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Governor ‘08 at Campaign Diaries
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These are the last gubernatorial rankings of the 2008 cycle, published on November 3rd; earlier rankings are available here.

Likely take-over (1 R)

1. Missouri (Open)

Attorney General Jay Nixon was always expected to win this race, but the ease with which he is stream-rolling Republican congressman Kenny Hulshof is remarkable given that Missouri is certainly no easy state for Democrats to win in. Nixon’s lead in polls typically exceeds 15%, and Hulshof’s best efforts to dismiss him as too far to the left have not made a dent in polls.

Toss-up (2 D)

2. North Carolina (Open)

Who knew that North Carolina’s top three statewide races would all be rated toss-ups - the only state in the country that is in such a position. Just as Republicans John McCain and Elizabeth Dole were expected to have an edge in the presidential and senatorial races, Democratic Lieutenant Governor Beverly Perdue (or Bev Perdue, as ballots will be marked) looked favor to keep the governorship in Democratic hands. But Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory is proving to be a strong candidate for Republicans. McCrory is pounding Perdue on ethical issues, seeking to make an issue of the Democrats’ hold on state government and corruption scandals that have erupted over the years. While Perdue has never been involved in any, she has been working in state government for decades and McCrory is hoping to take advantage of that by directly referencing the “culture of corruption” and hitting Perdue as part of the “power elite.”

Meanwhile, and in a telling sign that North Carolina is not as reliably conservative as some might expect, Perdue is not hesitating to duplicate the strategic blueprint Democrats have been using in bluer parts of the country. She is hitting McCrory for his support of Bush’s agenda and for benefiting from Bush’s help - and she is also invoking social issues by running ads against McCrory hitting him on stem cells. Those spots have led to some of the toughest exchanges of the race, and McCrory accused Perdue of exploiting the sick for political purposes. The latest polls are showing a dead heat, with a number of surveys finding McCrory holding an edge. But the only surveys that have found McCrory leading outside of the margin of error have also shown McCain leading comfortably, suggesting that McCrory’s fate is dependent on a strong result at the top of the ticket - and the fact that Obama has a far superior ground game and has registered thousands of new Democratic-leaning voters could make the difference in Perdue’s favor if the election remains close.

3. Washington (Gov. Gregoire)

It seemed likely that Christine Gregoire would be able to rely on the advantage of incumbency in a blue state in a Democratic year to take a decisive advantage over Dino Rossi. Instead, the contest looks just as tight as it did four years ago - so tight, in fact, that SUSA’s surveys have found the margin to be within the MoE for eight polls in a row. Other pollsters also find a dead heat. All of this points to the simple fact that Gregoire remains eminently vulnerable, and that she was not able to fully legitimize herself after her controversial 2004 victory on a second recount. Her fate largely depends on the national environment on Election Day, as a Democratic breeze would likely be enough to push her across the finish line. Rossi needs the GOP brand to improve a bit, and he is fully aware that the biggest obstacle to his election is his party label. That is why he has gotten to be listed on the ballot as “GOP party” rather than as “Republican.” Democrats sued against Rossi’s maneuver, but a judge just ruled in Rossi’s favor.

Likely retention (2 R)

4. Indiana (Gov. Daniels)

You can’t blame Democrats for having high hopes for toppling Mitch Daniels. The incumbent was so unpopular two years ago that he contributed to the state GOP’s catastrophic results in the 2006 midterms. And polls throughout the spring showed Daniels locked in a dead heat against the two Democrats who were vying to oppose him. But it looks like the May 6th primary was the high point of Jill Long Thompson’s campaign. She is now in a difficult position financially and she was recently forced to close some offices and cancel TV advertising for at least an entire week of September. And Daniels has opened a decisive lead in the polls of the past few months, usually above the 50% vulnerability threshold. An upset is still possible - particularly if Democratic turnout is much higher than expected - but Daniels is far stronger than anyone could have expected a few months ago.

5. Vermont (Gov. Douglas)

In this three-way race in which independent candidate Anthony Pollina could very well come ahead of Democratic nominee Gay Symington, Republican Governor Jim Douglas is guaranteed to finish first. Yet, a quirk in state law complicates the situation: If no candidate crosses 50%, the election will be thrown into the legislature, controlled by Democrats. The legislature is likely to follow the will of voters and elect whichever candidate comes out on top (as they did in 2002), but nothing prevents them from seating Symington.

Safe
6. Delaware (Open)
The Democratic nomination opposing the Lieutenant Governor and the state Treasurer looked like it would essentially serve as the contest’s general election, and Treasurer Jack Markell prevailed in that contest. He now faces a little known Republican, and the one public poll of the race confirms Markell has little to fear.

7. Montana (Gov. Schweitzer)

Brian Schweitzer marked the first step of the Democratic resurgence in the West, and he remains very popular.

8. West Virginia (Gov. Manchin)

Manchin is a fixture of West Virginia politics, and he remains popular. The state might have trended Republican at the presidential level over the past decade, but the local GOP is a mess and has no bench.

9. New Hampshire (Gov. Lynch)

New Hampshire has gubernatorial elections every two years. Gov. Lynch won re-election in 2006 with 74% of the vote, and the only question is whether he will beat that result.

10. North Dakota (Gov. Hoeven)

One of the most popular Republican governors in the country is running for re-election in one of its most conservative states. Democrats have had success in statewide races (both Senators are Democrats) but they aren’t even dreaming of unseating Hoeven.

11. Utah (Gov. Huntsman) See North Dakota. Minus the part about Democrats having occasional statewide success.


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