Many Races for Governor offer 2014 Prelude
While the battle for control of the US Senate is sure to attract the most attention in 2014, it’s quite possible that the more compelling story lines can be found in a handful of the concurring gubernatorial elections. Republicans currently hold four of these swing-state seats, which were all twice won by President Barack Obama.
With the exception of New Mexico, where Obama won wit 53%, Romney came within 5 points of Obama’s total in each of these states. So, why are these races important? For one, we expect some of these Governors to run for President in 2016. But equally important, all of these states will be critical battlegrounds in 2016, and both parties would love to be in power ahead of the next Presidential election.
Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper is running for re-election. Hickenlooper is a proponent of Obamacare, but the state-run exchange started off horribly as 6-week enrollment benchmarks barely reached half of the “worst-case scenario” goal. Hickenlooper also signed multiple anti-gun laws that led to the successful recall of two Democratic state legislators so far and help to drag his job ratings down. Former congressman Tom Tancredo and Secretary of State Scott Gessler have polled close to Hickenlooper, who has been stuck below 50% for awhile.
The guy who was once a Republican Governor who called Marco Rubio a RINO, and then switched half of his positions to become an Independent, and later the other half of his positions to become a Democrat, wants to be Governor again. This race will be less about Gov. Rick Scott (R) than it will be about party-hopper, ideology-flopper Charlie Crist. And Scott is probably fine with that. Though Crist fancies Scott as some “tea party” Republican, that never really was the case. Scott is center-right in the mold of old Crist. But the real show is watching Crist try to explain himself for the next year.
Republican Governor Susanna Martinez is the first female Hispanic Governor in the history of the United States. She is also one of the most popular Governor’s and her seat is probably the safest off the lot. Eyes will be watching Martinez more for 2016 implications as she is already on the watch list for a potential Presidential (or vice-presidential) campaign.
Republican Governor John Kasich may have taken some heat for expanding Medicaid in his state under Obamacare and governing in the center, but it has mostly worked for him and his once horrible job ratings have improved as of late. Establishment Republicans will take this as a sign that moderation works best as they look towards 2016. But then, it still doesn’t explain the losses of Mitt Romney or John McCain to Barack Obama.
Democrats really loathe Governor Scott Walker and it is hard to think of a Governor they would more like to unseat. A conservative without hesitation, Walker has not tried to hide his positions despite the tough electoral make-up of the state. Early in his first term Walker became a hero on the right for key budget reforms in the state that limited the power and control that labor unions had over their members. This led to a recall election, and Walker was forced to face the voters a second time in 2012. But Democrats and Big Labor were humiliated when Walker won the recall election by an even larger margin than his first go-around, proving that his election was not a fluke and that his reforms were not rejected by the people. Walker is another likely 2016 candidate for President and he has recently done those things future candidates often do. He released a book in 2013, while also noting how important it is to have a Governor as the Republican nominee for President. With the likes of Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, and Paul Ryan eying potential runs, he has a lot of grassroots work to do.