||U.S.: 2017-2018 Governors' Races - Where Power Is Most and Least Likely to Flip
||Thursday, January 05, 2017
Institution and HR Management
||Jan 09, 2017
It may be a bit on the early side to be handicapping the upcoming governors' races when all but two are basically two years away. But with Democrats now shut out of the White House and Congress, the large crop of gubernatorial races on tap in 2017 and 2018 has become crucial to the party’s survival as a significant player in American politics.
Unsurprisingly, the Democrats have a lot of ground to make up. Currently, the GOP holds a historically wide edge of 33-16 in gubernatorial offices, with one governor -- Alaska’s Bill Walker -- an independent.
The gubernatorial battleground in 2018 will be especially important because it offers Democrats the biggest potential haul of governorships in advance of the once-every-decade legislative and congressional redistricting process that will begin after the 2020 Census. In most states, governors play a role in redistricting, and with the Republicans currently controlling the majority of legislatures, the Democrats will need a seat at the table to avoid being drawn out of most of the maps.
The good news for the Democrats is that Republicans will have more governorships to defend over the next two years -- 27 to the Democrats’ 10.
Some additional good news is that for the first time since 2006, the Republicans will control the White House and Congress during a midterm election, when ballots are thick with gubernatorial races and when voters have a tendency to register their antagonism against the party that controls the White House.
The bad news for Democrats is that the actual playing field of competitive races -- at least judging by our handicapping -- is more limited.
Of the 36 gubernatorial seats up in 2017 and 2018, 14 do not currently seem vulnerable for the incumbent party. Of those 14 relatively safe seats, 11 are held by Republicans, which takes out of contention a big chunk of the GOP-held seats being contested over the next two years. By contrast, only three Democratic-held governorships -- California, Hawaii and New York -- are considered equally safe for the incumbent party in 2018.
All in all, though, there are more seats in the vulnerable category over the next two years than we found four years ago, when we placed just five seats in that category. A big reason for the increase is that a large number of governors are being term-limited out.
Currently, we’re rating 12 governorships as vulnerable for the incumbent party. Of these, seven are currently held by Republicans, and five are held by Democrats.
The vulnerable Republican open seats are in Florida, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey and New Mexico, while there’s a vulnerable Republican incumbent in Illinois.
The Democrats, for their part, have two vulnerable open seats -- Colorado and Virginia -- and they must defend three vulnerable incumbents in Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.
In a completely neutral environment, the Democrats should stand to gain a couple seats during the upcoming cycle. But the larger gains the party needs will require a combination of strong candidate recruiting -- a particular concern in such states as Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin -- and a strong voter backlash against the stewardship of Donald Trump and congressional Republicans.
Both are plausible, but neither is a slam-dunk for the party.
We’ve also judged 10 races to be potentially vulnerable. Seven are Republican-held seats in Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Ohio and Wisconsin; two are Democratic (Minnesota and Oregon); and one is an independent seat held by Alaska’s Bill Walker.
Before we delve in, a few notes:
- Vulnerability, in our ratings, does not mean an incumbent governor is at risk of losing a primary contest -- only a general election.
- As usual, our handicapping is based on consultations with multiple experts in the states that have upcoming races, as well as national party strategists.
- Within the vulnerable and potentially vulnerable categories, the states are listed in descending order of vulnerability. In the safe category, the states are listed alphabetically.
- Later in the cycle, after the possible matchups have come into clearer focus, we will identify states as safe Republican, likely Republican, lean Republican, tossup, lean Democratic, likely Democratic and safe Democratic.
- We aren’t rating the two states -- New Hampshire and Vermont -- that hold gubernatorial elections every two years.
What follows are summaries of the 36 gubernatorial races for 2017 and 2018 -- and how likely they are to flip power...(Pls click http://www.governing.com/topics/elections/gov-2017-2018-governors-races-predictions.html)