New Quinnipiac and Marist Polls show a sharp turn against Donald Trump in battleground Midwest states, crucial to the Democratic Party’s chances to keep their Senate seats and gain at least two to have a majority, as well as undermine Donald Trump for the 2020 Presidential election. Other polling estimates also show great promise for Democrats at this point.
The polls indicate a 12 point advantage for Democrats in key races for Congress, and the Midwest heartland is particularly showing evidence that Senate seats being defended are in good shape with a bit more than 100 days to the midterm elections on November 6. The House seats look promising too for Democrats to gain a majority, but the problem of Republican gerrymandering after the 2010 midterm elections remains a challenge in many areas of the nation. Governorships are also extremely important with the 2020 census and reapportionment of seats in Congress and the state legislatures on the horizon.
Women have become candidates in much larger numbers than ever before, and young people and minorities, and suburban whites all seem ready to take action to make Congress and President Trump accountable for the reprehensible behavior of the Republican Party in the past 18 months and earlier years.
No one can afford to be lax about voting, as only voting can change things, and yet, there is concerning evidence already that the Russians are again engaged in interference in midterm elections in several states. Just today, it was made clear that Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill had had interference by Russian attempts to undermine her close reelection contest.
We must be vigilant, and it is a crime that Trump and the Republicans in charge of Congress refuse to allocate extra funding to work against Russian interference.
It is also outrageous that Trump is now stating that he thinks there is interference, and that the Russians are trying to work against him and help the Democrats, a totally preposterous concept.
Since 1994, the second year of the presidency of Democratic incumbent Bill Clinton, the outcomes of elections for U.S. House ran parallel to the gubernatorial elections. The Democrats won their majority control, for both U.S. House and state governorships, for a four-year period effective 2006. So, from 2007 to 2010, the U.S. House and the majority count of state governorships were in the column for the Democrats. The other 20 yearsâ€”1995 to 2006 and 2011 to (so far) 2018â€”have been in the column for the Republicans.
If it turns out the 2018 U.S. House flips Democratic, and the U.S. Senate does likewise (because, with exception of 2010, in the other midterm elections of 1946, 1954, 1994, and 2006 they both flipped), then the majority count of state governorships should do the same. (Note: The 2014 Republicans won the U.S. Popular Vote, for Governor, by +4.09. I anticipate the 2018 result to be an estimate of Democrats by +6. That would be a roughly 10-point Democratic shift.)
I have been looking at polls indicating the Democrats, with 16 governorships in their column (this follows the November 2017 pickup of New Jersey), and the indication is they will gain but not win over a sufficient number of pickups. The Democrats need to flip +10.
Looking back to 1994 (Republican pickup), 2006 (Democratic pickup), and 2010 (Republican pickup), I want to cite how many examples did the minority party, heading into those midterm elections, lose any of their governorships while flipping for an overall new majority. In 1994, when the Republicans had 20 going in, they flipped 11 but lost Maine (to independent Angus King, who is now in the U.S. Senate and caucuses with the Democrats). In 2006, the Democrats had 22 going in and won pickups of 6 while not losing a single party-held governorship. (They achieved that as well with the U.S. House.) In 2010, with the Republicans having won over a new majority, there was quite a twist. They had 23 going in (Arizona switched from Democrat Janet Napolitano to Republican Jan Brewer as the former became Homeland secretary under the presidency of Democrat Barack Obama). The Republicans won a net gain of 6. But, they actually flipped 12 while the Democrats counter-flipped 4.
(I want to note that all the 2006 Democratic governors, first elected as pickup winners in 2002, won re-elections with stronger margins. I anticipate 2014 Democratic pickup winner Tom Wolfe will win 2018 re-election from Pennsylvania with a margin exceeding his previous +9.86. Colorado, on a Democratic roll since 2006, will likely elect nominee Jared Polis with a margin which exceeds the 2014 re-election of John Hickenlooperâ€™s +3.35 due to a national wave favoring this partyâ€”and Colorado having gone from Barack Obamaâ€™s No. 23 to Hillary Clintonâ€™s No. 16 best-performed state in percentage-points margins at the presidential level. Colorado, along with its best companion state Virginia, is now a blue state.)
In 2018, do I think any of the Democratic-held governorships will flip Republican? No. There was potential with Connecticut. But, itâ€™s wise that Dan Malloy, so severely unpopular, is not running for re-election. Oregonâ€™s Kate Brown and Rhode Islandâ€™s Gina Raimondo, a 2014 Democratic pickup winner (after 2010 independent pickup winner Lincoln Chafee, who is now affiliated with the Democratic Party), have vulnerabilities but, due to a national wave here in 2018, they should prevail. (Oregon has not elected a Republican to its governorship since 1982.)
So, the Democrats head into the 2018 midterm elections with 16 state governorships. To win over a new majority of at least 26, they will need a pickup of +10. Where would that happen? I would first start with all currently in the Democratic column getting retained. The 2014 Republican-to-2018 Democratic pickups should happen with (based on current anticipation along with estimation):
17) Illinois â€” Republican incumbent Bruce Rauner, severely unpopular and who won his 2014 pickup with a margin of +3.92, will get unseated by Democratic nominee J.B. Pritzker. A Top 10 populous state, a midterm national wave against the Republican Party, Rauner is pretty much considered a Dead Man Walking. What would make 2018 Illinois very interesting is that this would mark the second consecutive unseating of its incumbent governor.
18) Maine â€” Term-limited Republican Paul LePage, who won his 2014 re-election by +3.81, is the perfect type of incumbent to get succeeded by a winner from the opposition party.
19) New Mexico â€” Term-limited Susana Martinez in a state which has elected White House opposition governors since 1990. New Mexico is consistently rated as a Likely Democratic pickup.
20) Michigan â€” Term-limited Rick Snyder, who won his 2010 pickup by +18.21 was re-elected in 2014 by +4.06, is the type of incumbent (Flint still doesnâ€™t have clean water!) to usher in a successor from the opposition party. Latest polls show likely Democratic nominee Gretchen Whitmer, who was born seven days after me (on August 23, 1971), is ahead of likely Republican nominee Bill Schuette by a margin near +10. This would indicate a 2014-to-2018 Democratic shift, for Governor of Michigan, of more than +10. With the exception of 1990, Michigan has been electing White House opposition governors since 1978. I think 2018 will be a continuation of that pattern.
21) Nevada â€”Term-limited Brian Sandoval in a state whose scheduled U.S. Senate seat will likely flip from Republican incumbent Dean Heller getting unseated to Democratic nominee Jackie Rosen. (Key county: Washoe, with its county seat Reno. Barack Obama and Dean Heller carried Nevada, in 2012, because of Washoe County. I anticipate Rosen, unseating Heller, will flip that county while she unseats him.) Nevada Democrats have not won the governorship since its longest-serving governor, Bob Miller, won his second-term re-election in 1994. (His first year of service was 1989.) Nevada is consistently rated as a tossup. So, it looks like the drought is about to end.
22) Wisconsin â€” Republican incumbent Scott Walker, re-elected in 2014 by +5.57 and seeking a third term, is trailing in polls to likely Democratic challenger Tony Evers.
23) Ohio â€” Republican nominee Mike DeWine, who has won in Ohio for several offices, is facing Democratic nominee Richard Cordray in a tossup following Republican incumbent John Kasichâ€™s 2014 re-election margin of +30.61. (Kasich won so big he even carried Cuyahoga County, with its county seat Cleveland.) Prior polls had DeWine the likely winner. But recent developmentsâ€”meaning the national picture for U.S. House and U.S. Senate to go along with state governorshipsâ€”have put Governor of Ohio into play. It is a tossup.
24) Iowa â€” Republican incumbent Kay Reynolds inherited the office from Terry Branstadt, re-elected in 2014 by +21.72, who is now Ambassador to China under the presidency of Republican incumbent Donald Trump. This stateâ€™s 2018 election, in which Reynolds faces Democratic nominee Fred Hubbell, has turned Iowa into a tossup.
25) Florida â€” Rated by Larry Sabatoâ€™s â€œCrystal Ballâ€ as a tossup, Iâ€™m weary of it because the state Democrats, very badly in need of reform, have been known to blow winnable statewide elections. The last Democratic gubernatorial victory was Lawton Chiles in the 1994 Republican midterm wave, beating back Republican challenger Jeb Bush, to win his second term before his death in December 1998. So, itâ€™s been more than two decades since the No. 3 populous state elected a governor affiliated with the Democratic Party. That is not good coming from a leading presidential bellwether state (since 1928).
26) Maryland â€” Republican incumbent Larry Hogan, who is popular enough to possibly hold up in a midterm wave election against his party, faces Democratic nominee and former NAACP president Ben Jealous. Hogan had been heavily favored to win re-election. But recent polls are showing Hogan to be more vulnerable because of a national midterm wave taking shape against his Republican Party. This is the first state I have listed which is rated in the Lean Republican hold column. Maryland could be, should the Democratic Party win over a new majority count of state governorships, the gubernatorial tipping point state of 2018.
27) New Hampshire â€” Republican incumbent Chris Sununu in a state whose gubernatorial elections are held every two years. I am not confident rating it at No. 27. I may need to slide it down. But, the following trio of states also have their uncertainties.
28) Arizona â€” On a pattern of electing White House opposition party governors since 1994, recent polls show Republican incumbent Doug Ducey, first elected in 2014, is now vulnerable to seeing the state possibly flip Democratic. It is likely Arizona will be a pickup state next time the Democrats flip the presidencyâ€”so this is one to watch over the. next three months. (Key county: Maricopa County, with its county seat Phoenix. It spotted 2008 John McCain and 2012 Mitt Romney +2 points in excess of their margins. In 2016, it underperformed for Donald Trump, who Arizona by +3.50 and Maricopa County by +2.84. Democratic pickup of the state will likely include Democratic pickup of Maricopa County.)
29) Georgia â€” It follows Arizona by about a couple percentage points, for being within reach for Democrats, at the presidential level. A dramatic national blue wave makes it feasible for Democratic nominee Stacy Abrams to beat Republican nominee Brian Kemp and win a Democratic pickup of Georgia. If that happens, and in a state which last elected a Democrat in 1998, the Democrats will have definitely won a new majority pickup of state governorships. (A big help to Abrams is that losing 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won Democratic pickups in a trio of Georgia counties last in the partyâ€™s column for Jimmy Carter: Cobb County, with its county seat Marietta; Gwinnett County, with its county seat Lawrenceville; and Henry County, with its county seat McDonough. If Abrams wins, in a state that carried for Donald Trump by +5.10, those counties will carry for Abramsâ€”and likely by stronger margins than experienced by Hillary Clinton.)
30) Kansas â€” An underrated state which has been electing White House opposition party governors since 1990. â€œCrystal Ballâ€ has this in Lean Republican hold while some northeast states are more heavily favored as Republican holds.
*** BEYOND 30 ***
If the Democrats flip a new majority count of governorships, they may have to reach without some states one would figure would naturally flip Democratic. Two such examples are New England states. Vermont, with Phil Scott a 2016 Republican pickup winner, has its gubernatorial elections every two years. Scottâ€™s approval ratings took a dip, just recently, but his chances for re-election are rated as Safe [Republican hold]. Massachusettsâ€™s Charlie Baker, a 2014 Republican pickup winner, has a strong approval rating and is heavily favored for re-election from a state not on a pattern of electing governors from the White House opposition party.
Normally, I would include Oklahoma, which has its White House opposition party outcomes since 1990 but, despite term-limited Republican incumbent Mary Fallin, it is rated as a Likely Republican hold. Tennessee, which I think will see its Republican-held U.S. Senate seat (retiring Bob Corker) flip Democratic for the stateâ€™s 48th governor Phil Bredesen (elections in 2002 and 2006), has elected White House opposition party governors since 1986. Well, patterns donâ€™t go on forever. For example: New York was on the opposition party elections pattern for during the 1980s (three for Mario Cuomo during the Republican presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George Bush) and the 1990s (the first two of three for George Pataki won during the Democratic presidencies of Bill Clinton). New York broke that streak in 2002, yes, but definitely more so beginning in 2010 (with Andrew Cuomo winning Term Nos. 1 and 2 during the presidency of fellow Democrat Barack Obama).
For Vermont, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, and Tennessee to flip Democraticâ€”well, that would mean the Democrats would win over a new majority in which their new number of state governorships are in the 30s. When it comes to this quartet, I would rate their likely 2014 [Republican]-to-2018 [Democratic] flips as: 31) Tennessee; 32) Vermont; 33) Oklahoma; 34) Massachusetts.
Over the next three months, this can change. I perceive the national polls for U.S. House, the races for U.S. Senate, and these 36 scheduled gubernatorial elections (9 of which are from the Top 10 populous states) to be worth monitoring to continue getting a good idea what is liable to become the results come Election Day.
Thanks once again, D, for your wonderful, insightful analyses of the upcoming gubernatorial races, which I plan to comment on over the next few months!
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