Democrats looking to win governorships in Florida, Michigan, and Ohio
In November, there will be 36 governorships at stake in the mid term elections, with 26 of those Republican. Democrats fell there is a slew of opportunities to flop some statehouses, but are particularly eager at the prospects to win three key states: Florida, Michigan, and Ohio.
"The governor's races this year are even more important than Congress," says Terry McAuliffe, who just stepped down as Virginia governor and is a former party chairman. Republicans remember the impact of their 2010 sweep. They devoted huge resources to state races, then dominated redistricting the next year. The result: a policy and political counterweight to a Democratic White House.
The fruits of state battles are already becoming clear. The GOP’s gerrymandering in Pennsylvania in 2011 was overturned this year, thanks in part to help of a Democratic governor who took office in 2015. The result? Three to five House seats this fall, Democrats say.
But they still are suffering from partisan lines in Ohio, Michigan and Florida. All three are purple; only a third of their combined 57 members of the House are Democrats.
In recent months, in part reflecting a national tide, Democrats have become more optimistic about contests in Ohio and Michigan.
Richard Cordray, who clashed with Trump as the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is the party's preferred candidate in Ohio. He should be a strong general election candidate if he avoids getting beat up in the primary by left wing provocateur Dennis Kucinich, the former congressman. That probably would set up a rematch with Attorney General Mike DeWine, who narrowly won in 2010, in a climate friendlier to Republicans.
In Michigan, the political and labor union establishment has gotten behind Gretchen Whitmer, a former state legislative leader, one of many women this year riding the energy of the MeToo movement. She would be a slight favorite in a November race against the state's Republican attorney general.
In Florida, where the primary isn't until August, the contests in both parties are unsettled. Still, Democrats say Trump has energized important elements of their voters, younger women and Latinos.
Realistically, Republicans have little chance in Michigan, but a fair shot to hold on to Ohio and Florida. Other states are more problematic for the GOP:
Both sides are looking for a surprise. Republicans think they may turn Minnesota if former Governor Tim Pawlenty, after more than five years as a Washington lobbyist, returns. Democrats are also bullish on finally unseating Wisconsin's Gov. Scott Walker, who has been dashing to the political center.
Overall, the opportunities for Democratic pickups range from from Nevada and New Mexico in the West to Iowa in the Midwest to Maine on the East Coast. That's why Terry McAuliffe is upbeat: "The future of the Democratic Party will be decided in state capitals and it's looking very good."
A bunch of new Democratic governors would be exactly what the Democrats need. With the Democratic favorites in 2020 being 2 older Senators and one ancient former vice president, Democrats need new blood to revitalize their party.
It is certain that any new Democrats will be younger, but also much further left than any previous generation of liberals. That probably won't matter in deep blue states. But in purple and red states, running from the far left would still be an uphill battle, no matter how much the voters hate Trump and the Republicans.