Saturday, October 18, 2014

Large Variation for Gubernatorial Outlook

As you've likely noticed, over the past month this blog as been almost entirely devoted to forecasting the Senate elections and has been ignoring other (arguably more) important races.  That's now changing with the inclusion of a Gubernatorial forecast.  Just as we have done over the past month in the Senate, we will update daily the status of each Governor's race.

To begin, though there is much uncertainty in many races, it is clear that Democrats won't be making huge gains this fall.  Currently, Republicans hold 29 state Governorships and Democrats hold 21.  As you can see in the graph below, it currently looks as though Democrats are favored to pick up a couple seats, but they likely won't make it to 25.

As you can see, Republicans are most likely to keep 27 seats, meaning Democrats would pick up two in that scenario.  However, Democrats only have about a 14% chance of having 25 or more seats next year.  In comparison, Republicans have about the same chance of picking up seats.

So let's see how the individual races break down. 

While most of the candidates in the "safe Republican" list were always considered safe, some were originally much less certain. For example, at this point last year, Arkansas' Asa Hutchinson was in a dead heat with his Democratic opponent, Mike Ross.  At this point in the cycle, however, there is very little chance that any of the Republicans in these races will lose.

The only race ranked as "likely Republican" is to replace Arizona Governor Jan Brewer.  Though most polls have shown that the race is close, the most recent poll of the race showed the Republican, Doug Ducey, was up by eleven points over the Democrat, Fred DuVal.  

Though the model doesn't think Ducey is that far ahead, it does believe that his polling strength mixed with the fundamentals of the state are dooming the Democrat.

Currently, there are only two races rated as "leaning Republican".  Georgia's Nathan Deal is running for re-election against President Jimmy Carter's grandson, Jason Carter.  The race has been neck and neck for months, and it is only 3% away from being classified as a tossup.  Further, the Senate race down-ballot is one of the most closely watched races in the country.  Expect turnout to be high and for the vote totals of the parties in each race closely mirror each other.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is facing a much more difficult re-election bid than many were expecting months ago.  The Democrat in the race, Mark Schauer has kept the race competitive. Further, the Senate race in the state is now ranked as safe for Democrats. Governor Snyder needs to hope for a large number of split-ticket voters to show up to the polls.

Unlike in the races for the Senate, there are numerous "tossups" in the Gubernatorial contests.  It was once thought that Colorado's Democratic Governor, John Hickenlooper, would skate to re-election. At one point, he was even one of the most popular governors in the country.  However, after Hickenlooper pushed an anti-gun bill in his state, the GOP made him their top target, and got a top recruit in Bob Beauprez.  Now, the race couldn't be closer, and turnout for each side will be the determining factor for who wins this race.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, it was once believed that Florida's Rick Scott would be easily defeated in November.  However, after millions of dollars spent and an improving economy in the state, the Democrat, Charlie Crist, hasn't been able to put the race away. Scott is currently a slight underdog, and the recent 'fan-gate' episode certainly won't help his chances.

In deep-red Kansas, Governor Sam Brownback is in a tough re-election fight after drastically cutting taxes to a point that the state is experiencing a huge budget shortfall.  The Democrat, Paul Davis, is fighting an uphill battle in the conservative state, but so far, he is holding on.  Expect many more polls of the race before election day, as the Senate race in the state is also among the tightest in the country.

Democrats in Massachusetts are feeling a sense of deja vu this election cycle because their chosen candidate, Martha Coakley, could again blow what should be a safe seat for Democrats.  Her opponent, Charlie Baker, is perhaps the most popular Republican in the liberal state, and at this point, it's only the state's fundamentals which are pushing Coakley over the edge.  If more polls show Baker with a larger lead than just half a point, those fundamentals won't be enough.

In the race for Governor this year is in Maine.  Governor Paul LePage is deeply unpopular in the state.  However, with both a Democrat and an Independent running against him, they are splitting the anti-LePage vote.  Currently, the race is essentially tied between the Republican and the Democrat, but the state's fundamentals are pushing the Democrat over the top.

The final "tossup" race is in Wisconsin.  Scott Walker is arguably the Republican that Democrats most want to defeat this year.  He led on cracking down on unions in Wisconsin as well as implementing a new voter-ID law opposed by Democrats.  Mary Burke, the Democrat's choice to challenge Walker, has made this race the most competitive in the country.  Polls show the race is tied, and you can be sure millions of dollars and numerous surrogates will flood the state over the next two weeks.

There are currently four races rated as "leaning Democratic". In the first, Alaska's Governor Sean Parnell was originally believed to coast to re-election.  However, when the Independent and Democrat joined tickets (with the Independent at the top of the ticket), Parnell found himself in a tough position.  Current polls show the Independent-Democratic ticket leading the Republican by about four points.  

Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy is facing a surprisingly tough re-election bid against a popular Republican in the state, Tom Foley.  Malloy is leading in the polls by about two points, yet he is helped by the state fundamentals in liberal Connecticut.

Hawaii is home to the other three way race this year.  In the primary, incumbent Governor Neil Abercrombie lost to David Ige.  Ige is currently leading in the polls, but Republican Duke Aiona is not far behind.  Luckily for Ige, the state is very liberal, giving him a 71% chance of victory.

Finally, Illinois' Pat Quinn is running for his second re-election since Rod Blagojevich resigned due to his attempt to sell a Senate seat (among other things).  Quinn won by only about 1% in 2010, a Republican wave year.  But in Illinois, he is still deeply unpopular, despite acting on a number of issues liberals in the state have pushed for, such as gay marriage and raising taxes to help combat the huge budget shortfall in the state.  

Fortunately for Quinn, his opponent, Bruce Rauner, is now just as unpopular, mostly due to a relentless barrage of attacks from the incumbent.  After trailing all year until a few weeks ago, Quinn is now leading in the polls by a couple points.  

In another liberal state, Rhode Island, Democrats are only slightly ahead in the polls.  The Democratic candidate, Gina Raimondo, is holding about a 5% lead against the Republican Alan Fung.  It's unlikely at this point Fung will be able to catch up, with only a 21% chance of winning.

Finally, we come to the Democrats who are safe this cycle.  All of them are in deep blue states, and the only one with less than a 99% chance of winning is Oregon's John Kitzhaber. The Governor is dealing with a controversy in his state due to his wife's previous marriage, which she admitted was a sham.  Regardless, Kitzhaber still has a lead in the mid-to-high single digits, and we give him a 95% chance of winning.

So what does this all add up to?  Really, things could break towards either party.  After all, most of the Democrats can't be easily linked to President Obama or an unpopular Congress.  However, Republicans could sweep the tossup categories, increasing their number of governorships.  Currently, the most likely scenario, at 21.5%, is that Democrats will pick up two seats in November.  Is that a "win" for Democrats?  That probably depends on which individual races are won and which are lost.

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