COUNTRYWATCH SPECIAL REPORT: USA ELECTION 2008
by Dr. Denise Youngblood Coleman, Editor-in-Chief
6. Election 2008: Governors' Races
At the start of 2007, there were Democratic governors in 28 states and Republican governors in 22 states.
In a recent gubernatorial race, the Republican governor of Kentucky, Fletcher, was trounced by Democrat Beshear, in what could only be described as a blowout landslide victory.
In 2008, there are 11 gubernatorial races at stake in: Delaware, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, New Hampshire, Utah, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia.
The Republican incumbents in North Dakota (John Hoeven) and Utah (John Hunstman Jr.) enjoy high approval ratings and are expected to win re-election handily. Hoeven in North Dakota is expected to trounce his Democratic opponent, Mathern; Huntsman Jr. will ravage his Democratic opponent, Springmayer.
The Republican incumbent in Vermont (Jim Douglas) may have a more complicated road to victory since he is competing against two more left-leaning rivals in a very liberal state. The conventional wisdom includes the assumption that Douglas will benefit from the bruising contest for liberal voters between Democratic nominee Symington and Progressive candidate Pollina. Thus, the split liberal vote could help him sail to victory. However, if Douglas fails to secure an absolute majority, the election will be decided in the Democratic state legislature. There, he would have to hope that, as before in 2002, the legislature will choose to ratify the candidate winning the plurality of votes.
Likewise, the Democratic incumbents in Montana (Brian Schweitzer), New Hampshire (John Lynch) and West Virginia (Joe Manchin) all enjoy high approval ratings and are also expected to sail to easy re-election victories.
In Montana, the popular Schweitzer is expected to ride the blue wave in the mountain west to re-election victory against Republican rival Brown. Lynch will handily defeat his Republican rival Kenny in a state that also looks to vote Democratic in the senatorial and presidential races as well. Manchin will win easily against his Republican rival Weeks, despite a scandal involving his daughter.
In Indiana, incumbent Mitch Daniels does not enjoy the best approval ratings. The state typically leans Republican, which would ordinarily give Daniels a bit of an edge. However, the economy in Indiana is suffering and this factor is expected to highly influence unhappy voters. Indeed, this reliably red state is moving into battleground territory in the presidential race, which could have deleterious effects on down ballot contenders like Daniels. That said, Daniels' Democratic rival, Long Thompson, has run an inept and badly-funded campaign. Consequently, Daniels' fortunes might be helped by the fact that he is running against a flawed opponent.
A similar story was unfolding in Missouri where the Republican incumbent (Blunt) was impaired by low approval ratings. With Blunt deciding to retire instead of facing a likely loss, the Republican on the ballot was set to be Hulsof. However, unlike Daniels in Indiana, Hulsof is faced with a strong Democratic contender -- Nixon. The state has trended Republican in the last presidential races, but elected a Democratic Senator in 2006. A month ahead of the election, this state is turning into a battleground in the presidential race, which could have deleterious effects on down ballot contenders like Hulsof. At this point, the slight advantage in Missouri would have to reside with the Democrat (Nixon).
In North Carolina, the Democratic contender Perdue has managed to raise healthy amounts of cash. With outgoing Democratic Governor Easley leaving office with high approval ratings, it would seem that this race would tilt Democratic. However, the theme of change, which appears to be resonating strongly in this typically red state, has turned the conventional wisdom on its head. Up ballot, the Democratic presidential nominee is polling shockingly well and has turned this state into a battleground while down ballot, the Republican candidate for governor, McCrory, is launching a strong challenge against Perdue. This state is a true toss up across the board.
Delaware is likely to go to a Democrat, with two strong candidates competing in the primary (Carney and Markell), and with no “A-list” candidate on the Republican side.
Washington presents a re-match of the 2004 race between now-incumbent Democratic Governor Gregoire and Republican opponent Rossi. Gregoire barely won the race in 2004 and was not viewed as a terribly popular governor. However, she has enjoyed legislative success as well as incumbency, which has translated into a likely advantage at the polls for the Democrat. Gregoire is expected to eke out another slim victory over Rossi.
CountryWatch accordingly projects that the current Current 6 (Democratic) to 5 (Republican) split is expected to prevail. That said, CountryWatch does not foreclose the possibility that the Democrats may add another governorship to their column from Missouri resulting in a 7-4 split in the 2008 races. However, this may be offset by a win for the Republican contender in North Carolina.
With Missouri falling to the Democrats and all other races maintaining the status quo, there was a 7 (Democratic) to 4 (Republican) split in the governors' races at stake. Thus, across the country, there are Democratic governors in 29 states and Republican governors in 21 states as of November 2008.
Click on the following links to get to other sections of the Special Election Report --
1. The Road to the White House: Landscape and Issues
2. Presidential Race: Presidential Primaries
3. Presidential Race: General Election
4. Congressional Elections: The Senate
5. Congressional Elections: The House of Representatives
6. Governors Races