Tom with a BTRTN update on the 2020 governor’s races … remember, not a prediction, just a snapshot of where the races are now and how they might play out if election day was today.
It’s been quite a year for the governors. After a crowd of them failed rather badly with the onset of COVID-19 in the presidential missions, the governors suddenly became household names as they weathered the crisis and either fought with or turned to Donald Trump. But few of them will be able to take advantage of their newfound higher profiles with re-election efforts in 2020.
Current Governors Jay Inslee from Washington and Steve Bullock from Montana, as well as Founding Governors John Hickenlooper from Colorado, Mark Sanford from South Carolina, and Deval Patrick and William Weld from Massachusetts fought for the presidency in this final cycle and not one took on a single delegate . In fact, most of them had disappeared before the Iowa congregations, and none made a mark on the race.
That’s unusual. Governors have long played well on the presidential stage, including the two Roosevelts Reagan, Clinton and Bush 43 – in fact, 18 governors have become president. Every presidential race from 1976 to 2004 had at least one current or former governor on the ballot, and in 1980 there were two (Reagan and Carter).
Governors bring two solid chips to the president’s stake: Extensive management experience and references “not from Washington”. But rarely have they done worse than in the 2019/20 cycle and not because of a lack of competence. Most of those who ran had a good track record of running their states. But maybe the Americans had forgotten how consistent governors could be and what power they wielded. And if so, 2020 has delivered quite a civic lesson.
With COVID-19, governors were suddenly both on the front page and because of the prerogatives of the state and Trump’s decision to engage in leading a pandemic.
Andrew Cuomo of New York, perhaps the most famous governor by his ancestry, became the substitute president for most Democrats (and a significant number of disaffected Republicans). His daily briefings were full of profitable mixes of fact and empathy, heart and mind. and a non-partisan appeal for a higher purpose and a common cause. These were in stark contrast to the divisive enthusiasm that Trump conveyed to the nation in his own briefings later that day.
Other governors from both parties also made national news – Michigan Democrat Gretchen Whitmer stood out as the virus spread there. Larry Hogan of Maryland and Mike DeWine of Ohio became no-nonsense GOP governors who believed in science and followed the Cuomo model and ignored Trump. Florida Republicans Ron DeSantis and Georgia Brian Kemp at times surpassed Trump in their eagerness to please him and his followers, reopening Florida and Georgia with no plan to contain the virus for which they were both badly burned when it rose again. And California Democrat Gavin Newsome fell between these two extremes, effectively closing the state on a scientific basis, but also reopening it too soon. People have certainly learned that a governor’s responsibilities and powers are far-reaching within his state and influential outside of it.
This has always been the case, of course, as a typical governor always works with state lawmakers to develop budgets and pass laws that reflect state priorities and address critical needs. Each state can tell its own story on this front. This year, in 2020, the power of a governor, not to mention COVID, is even more consistent as the governors will play a major role in redistributing congressional districts based on the 2020 census.
With this in mind, one might think that 2020 will offer numerous opportunities for voters to hold governors accountable for their COVID management and to play a role in future representation decisions. Unfortunately this won’t be the case. It just so happens that there are only 11 governors standing for re-election in 2020, seven Republicans (one of whom will retire) and four Democrats (one of whom will be removed from office). Most of these elections will not be particularly competitive.
Currently, Democrats control 24 state houses while Republicans hold 26. This was the result of an epic show in 2018 when the Blue Wave spread to the governor races. There were a whopping 36 races for the governor that year, and the Democrats won an impressive seven seats. However, the Dems are unlikely to be able to build on this momentum in 2020. In fact, they can even lose a seat.
Here are the 11 races and how they play out at this point. As you can see, we see nine of these races “solid” in the incumbent camp, Delaware, North Carolina and Washington for the Democrats and Indiana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Utah, Vermont and West Virginia for the GOP.
BTRTN GOVERNOR SNAPSHOT
Current polls avg
R + 9
R Likely (flip)
R + 5
There are only two races that are really involved:
Montana. Democratic governor (and former presidential candidate) Steve Bullock has left and is due to step down. The Democratic nominee is Mike Cooney, lieutenant governor, and he is rejected by Montana’s only member of the House of Representatives, Greg Gianforte.
Gianforte gained some notoriety a few years ago when he slammed a reporter, Ben Jacobs, on the campaign, an act that drew national headlines and Trump’s praise.
It did not prevent his election to the house in 2018. There were only two polls last month, and Gianforte led both of them, one at +6 and the newer at +13. So we rated this race as R Probablyand thus a Flip
of a state house from Democrats to Republicans.
Missouri. GOP Governor Mike Parson is challenged by Democrat Nicole Galloway, Missouri State Auditor. Parson, while the incumbent, runs for the first time in his own right; He became governor in 2018 when Eric Greitens was forced to resign after a sex scandal.
There were four polls in October, all with Parson averaging +5 points. We have this as R Lean.
So these eleven races are arranged as follows, with the Democrats losing one seat and 23 governors competing against the 27 of the GOP. (Of course, this is only a snapshot at this point, not a forecast.)
As of 10/14
And so it seems that election night on the gubernatorial side will be a yawning who actually favors the GOP, in sharp contrast to the other races which will be a tense night (and how long it takes to count those afterwards) Vote) that will likely result in the Democrats showing up with a trifecta of presidency and control of both the Senate and the House. If you’d like to read our latest update on these races, please find it here: