Six Governors Races to Watch on Tuesday
WASHINGTON — For months talk of the 2022 midterms has centered on who will control the House and Senate, and how the outcome will shape the remainder of President Joe Biden’s current term in office.
The focus was no different this past weekend, as three of the six living presidents delivered closing messages on behalf of their parties.
“Sulking and moping is not an option,” former President Barack Obama said as he shared a stage in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with Biden.
It was the first time the former running mates had campaigned together since Biden took office, and both were in town to boost the prospects of Democratic Senate candidate Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman.
“On Tuesday, let’s make sure our country doesn’t get set back 50 years,” Obama said.
Meanwhile, at a rally in Latrobe, in western Pennsylvania, former President Donald Trump was doing his best to bolster the prospect of Republican Senate hopeful Dr. Mehmet Oz.
“If you want to stop the destruction of our country and save the American dream, then on Tuesday you must vote Republican in a giant red wave,” Trump told his supporters.
He went on to describe the United States as “a country in decline.”
On Sunday, Biden was set to campaign in suburban New York, while Trump was headed to Florida.
Given all the muscle being put into the federal election, it is almost easy to forget that Republicans and Democrats are also waging bare-knuckle, all-out battles to seize control of dozens of governors’ mansions across the country.
In all, 20 governorships currently held by Republicans are being contested, as are 16 currently held by Democrats.
As is the case in the races in the U.S. House and Senate, however, only a few are seen as being significant pickups for either side.
Below are some of the governors races to watch on Tuesday:
New York was once easy to figure out. With nearly 8.5 million of New York State’s 19.8 million residents living in deeply blue New York City, the advantage has almost always skewed to the Democrats.
A rare exception was in 1994 when Republican George Pataki, then a first-term state senator from Westchester County, defeated incumbent Democrat Gov. Mario Cuomo, who was then seeking his fourth term in office and who for years had been considered a possible presidential contender.
Pataki racked up several high-profile Republican endorsements during his race, including those of then-Sen. Al D’Amato and New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, but few believed the low-key GOP pol had any chance against the entrenched and much-better financed opponents.
That’s why election night proved a stunner when Pataki finished with 48.8% of the vote to Cuomo’s 45.5%, and Independence Party candidate Tom Golisano finished with 4.2%.
He would go on to win two more terms before retiring in 2006 and being succeeded by Democrat Eliot Spitzer.
In some respects, this year’s contest appears to mirror 1994. Until recently, Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul has held all the advantages enjoyed by Cuomo in his last electoral contest — her lead over her Republican opponent, Long Island Rep. Lee Zeldin was well into the double digits, her cash advantage overwhelming, and her electoral edge formidable: Democratic voters in New York still outnumber Republican voters by a margin of 2-to-1.
Nobody, however, appears to have told that to Zeldin, who has made significant gains in support across the state in the race’s closing weeks, at a time when those monitoring the national contests say there is growing Republican enthusiasm across the country.
If some of the major recent polls are correct, Hochul is now leading Zeldin by only 4 percentage points, well within the margin of error.
Why has this happened? The Well News got a taste of the electorate’s sentiments during a visit to Manhattan in September. Though interviews with cabbies and Uber drivers and random store owners might not be as scientific as some measures, they revealed a general sense of malaise about the Democrats — largely due to negative feelings about former New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, whom many described as “complacent” and “lazy.”
There also was a consistent concern over the rising crime rate in the city, and many complained they were still reeling from the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, an impact now compounded by surging inflation.
Of Eric Adams, the new Democratic mayor of New York, the majority of those The Well News spoke to said they were content to “wait and see” and to “give him a chance,” but no one expressed strong support for either Adams or his party.
In a head-to-head debate last Tuesday, Zeldin repeatedly sought to appeal to these voters, hammering away at Democrats’ handling of the economy and crime.
Against this background, many Democrats in the state have grown uneasy in recent days, fearing Hochul has not done enough to excite the party’s liberal base.
That’s one reason Biden campaigned with the governor on Sunday, appearing alongside Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and other prominent Democrats at a last-minute event much more typical for a swing state like Pennsylvania than New York.
And this on the heels of appearances Hochul has made in recent days with former President Bill Clinton, former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Zeldin has also had his share of high-profile Republican surrogates, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin.
One big name who has not campaigned on Zeldin’s behalf is former President Donald Trump, who continues to be deeply unpopular in his former home state.
At one point during The Well News’ informal survey, a taxicab rolled past Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue. “And this guy,” the driver said unprovoked, gesturing to the building. “People here still can’t believe he was ever president.”
Really? The driver was asked.
“I’ve driven in New York for 30 years,” he said. “Most people I’ve heard talk about him think he’s a buffoon.”
Despite Democrats’ concerns, FiveThirtyEight.com rated New York State “solidly Democratic,” with Hochul forecast to receive 56% of the vote and Zeldin, 44%. Sabato’s Crystal Ball, out of the University of Virginia Center for Politics rates the state “likely Democratic,” as does the nonpartisan The Cook Political Report.
With Republican incumbent Gov. Doug Ducey barred from running for reelection by term limits, the race here is between former local news anchor Kari Lake, a Republican, and Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs.
Lake, who has received Trump’s endorsement, is an unrepentant MAGA Republican who continues to claim the 2020 election was stolen and that Biden is therefore an illegitimate president.
She also has taken a hard line on abortion, refusing to commit to exception in Arizona’s anti-abortion laws for victims of rape and incest. Lake has also controversially suggested that stricter abortion laws will put more rapists in jail.
Hobbs, a centrist Democrat, rose to prominence in the state by certifying the state’s results in the 2020 election, even as Trump and his supporters continued to peddle baseless claims of widespread voting fraud.
In recent days Republicans have grown increasingly confident in a Lake victory.
FiveThirtyEight.com rates Arizona “leaning Republican,” with Lake receiving 50.8% of the vote and Hobbs, 49.2%. Sabato’s Crystal Ball and The Cook Political Report both rate the state a toss-up.
Could 2022 be just the beginning of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ run for the White House in 2024?
Many of the Republican’s friends and foes alike say “Yes.”
The truth is people have been talking about the hard-charging DeSantis’ national ambitions since he first took up residence in the state house in 2019.
He’s a polarizing figure in and outside of the state, due to his opinions on redistricting and voting rights, critical race theory, illegal immigration and abortion, among other issues, but he’s still heavily favored to win reelection.
His opponent is Charlie Crist, a three-term Democratic congressman who is also a former Republican governor of Florida. Crist did well in a debate against DeSantis two weeks ago, but remains at a distinct financial disadvantage to the sitting governor.
FiveThirtyEight.com rates Florida “solidly Republican,” with DeSantis forecast to receive 54.9% of the vote and Crist, 43.1%. Sabato’s Crystal Ball rates the state as “safe Republican,” while The Cook Political Report has it in the “leans Republican” column.
A rematch of the 2018 gubernatorial contest in which then Secretary of State Republican Brian Kemp narrowly defeated Democrat Stacey Abrams.
In the end the Kemp margin of victory was roughly 55,000 votes.
Abrams, a popular Georgia House member and its one-time minority leader, is facing a much more difficult contest this time around.
A Marist poll released Friday showed 56% of Georgia residents have a favorable view of Kemp while 34% have an unfavorable impression of him.
At the same time, over 44% of residents perceive Abrams favorably, while 47% view her unfavorably.
The same poll had Kemp leading Abrams by 8 percentage points among likely voters going into the final weekend of campaigning, 53% to 45%.
Among registered voters, Kemp has the support of 51% to 45% for Abrams.
Eighty-three percent of registered voters with a candidate preference for governor say they strongly support their choice, up from 75% in September.
Eighty-four percent of Kemp’s supporters, compared with 82% of Abrams’ backers, say they strongly support their candidate.
As for the issues most on voters’ minds, 43% of Georgians participating in the Marist poll said that inflation is top of mind going into Election Day.
Eighteen percent cite preserving democracy while 15% mentioned abortion. Responses for crime (9%), health care (9%), and immigration (5%) are in single digits.
The top three issues have changed little since September, Marist noted.
Inflation (57%) is the most important voting issue for Republicans. There is little consensus among Democrats. Twenty-eight percent of Democrats mention inflation; 26% cite preserving democracy; and 21% mention abortion.
A plurality of independent voters (42%) told Marist’s pollsters inflation is top of mind this election season.
Also augering well for Kemp is his performance in a bitter primary in which he was not only running against former Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., but also Trump and his allies, who believe the governor betrayed them by not pursuing their unfounded allegations of voting shenanigans.
FiveThirtyEight.com rates Georgia “likely Republican,” with Kemp forecast to receive 53.1% of the vote and Abrams, 45.5%. Sabato’s Crystal Ball rates the state as “likely Republican,” while The Cook Political Report has it in the “leans Republican” column.
Democrats have long insisted that Texas is on the verge of turning from red to purple, but if the most recent polls are accurate, incumbent Republican Gov. Greg Abbott will cruise to an easy victory in what has been the most expensive gubernatorial race in the state’s history.
While even Abbott acknowledges that he’s had a challenging second term marked by mass shootings, a 2021 winter storm that clobbered the state and shined a spotlight on the state’s failing electrical infrastructure, and the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, he’s still personally popular in the state.
Much of this is due to his promise that he’ll apply conservative solutions to Texas’ challenges, bettering the economy while upholding Texans’ values.
His Democratic challenger, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, has been arguing on the campaign trail that Texas’ economy is thriving in spite, not because of, Abbott’s policies, and that the governor has done nothing to curb mass shootings or other problems in the state.
Like Democrats in other races, O’Rourke has also been lambasting Abbott on the abortion issue.
It was Abbott, after all, who signed the abortion ban without exceptions for victims of rape and incest that proved to be the momentum-builder that ultimately led to the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
But unlike Democratic candidates in other parts of the country, O’Rourke hasn’t seemed to benefit from the rage inspired by the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
Political analysts in the state said the national climate simply doesn’t favor O’Rourke this year, given his perceived move to the left during his failed 2020 presidential campaign and the double whammy of inflation and Biden’s unpopularity in the state.
A Democrat has not won a statewide race in Texas since 1994, and the last to win a governor’s race was Ann Richards in 1990.
Coming into the final weekend of the contest, multiple polls show that O’Rourke has failed to close a 7-to-8 percentage point gap in the polls.
FiveThirtyEight.com rates Texas “solidly Republican,” with Abbott forecast to receive 55.1% of the vote and O’Rourke, 42.8%. Sabato’s Crystal Ball and The Cook Political Report both rate the state as “likely Republican.”
Wisconsin’s hotly contested race for governor is the most expensive in state history.
Spending as of last week by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, Republican challenger Tim Michels and special interest groups on both sides neared $115 million, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign said Thursday.
The group tracks campaign spending.
That tops the previous record of $93 million, set in 2018, and doesn’t include the final days of the race ahead of Tuesday’s election.
Recent reports out of the state based on election campaign records also showed that Evers was continuing to outraise and outspend Michels, a construction executive whose family owns Michels Corporation, in the final days of the contest.
As of Oct. 24, Evers, Wisconsin’s governor since 2018, had a balance of about $1.2 million left in his campaign coffers, compared to Michels’ balance of over $531,000.
Despite Evers’ money advantage, polls continue to show that the race is a dead heat, and that could prove troublesome after the initial vote count.
Michels, who has Trump’s endorsement, is a 2020 election denier who has sent mixed signals about whether he’ll accept the results of Tuesday’s election if he loses by a narrow margin.
In a debate with Evers last month, Michels would not say if he would accept the result of the election. Later, he said he would.
Evers said the wavering showed the Republican was “a danger to our democracy”.
An Evers spokesperson added: “Democracy is on the ballot. Tim Michels has made it clear he will do anything in his power to make it harder for Wisconsinites to vote and could even overturn the fair results of our elections if he doesn’t like the outcome.”
FiveThirtyEight.com rates Wisconsin a toss-up with Michels forecast to receive 49.3% of the vote and Evers, 49.1%. Sabato’s Crystal Ball and The Cook Political Report both rate the state a toss-up.
Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue.
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