target for Democrats, but Kansas is a deep red state and Brownback will no longer be there to serve as a bogeyman. And Democrats’ odds may have gone down for another reason: center-left Indie and 2014 US Senate candidate Greg Orman (I) is in the race as an Independent, which could potentially split the center-left vote and hand an easy win to the GOP nominee on the state’s large conservative base (assuming Orman and Democrats don’t find a way to combine tickets as they did in 2014). As a result, we are marking Republicans as slight but noticeable favorites to hold the seat-- but Democrats’ very decent odds here should not be undersold. As an aside, one weird sideshow of this race is that the ballot will be crowded with high school students seeking to pad their college applications-- Kansas has no age or other qualifications necessary to run for Governor, so a half-dozen teenagers will be making vanity runs and crowding the primary ballots.


Gov. Scott Walker (R) has been tested perhaps harder than any other governor over the last seven years, winning three tough races. Walker, who is not term-limited, is running for a third term and continues to post mediocre approval ratings. However, he has repeatedly demonstrated that he has strong support from the GOP base and the ability to garner just enough crossover support to gain consistent small majorities in his purple state. After spending much of 2017 coming up near-empty on recruitment for the race against Walker, Democrats’ floodgates have opened and they now have an absurdly crowded primary. State Superintendent Tony Evers (D), who is moderate in tone, and Madison mayor Paul Soglin (D), an aging hipster who strikes staunch leftist notes, are the best-known candidates for the Dem nomination, but the field is beyond crowded. Also in the race are (deep breath!) State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D), State Rep. Dana Wachs (D), ex-State Rep. Kelda Helen Roys (D), ex-WIDP chair Matt Flynn (D), 2012 LG nominee and labor official Mahlon Mitchell (D), businessman Andy Gronik (D), and nonprofit exec Mike McCabe (D). Any of them could have the opportunity to upset the front-runners. As for the general, there seems to be a sense in the CW that Wisconsin could be getting Walker fatigue, especially with the state’s large moonbat base likely to be highly energized this year. Democrats’ wide field means they are probably likely to nominate a strong contender, though they do risk putting out someone beloved by the grassroots but too liberal to be successful statewide in the purple state. Overall, Walker has been consistent enough at getting a majority of the state on his side that we feel comfortable continuing to mark him as a slight but significant favorite for a third term.


The conventions on both sides for this open seat seem sure to be crowded affairs. For Republicans, 2014 nominee and Hennepin County commissioner Jeff Johnson (R), Woodbury mayor Mary Guiliani-Stevens (R), State Rep. Matt Dean (R), and ex-State Rep. and MNGOP chair Keith Downey (R) are in the race. State House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R) is still considering a run and could be the GOP front-runner if he enters; if Daudt stays out, all four others could have a chance to emerge with the nomination. Democrats have an even more crowded field. Rep. Tim Walz (D), State Auditor Rebecca Otto (D), ex-St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman (D), and State Reps. Erin Murphy (D), Tina Liebling (D), and Paul Thissen (D) are in the race. For now it looks like Walz is the front-runner for the nomination, but there is a long way to the convention and primary, and much could change. Additionally, one prominent candidate, AG Lori Swanson (D), is still considering the race. If the popular Swanson enters the race she could become the overall primary and general election front-runner, and could chase some other candidates out of the field, though she has dawdled so long that Walz in particular has been poaching some establishment support that could have gone to her. Overall, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Democrats have a stronger field here, with several “A” listers as opposed to the GOP’s “B” list dominated field. Minnesota is also a purple state, but also one where the inelastic Dem base is consistently just a bit larger than the GOP base. As a result of those two factors, we continue to peg Democrats as very slight but noticeable favorites to hold the seat.


Both sides’ previously-crowded primary fields seem to be on the way to sorting themselves out here. On the GOP side, the prior field of four strong contenders has collapsed to two. SoS Jon Husted (R) shook up the race when he dropped his primary run to become LG on the ticket of front-running AG Mike DeWine (R). A third rival, Rep. Jim Renacci (R), has decamped for the Senate race after State Treasurer Josh Mandel (R) dropped out. That leaves DeWine facing a one-on-one race with LG Mary Taylor (R), who is running as a moderate in the Kasich vein and has an interesting story of both of her sons battling opioid use. DeWine’s name recognition and establishment support leave him as the clear front-runner for the nomination over Taylor. Democrats’ primary front-runner is ex-AG and CFPB director Richard Cordray (D), who has coalesced establishment support and convinced a rival, ex-Rep. Betty Sutton (D), to drop out and serve as his LG candidate. Cordray still faces the perennially-interesting ex-Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D), State Sen. Joe Schiavoni (D), and ex-State Rep. and 2014 Treasurer nominee Connie Pillich (D) in the primary, and any could have the chance to upset him. Overall, Ohio has been looking more and more like a light-red state rather than a purple one in recent years. DeWine and Cordray are both considered strong candidates with long political histories in the state, though Cordray’s absence from the state for the last 8 years and DeWine’s greater visibility probably leave the Republican with a slight advantage in candidate quality. Additionally, if Kucinich were to upset Cordray that would not bode well for Dems’ general election odds. Overall, these factors lead us to mark Republicans as very slight but noticeable favorites to hold this seat.


Gov. Tom Wolf (D) has had middling approval ratings throughout his term, but the purple nature of his state and incumbency probably leaves him as a moderate favorite for a second. Four Republicans are in the race; State Sen. Scott Wagner (R) is generally regarded as the primary front-runner so far. Wagner, who is personally wealthy, is an antiestablishment conservative. He has proven a strong candidate, as he won his State Senate seat as a write-in against the establishment GOP choice. However, Wagner has had some minor missteps regarding losing his temper, and his antiestablishment positioning is not necessarily a plus in the machine-dominated state. His major establishment rival is State House Speaker Mike Turzai (R), who obviously has strong establishment connections and could win the nomination on more moderate votes. Two other Republicans, businessman Paul Mango (R) and attorney and law firm executive Laura Ellsworth (R), could also have a chance to surprise. As for the general, any of Turzai, Wagner, Ellsworth, or Mango will likely face a tough race against Wolf, who has not made major missteps. However, Wolf does have vulnerabilities and the Republicans in the race are credible enough to take advantage of the state’s purple nature. That leads us to place this race near the middle of the Lean D category.


Despite Maryland’s deep-blue and inelastic nature, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) continues to post very high approval ratings. Hogan has stayed incredibly popular by generally playing small-ball and not antagonizing the legislature or wading into controversial national issues, while showcasing his personal charisma and administrative competence. For their part, Democrats have spent much of the past year attempting to bait Hogan into taking up controversial conservative priorities with the intent of tying him to Trump, which seems to have only made his popularity stronger as he has skillfully deflected the shots. Democrats have a very crowded primary field, but its massive depth belies the fact that none of the contenders could truly be considered more than “B” list. Three candidates are looking like the top contenders. Prince George’s CE Rushern Baker (D) has a solid resume from two terms leading the large suburban county and is starting to look like the slight establishment favorite. Baltimore CE Kevin Kamenetz (D) similarly has a base in his large suburban county and a resume as an establishment liberal, but so far hasn’t generated a lot of excitement. And ex-NAACP chair Benjamin Todd Jealous (D) seems to be getting support from the far-left of the party, but his brew of leftism is strong even for Maryland and he would be just about the weakest imaginable general election candidate. A story line to watch is that both Baker and Kamenetz have interesting liabilities in that both their counties’ school systems are facing mismanagement scandals. Beyond those three, there are multiple long-shots in the race. State Sen. Rich Maladeno (D) has some far-left support, but is not well-known outside of his Montgomery County base. There is also wealthy attorney Jim Shea (D), businessman and Hillary aide Alec Ross (D), and Michelle Obama aide Krish Vignarajah (D). Overall this primary field doesn’t look too imposing, as all are little-known and have had mediocre fundraising. Boosted by his own strong brand distinct from Trump’s, Hogan has been leading in polls by low double-digits, though he is still below 50%. But in a state as blue as Maryland, no Democrat can be counted out, and thus we are keeping this race in the Lean R category.

Rhode Island

Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) has been controversial in her first term for some fiscally moderate initiatives in an attempt to get the state’s chaotic financial situation in order. That has left her unpopular and vulnerable to a primary challenge from the left, though surprisingly no credible Democrat has yet emerged to take her on. Several Dems have been mentioned as interested, but none have pulled the trigger, and it is possible that Raimondo ultimately emerges without a serious primary challenger. However, it’s important to note Rhode Island’s filing deadline and primary are among the nation’s absolute latest, so there is still time for someone to emerge. On the GOP side, two candidates are facing off: 2014 nominee and Cranston mayor Alan Fung (R) looks like a moderate favorite over State Rep. Patricia Mogan (R). Fung has released internals showing him up in the primary and even with Raimondo. Overall Republicans do have a decent opportunity here, particularly if Raimondo is defeated or battered in the primary. But one possible wrinkle could be the spoiler candidacy of R-turned-I ex-State Rep. Joe Trillo (I), who is running as a hardcore Trumpist and will take votes straight out of the GOP nominee’s pocket. Raimondo certainly looks far weaker than the deep-blue lean of her state and the favorable year would indicate, but the fundamentals (and the current lack of a strong primary challenger) are still in her favor. Thus, we mark Democrats as moderately strong favorites to hold the seat.


Since ascending to the top job earlier this year, Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) has had mediocre approval ratings and drawn a plethora of challengers on both sides. In the GOP primary, Cedar Rapids mayor Ron Corbett (R) has pulled the trigger on a run against Reynolds; while most insiders generally believe that toppling Reynolds is a long-shot, Corbett is a credible enough challenger that his odds are not zero. A third Republican, Boone councilman Steven Ray (R), seems unlikely to be a major factor. Democrats have an even more crowded primary of “B” and “C” listers; State Sen. Nate Boulton (D), ex-IADP chair Andy McGuire (D), Vilsack admin official John Norris (D), Iowa City mayor Ross Willburn (D), 2014 State Auditor nominee Jon Neiderbach (D), labor official Cathy Glasson (D), and businessman Fred Hubbell (D) are in the race. Democrats may find themselves in the position of the nominee being decided by convention, as with a field this crowded it seems very possible for all to be held below the 35% minimum needed to win the primary. Reynolds has a mixture of strengths and vulnerabilities, credible if not rockstar opposition, and a light-red state; overall, that adds up to making her a moderate but far from prohibitive favorite for a full term.


Oklahoma has been having some hard times in its state finances in recent years, as the collapse in oil prices has decimated the budget and caused deep cuts to education. As a result, termed-out Gov. Mary Fallin (R) is quite unpopular and Democrats have been winning a string of upsets in legislative special elections as of late. Democrats, who have seen their prior dominance at the state level collapse in the last decade, are thus enthusiastic about their odds here. They have a strong contender for this seat in ex-AG Drew Edmondson (D). Edmondson’s major primary rival dropped out as he coalesced establishment support, though the weaker liberal ex-State Sen. Connie Johnson (D) is still in the race. However, Oklahoma is still a conservative state, and Republicans have a strong field of candidates for this race as well, with six candidates: LG Todd Lamb (R), OKC mayor Mick Cornett (R), Auditor Gary Jones (R), ex-State Rep. Dan Fisher (R), former federal prosecutor and 2002 Indie candidate Gary Richardson (R), and businessman Kevin Stitt (R). So far Lamb and Cornett look like the front-runners, but the others could have a chance to surprise; Fisher in particular seems to be generating some buzz with social conservatives. The long and consistent string of Democratic overperformances in special elections in the state, along with the clearing of the primary field for Edmondson, has led us to make a significant upgrade to Dem chances here. While Democrats do have much a greater chance to flip this seat than Oklahoma’s deep-red nature would indicate, Republicans remain relatively significant favorites based on the lean of the state. Until we get some polling, it’s thus hard to mark this race higher than the less-competitive end of the Lean R category.


Gov. Phil Scott (R) has posted sky-high approval ratings in his first year in office, and despite Vermont’s deep-blue nature and a possible Dem wave, looks to be in very strong position.  Vermont is well-known for a strong affinity for moderate Republicans and Scott fits that bill perfectly. As a result, no serious Democrats have declared for this race as of yet, though the lateness of the filing deadline in the Green Mountain state means there is still time for one to emerge. 2016 nominee Sue Minter (D) has been speculated as a potential contender, but has not made any concrete moves. It’s hard to mark Scott as terribly strong a favorite due to the deep-blue nature of his state, but Scott seems to be in just about as good a position as a Vermont Republican can be in as he seeks a second term.


Democrats have continually targeted Georgia as a state they believe demographic change will help them flip, but the state’s large inelastic conservative base, as well as its general election runoff provision in which 50% is required to win, make that a tough lift. This year, Democrats have a pair of candidates running for this open seat in State Reps. Stacey Abrams (D) and Stacey Evans (D) (in a sign of the changing nature of the state, both are women and not members of the Southern Men with Female Names Caucus!) While both are from suburban Atlanta, Abrams is black and quite liberal, while Evans is white and more moderate. Needless to say, Evans would likely be a stronger general election contender, but demographic destiny(!!!111!!) obsessed Dem primary voters have so far been more enthusiastic about Abrams. On the GOP side, four Republicans are facing off. LG Casey Cagle (R) and SoS Brian Kemp (R) are considered the front-runners; both are establishment conservatives with high name recognition and strong institutional connections. A pair of State Senators, Hunter Hill (R) and Michael Williams (R), are also in the race and attempting to run insurgent campaigns by flanking the front-runners, Hill as an upscale establishment conservative and Williams as a hardcore Trumpist. Overall there is no clear favorite between Cagle and Kemp, with Hill and Williams also having chances. Due to the lean of the state and the strong GOP field, we consider Republicans moderately strong favorites to hold the seat.


Gov. Doug Ducey (R) has been moderately popular in his first term. Though Democrats are enthusiastic about targeting Arizona this cycle after the state trended strongly left in 2016, the general consensus is that there are better opportunities on the statewide ballot for them than the Governor’s race, particularly in taking on the open Senate seat and a pair of unpopular and incompetent Row Officer incumbents, SoS Michele Reagan (R) and Superintendent Diane Douglas (R). As a result, most top-tier candidates have shunned taking on Ducey, and Democrats appear to be left with some “B” and “C” list options. State Sen. Steve Farley (D), who has held down a light-blue district in Tucson, looks like the front-runner for the Dem nomination, while 2014 Superintendent nominee David Garcia (D) is also in the race. Though an upset is possible if Ducey makes a mistake or a Dem wave intensifies, either Dem looks likely to be a decided underdog to the incumbent, who has solid if not overwhelming popularity, personal cash, and the lean of the state on his side.


Much like Hogan in Maryland, Gov. Charlie Baker (R) has succeeded in maintaining high popularity despite his deep-blue state by staying out of controversial national issues and fights with the legislature while building a brand as a competent bipartisan administrator. The dance is a bit easier for Baker in some ways though; while Hogan is better thought of as a conservative who knows where to pick battles, Baker is a genuine moderate that even liberal Democrats find easy to work with. Additionally, unlike Hogan, Baker has the benefit of a relatively elastic state that has elected Republicans to the Governorship in 5 of the last 7 elections. As a result, enthusiasm for giving Baker a tough challenge has been downright muted. For now Democrats’ most likely nominee is Newton mayor Setti Warren (D), a former Sen. John Kerry staffer who has been considered a rising star in some circles but looks decidedly “B” list relative to the huge Democratic bench in the state. Warren faces Gov. Patrick admin official Jay Gonzalez (D) and 1994 LG nominee Bob Massie (D) in the primary, with several other equally little-known candidates considering. Baker has precious little margin for error and a misstep could place him in a seriously competitive race, but for now we feel his chances for re-election are solid enough to merit calling him a fairly strong favorite for a second term.

New Hampshire

Newly-elected Gov. Chris Sununu (R) is off to a good start if you believe the first poll of the state, posting high approval ratings across the board. New Hampshire is a deep purple state and Sununu is still somewhat unproven, so he is still likely to net at least a somewhat serious challenger. One credible Democrat, Portsmouth mayor and 2016 candidate Steve Marchand (D), is in the race, though his 2016 primary run was unimpressive. Some other NH Dems are still considering. But overall the recent polling of the race leads us to suggest that Sununu will be in a good position approval-wise barring a new stumble, and we thus mark him as a fairly strong favorite.


The race takes the cake as the safest of all, because the odds of an all-Democratic race here are only going up. LG Gavin Newsom (D) is looking like the clear front-runner, with ex-LA mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D) in second. The divide between the two showcases northern vs. southern and upscale vs. downscale Democratic fissures. Two other Dems, State Treasurer John Chiang (D) and ex-State Superintendent Delaine Eastin (D), look like longer shots but could still have a chance to surprise. For now it looks like the most consequential issue in the race is if Newsom will face a Republican and get a free ride in the general, or Villaraigosa (or less likely, Chiang) can sneak into second. Republicans’ hopes for a statewide win in California remain all but nonexistent, not only due to its deep-blue nature and continued Democratic trend, but also because the state’s immense size makes gaining the name recognition to mount a credible bid incredibly costly. This year, three “B” to “C” list Republicans are running for Governor. Ex-Rep. Doug Ose (R) represented suburban Sacramento for three terms a decade and a half ago and is looking like a slight establishment favorite. State Rep. Travis Allen (R) could have some grassroots support, but he has little cash and a staunch conservative profile that is a tough statewide sell. And businessman and vanity presidential candidate John Cox (R) has enough money to be somewhat credible but is mostly known as a gadfly. The CAGOP’s task in this race is likely to unite behind one of them in the primary so that a Republican can advance to (and lose) the general and avert a D-on-D runoff that could be disastrous for GOP turnout and downballot Republicans-- though with three Republicans that task becomes even harder. With Republicans facing the serious threat of being boxed out of the general election entirely, this race now slips into the safest-of-all slot for Dems.
What's wrong with the analysis is that there is exactly ZERO consideration of an anti-Trump/anti-Republican wave. States most susceptible to red to blue flips because of a wave are Illinois, Nevada, Michigan, Kansas, Wisconsin, Ohio Florida, Iowa and Vermont-- and, depending on the independent situation Maine. More than just a little factor... but one that the right-wing would prefer to deny. It could even impact Georgia, Maryland, New Hampshire and Arizona.

Randy "IronStache" Bryce with Texas progressive gubernatorial candidate Tom Wakely



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