Gubernatorial Under-Currents

With all the attention that’s been paid to Senate races, it’s taken a while for Political Animals to focus on gubernatorial races, which seem to be operating according to a different dynamic (as well they should). Two prominent forecasters (FiveThirtyEight and Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball) have made final predictions on this front, and have reached identical conclusions: a net loss of three Republican governorships, with a net gain of two for Democrats and one for indies. The exciting news for progressives is that in this scenario, three governors they especially love to hate, Maine’s Paul LePage, Florida’s Rick Scott, and Kansas’ Sam Brownback, would go down to defeat. But Scott Walker would survive.

But you have to say this relatively benign outcome for Democrats would require some luck: FiveThirtyEight, which rates each race by win probability, has Democrats winning five of the six closest races (with another going to the Alaska independent/Democratic “fusion” ticket). A little thumb on the scale could produce wins for LePage and Scott, and also for Tom Foley, Bob Beauprez, Sean Parnell, and Bruce Rauner. The other thing to keep in mind is the total number of incumbents who lose. Right now FiveThirtyEight and Sabato have five Republican and one Democratic incumbent losing (a second Democratic incumbent lost in the primaries). If the number rises and the partisan balance of losers evens out, the idea of a bipartisan anti-incumbent wave may seize the commentariat. But for now it looks like gubernatorial races could provide a counterpoint to what’s expected to happen in the Senate.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.