Does a GOP sweep of a number of key gubernatorial races portend poorly for President Obama’s reelection chances in 2012?
Overall, the Republicans picked up 11 governorships from the Democrats: Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Wyoming. The GOP also gained back the Florida governorship, which had ben lost when GOP Gov. Charlie Crist quit the GOP and became an independent in order to pursue his unsuccessful Senate bid.
By comparison, the Dems only picked up California, Hawaii, Vermont, and apparent victories in Connecticut and Minnesota.
It has been noted that these results could have a huge effect on redistricting — Republicans will control the redrawing of over 200 House districts, compared to only a few dozen for Democrats. But could the change in political winds carry over into the 2012 presidential race as well?
In five key industrial Midwest states that are perennial swing states for the presidency, all of which were won by President Obama, the Republicans captured the governorships from Democrats.
[TPM SLIDESHOW: Meet Your New Governors]
Controlling a governorship can often be a boon to a party in a presidential race. A party that has the statehouse will usually have a more organized and effective get-out-the-vote operation, and if the governor is popular, presidential candidates have an effective surrogate on the ground. Moreover, a big wave through these states in 2010 could be indicative of dissatisfaction with the Dems headed into the 2012 election cycle.
Check out the map of this year’s gubernatorial races. You can see how well the GOP did.
(Click on the map for the interactive version)
A few key races stand out.
• In the open-seat race in Pennsylvania, Republican state Attorney General Tom Corbett defeated Democratic Allegheny County (Pittsburgh) Executive Dan Onorato, by a margin of 55%-45%. In 2008, Obama won Pennsylvania by 55%-44%.
• In Ohio, Republican former Rep. John Kasich defeated incumbent Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland by 49%-47%. In 2008, Obama won Ohio by 51%-47%.
• In the open-seat race in Michigan, Republican businessman Rick Snyder defeated Democratic Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero by 58%-40%. In 2008, Obama won Michigan by 57%-41%.
• In the open-seat race in Wisconsin, Republican Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker defeated Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett by 52%-47%. In 2008, Obama won Wisconsin by 56%-43%.
• In Iowa, Republican former Gov. Terry Branstad came out of retirement to defeat Democratic Gov. Chet Culver by 53%-43%. In 2008, Obama won Iowa by 54%-45%.
Now keep in mind that presidential and gubernatorial results are a very apples-to-oranges comparison. For example, Bill Clinton, Al Gore and John Kerry all easily carried New York at the same time as it had Republican Gov. George Pataki, while George W. Bush and John McCain were carrying West Virginia at the same time as it elected Dem governors.
On the one hand, state-level issues and personalities play a big role in these races in ways that aren’t really applicable to the federal level. On the other hand, there does seem to be something mighty spooky about a big Republican wave going through these industrial Midwest states at the same time.