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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Dems May Pick Up 6 Governorships

Democratic candidates are firming up their chances to win a majority of governorships in November, reports Dan Balz in the Washington Post. Balz quotes Democratic Governors Association Chairman and Governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson:

…we could go from 22 Democratic governors to 27 or 28 after the ’06 elections…The real reform and the real action in the Democratic Party is with governorships. It’s a good omen for strengthening the Democratic Party for ’08

Balz also provides a short, but informative survey of the politics of the Governors’ races 8 months out, and offers this interesting observation:

The gubernatorial landscape tramples conventional notions of an America rigidly divided into red and blue. In the 19 Bush-won states with contests, Democrats hold seven of the governorships. In the 17 states won by Sen. John F. Kerry (D) with gubernatorial elections this year, Republicans hold 10 of the governorships.
Some of the most popular and politically secure Democratic governors facing reelection this year preside over states won by Bush in 2004. They include Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry and Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal. The same is true for many Republican governors in states won by Kerry, among them Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell, Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle and Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas.

SurveyUSA reports a slight edge for Dems in current approval ratings for the 50 governors — an average 54 percent for the 22 Democratic governors, compared to 52 percent for the 28 Republican governors.
With 36 governorships at stake, the November election may have a pivotal impact on the ’08 presidential races by giving the Dems “tangible organizational advantages,” explains Balz. Governors have leverage in the redistricting process, as well as staff support and publicity resources unavailable to other candidates. As Robert Tanner observes in his recent Associated Press article on upcoming Governor’s races:

…there’s no question that governors have an impact on national politics. Four of the last five presidents had previous experience running a state, and governors can help presidential campaigns by marshaling big organizations and getting out the vote.