Gubernatorial Opportunities for the Donkey Party

As part of the continuing response to Matt Yglesias’ alarm-bell column about Democratic downballot losses (my initial response was here), the Plum Line‘s Greg Sargent conducted an interview with Democratic Governors Association executive director Elisabeth Pearson about future prospects for gubernatorial gains. Pearson made this important point about the impact of governors on redistricting for both the U.S. House and state legislatures:

Governors play a huge rule in redistricting. In 35 states they have the ability to sign or veto maps. Governors are obviously very engaged with legislatures in coming up with potential maps and have a lot of leverage. Ultimately if the maps don’t look like they should, the governor can veto them and they go to the courts. We’ve seen that happen in Virginia.

Eighteen of those 35 states are states that we are targeting as important for potential pickup. Let’s say we had fair maps in those 18 states. By our calculations, that would mean about 44 Congressional seats that would move from Republican to Democratic.

This places a big premium on what happens in 2018. And while adverse non-presidential turnout patterns and the possibility of a continued reaction to a Democratic White House could continue to create obstacles to Democratic midterm gains, there’s no question that year offers some ripe targets.

No less than fourteen Republican governors will be term-limited in 2018 (as opposed to just three Democrats). Six of those are in states carried twice by Barack Obama–and possible retirements of Republican governors in Iowa and Wisconsin could add two more to that list. The opportunities for gains will be there if Democrats are smart and maybe a bit lucky.

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.