At first blush, this year's elections may seem a little too predictable. There are only three gubernatorial elections in 2019, and they're in three ruby-red states: Mississippi (which Donald Trump won by 17 points), Louisiana (which Trump won by 20 points), Kentucky (which Trump won by 30 points).
It's easy to imagine Republican candidates faring very well in Republican states, at which point Donald Trump will make up some imaginary polls and announce that each of the GOP candidates was trailing badly until he took an interest in their candidacies.
But as Election Day 2019 approaches, the landscape features some nuances that make it worthy of national attention. Let's unpack what's in store:
Mississippi: With incumbent Gov. Phil Bryant (R) unable to run for a third consecutive term, voters in the Magnolia State will tomorrow choose between Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) and state Attorney General Jim Hood (D). Given Mississippi's leanings, Republicans have an automatic advantage in statewide races, though it's worth noting that Hood has been elected (and re-elected) as the state A.G. -- an office he's held for 16 years, his party affiliation notwithstanding.
That said, one of the challenges facing Hood is Mississippi's Jim-Crow-era rule that requires gubernatorial candidates to win both the most votes and a majority of the state's 122 state House districts. Failure to clear both thresholds would send the race to the Republican-dominated legislature. The system was designed to undermine the voting power of the state's African-American population -- Mississippi has the largest percentage of black residents of any U.S. state -- and as one analysis recently noted, this highly dubious, historically scandalous provision makes it "all but impossible for a Democrat to win in November."
Still, given Hood's popularity and record of success, Republicans aren't taking the race for granted: Donald Trump was in Mississippi on Friday night, trying to rally support for Reeves.
Kentucky: Incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin (R) is seeking a second term, taking on state Attorney General Andy Beshear (D). If party considerations were taken off the table, Bevin would almost certainly lose: the governor is broadly unpopular and disliked by lawmakers in both parties. Indeed, Bevin faced multiple GOP primary rivals -- unheard of in recent memory for a governor who isn't under indictment -- and barely survived the process, eking out a win with 52% support among voters in his own party.
But Kentucky elected Bevin because he's a Republican, and his party affiliation gives him a decent chance of winning a second term. Donald Trump, who appears to have a special affinity for Bevin, will be in the Bluegrass State tonight trying to help get him across the finish line.
A recent Mason-Dixon poll showed the gubernatorial race tied, with both Bevin and Beshear generating 46% support.
Louisiana: Unlike Mississippi and Kentucky, which will have their races tomorrow, Louisiana's gubernatorial runoff isn't until Nov. 16, which is a week from Saturday. That said, Trump will be in the Pelican State this week, hoping to help elect Eddie Rispone (R), a Trump-like candidate making his first bid for elected office.