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It is now clear that when the dust settles on Nov. 8, Democrats will find themselves holding a majority of governorships for the first time since the 1994 midterm elections, when Democratic ranks across the nation were decimated.
While Republicans currently hold 28 of the nation’s 50 governorships, Democrats are likely to gain from four to six. If they net as many as four, they should hold a majority of governorships for at least the next two years.
Governorships become particularly important toward the end of a decade, of course, because of the role some governors play in redistricting, as well as in the presidential nominating process.
One big-state GOP governorship, New York, already seems to have slipped away, and another, Ohio, is in serious danger of doing so. I’d be surprised if Republicans win either race.
Republican Govs. George Pataki of New York and Bob Taft of Ohio are widely unpopular at home, and voters in those states appear inclined to vote for change by electing Democrats — state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer in New York and Rep. Ted Strickland in Ohio.
While Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell is trying to run as a candidate of change, he is still the GOP nominee and represents continuity with the Taft administration and with President Bush more than he stands as a vehicle for change.
Four other states that currently have Republican governors now seem more likely than not to elect Democratic governors.
Gov. Bob Ehrlich has an uphill, though not impossible, battle for re-election in very Democratic Maryland, while three other states with GOP governors — Arkansas, Massachusetts and Colorado — are more likely to elect Democratic than Republican governors.
Four other races — Alaska, Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan — fall into a broad “too close to call” category.
While Republicans once appeared likely to lose the top job in Alaska, the primary victory of former Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin gives Republicans a chance to hold the state’s top job against Democrat Tony Knowles, a former two-term governor. Knowles lost his bid for the Senate in 2004, and his two victories for governor occurred under unusual circumstances.
In Wisconsin, Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle’s administration has had ethics issues to deal with, and the governor’s leadership skills are being questioned. As a result, Doyle’s job ratings are poor. Rep. Mark Green (R), who is giving up a safe Congressional seat to run for his state’s top job, is running about even with Doyle in polls and delivering the same successful “change” message that is being delivered by Democrats nationwide.
Another Republican Member of Congress who’s giving up his seat to run for governor, Rep. Jim Nussle, finds himself in a tight race against Iowa Secretary of State Chet Culver (D). Nussle earned a reputation as a tough campaigner while in the House, but he’s finding the going a bit rougher than expected this year.