Tough races ahead for GOP governors

Updated
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett speaks at a news conference Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013 in State College, Pa.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett speaks at a news conference Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013 in State College, Pa.
AP Photo/Ralph Wilson

On Monday’s The Daily Rundown, Chuck Todd sat down with Public Opinion Strategies pollster Bill McInturff to take a “Deep Dive” into how governors are sounding different policy tunes from legislators in D.C.

Those conversations and their policy pushes will be key barometers heading into the 2014 midterms. Two important gubernatorial elections are on the calendar in 2013 too—with a competitive open-seat contest in Virginia and New Jersey’s Republican Gov. Chris Christie favored for a second term in the Garden State.

In 2010, Republicans flipped 11 governorships—especially critical for the GOP heading into a redistricting year. Now, many Republican governors sitting in swing states or blue leaning territory are at the top of Democratic target lists.

The past week’s been a crucial one for some of the most competitive for GOP incumbents. Here’s a quick rundown of the latest in the top five gubernatorial races that could flip hands, and why you should be paying attention to them in 2014.

1. Pennsylvania—A Quinnipiac poll out Monday brings more bad news for GOP Gov. Tom Corbett. Not only does he trail each of his possible Democratic challengers, but his numbers in the Keystone State continue to plummet. Half of voters say he doesn’t  deserve re-election, and his approval ratings are upside down, with 47% disapproving of his job as governor. Rep. Allyson Schwartz and former Rep. Joe Sestak lead a very unsettled Democratic field, but the majority of voters are still undecided. But Corbett is polling in the low 30s against any possible Democratic opponent—incredibly bad news for his re-election chances.

2. Florida—Gov. Rick Scott has also seen drooping poll numbers, but how much trouble he’s in may depend on which candidate he faces. Now a Democrat, former Republican turned independent governor Charlie Crist, is clearly interested, and former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz or 2010 nominee Alex Sink may jump in as well.

But Crist’s possible challengers may have shrunk by one last week. On Friday’s Jansing & Co., Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson said he had “no intention” of running after a Roll Call report said he was interested. But note the Democrat’s careful wording—and that he didn’t completely slam the door.

3. Michigan—Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has faced blowback from his push for “right to work” legislation in this union-heavy state, and an EPIC-MRA poll last week shows he’s still weak. Though Snyder was in a statistical tie with two possible Democratic challengers, Rep. Mark Schauer and former Rep. Bart Stupak, his poll numbers were mired in the 30s as well. All possible Democratic challengers are barely known statewide. Fifty-eight percent of respondents gave the first-term governor a negative rating.

4. Ohio—Democrats got their man last week to challenge Republican Gov. John Kasich as Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald made his bid official. Democrats like his profile as a former FBI special agent, but Kasich may be in the best shape of any of the swing state governors. A Quinnipiac poll earlier this month showed his numbers on the rise—52% approve of the job he’s doing—and he leads Fitzgerald 46% to 37% in the initial ballot. Many of Kasich’s colleagues would kill for those numbers now. That doesn’t mean the race won’t change, and the Buckeye State is always politically volatile, but Kasich is in good shape—for now.

5. Maine—Republican Paul LePage won election in 2010 thanks to a three-way field, and Democrats fear that same dynamic could happen again. Independent Eliot Cutler, who got 36% of the vote last time, is making moves to run, but Democrats are hoping they can land a strong challenger to overcome both. The most likely candidate? Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud. The six-term congressman confirmed last month he’s looking at a bid. Another telltale sign? His House fundraising reports this month showed he raised just under $50,000 this past quarter. Those monies could not be transferred to a gubernatorial account.

Tough races ahead for GOP governors

Updated