Governor Ratings: GOP Headed For Big Wins; Fla. And Calif. Are In Dem Reach

With two weeks to go, it looks like the GOP will wind up with a majority of the nation's 50 governorships; the present lineup is 26 D, 24 R.  At least nine governors currently represented by Democrats are likely to end up in Republican hands.  Right now I see Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Wyoming switching to the GOP, and the possibility remains that Illinois, Maine, Ohio and Oregon could join them.

Check out ratings for Senate and House matchups, as well as how other political watchers are calling the races.

But Democrats look poised to win back the governorships in five states — Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota, Rhode Island and Vermont — with California and Florida no worse than even to do so as well.

Here's some recent observations:

California:  This is still a tossup race, but in the controversies over "Nannygate" (the undocumented immigrant who spent nine years working for Meg Whitman's family until she was fired in 2009) and "Whoregate" (a member of the Jerry Brown campaign suggested the word "whore" be thrown at Whitman for her dealings with a labor union), Brown seems to have come out on top.  The contretemps came at a time when momentum was seemingly headed in Whitman's direction.  Still tossup, slight lean to Brown.

Colorado:  If anything, the story here may be that Tom Tancredo, the former Republican congressman and presidential candidate who is running on a third party line, may finish ahead of the GOP nominee, Dan Maes.  NPR's Jeff Brady says that it is not out of the realm of possibility that Maes could finish with under ten percent of the vote, making the GOP officially a "minor" party in the Centennial State.  The Democratic nominee, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, is all but assured of winning.

Florida:  What I came away with most during my two-day visit to Tallahassee last week is that Republican Rick Scott and Democrat Alex Sink are two flawed candidates in a dead heat.  Scott seems to be a better and more relaxed campaigner, but he has serious baggage from his former stint as CEO of a hospital chain that paid a $1.7 billion fine for Medicare fraud.  If "change" is the operative word in Florida, Scott, the anti-politician/first-time candidate/Tea Party favorite, wins.  If it's about ethics and trustworthiness, Sink wins.

Georgia:  People tell me that if this were any other year, Roy Barnes (D) beats Nathan Deal (R) and wins his old job back.  But not in a year with everything going the GOP's way.  I'm still keeping this as a Tossup, for now.

Maine:  There seems to be a surge for independent candidate Eliot Cutler in a state that has elected two independent governors over the past quarter century.  But for the most part, Cutler is advancing at the expense of the Democratic nominee, Elizabeth Mitchell ... which could elect GOP candidate Paul LePage.  Tossup for now, with slight advantage for LePage.

New Mexico: Republican Susana Martinez has opened up a slight lead over Democratic Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, who has served with term-limited (and now unpopular) Gov. Bill Richardson for eight years.

New YorkCarl Paladino (R) makes great copy but this race is nowhere to being competitive.  State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo (D), hardly Mr. Popular, wins this going away.

Ohio:  There is a sense that Gov. Ted Strickland (D), on the losing end of polls in his battle with former Rep. John Kasich (R), may be closing the gap.  But even with Kasich up for most of the year, I had this as a Tossup, and it stays there for now.

Oregon:  Can former NBA player Chris Dudley (R) really be making a race out of it with former Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber (D)?  That's what polls say but it's hard to fathom.  Nonetheless, I'm moving this from Democrat Favored to Tossup.  But I still think Kitzhaber wins.

Texas:  Democrats are giddy about the chances of former Houston Mayor Bill White.  I do think the race is within single digits but that Gov. Rick Perry wins again.

Here are my latest ratings of the 37 gubernatorial races up on Nov. 2, my first such ratings since August 25:

SAFE DEMOCRATIC (3): Arkansas (Mike Beebe), Colorado (open — Bill Ritter retiring), New York (open — David Paterson retiring).

DEMOCRAT FAVORED (3): Maryland (Martin O'Malley), Massachusetts (Deval Patrick), New Hampshire (John Lynch).

TOSSUP DEM SEATS (4): Illinois (Pat Quinn), Maine (open — John Baldacci term limited), Ohio (Ted Strickland), Oregon (open — Ted Kulongoski term limited).

EXPECTED DEM LOSSES (9): Iowa (Chet Culver), Kansas (open — Mark Parkinson retiring), Michigan (open — Jennifer Granholm term limited), New Mexico (open — Bill Richardson term limited), Oklahoma (open — Brad Henry term limited), Pennsylvania (open — Ed Rendell term limited), Tennessee (open — Phil Bredesen term limited), Wisconsin (open — Jim Doyle retiring), Wyoming (open — Dave Freudenthal term limited).

EXPECTED GOP LOSSES (5): Connecticut (open — Jodi Rell retiring), Hawaii (open — Linda Lingle term limited), Minnesota (open — Tim Pawlenty retiring), Rhode Island (open — Don Carcieri term limited)*, Vermont (open — Jim Douglas retiring).

TOSSUP GOP SEATS (3): California (open — Arnold Schwarzenegger term limited), Florida (open — Charlie Crist leaving to run for Senate), Georgia (open — Sonny Perdue term limited),

REPUBLICAN FAVORED (7): Alabama (open — Bob Riley term limited), Alaska (Sean Parnell), Arizona (Jan Brewer), Nevada (open — Jim Gibbons defeated in primary), South Carolina (open — Mark Sanford term limited), South Dakota (open — Mike Rounds term limited), Texas (Rick Perry).

SAFE REPUBLICAN (3): Idaho (Butch Otter), Nebraska (Dave Heineman), Utah special (Gary Herbert).

*Rhode Island: Former GOP Sen. Lincoln Chafee is running for governor as an independent and has a shot at winning. But in either event, the Republicans will not retain the governorship.

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