Gubernatorial Race Analysis 2015-2016

Governor 2015-2016:

Safe DLikely DLeans DTossupLeans RLikely RSafe R
North Carolina
West Virginia
North Dakota

Delaware Safe D Incumbent Jack Markell (D) (Term-limited)

Delaware is as blue as they come.  The most obvious candidate right now is Rep. John Carney, who lost the 2008 primary to Markell.  AG Beau Biden might make a go for it if he doesn't run for Senate.

(4/8/13) I forgot to mention Lt. Gov. Matt Denn.

(4/18/14) Biden in.

(11/7/14) Republican State Sen. Colin Bonini is running.

(1/8/15) The leading candidate to replace the term-limited Markell is Democratic state AG Beau Biden (son of the Vice President).  The only Republican candidate is state Sen. Colin Bonini.  Democrats should win this one easily.

Indiana Likely R Incumbent Mike Pence (R)

This one was a lot closer in 2012 than it really should have been, but Pence is favored because of the red lean of the state and the lack of an obvious Democratic candidate except former Sen. and Gov. Evan Bayh or maybe 2012 nominee John Gregg.

(12/8/14) Another potential Democrat - former Rep. Baron Hill, who lost his seat in the 2010 wave.

(12/18/14) One potential Republican candidate if Pence doesn't run: State Sen. Jim Merritt.

(1/8/15) The Indiana Democratic Party is coming off a bad few years, and its candidate list includes a lot of formers: former Sen. Evan Bayh, former Rep. Baron Hill, former state House Speaker John Gregg - most of whom left office before or during the 2010 Republican wave.  Pence is coming off a closer-than-expected initial election, but shouldn't have too much trouble this time around.  If Pence retires to run for President, there is a long list of potential Republican candidates, including Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard and state Sen. Jim Merritt.

(2/11/15) Hill is considering.

(4/1/15) Gregg is also considering.

(4/30/15) Gregg in.

Kentucky (2015) Tossup Incumbent Steve Beshear (D) (Term-limited)

Kentucky has been trending Republican for years, but the state Democratic party is still strong and holds most offices in the state.  Potential Democrats include AG Jack Conway, Sec. of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson, and state Auditor Crit Luallen.  Republicans will most likely nominate a federal officer like Rep. Brett Guthrie or Rep. Thomas Massie.

(4/4/13) I should note that Luallen is actually the former state Auditor, having left office in 2011.  The current state Auditor is Adam Edelen, another possible Democratic candidate.  I should also note that Ag. Commissioner James Comer is a potential Republican, as is businessman Phil Moffett, while former Rep. Ben Chandler and former Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo are possible Dems.  Former Governor Ernie Fletcher, last seen losing to current incumbent Beshear by 17 points, is also considering another run

(5/28/13) Kentuckians are split evenly on whether they want a Democratic or Republican Governor to succeed Beshear.

(8/7/13) Abramson says he isn't running.

(12/5/13) Hal Heiner, a businessman and former Louisville Metro Councilman, will announce soon as a Republican.

(4/25/14) Luallen out.

(5/6/14) Conway in.

(6/18/14) Edelen out.

(6/27/14) Conway is uniting the Democratic establishment behind him.  So far he's been endorsed by Luallen, former Senator Wendell Ford, and Rep. John Yarmuth.

(8/5/14) Comer in.  Meanwhile, Public Opinion Strategies has Comer leading Heiner in the primary by 28, and Gravis has Conway leading Heiner by 9 in the general.

(12/1/14) Another potential Republican candidate - state Supreme Court Justice Will Scott.

(12/10/14) Despite losing against McConnell by 15 points, Grimes may still run for Governor.

(1/8/15) Unlike many red states, Kentucky is still fairly Democratic at the state level, which manifests itself in a strong Democratic bench.  Democrats seem to be coalescing around AG Jack Conway, who has two statewide wins under his belt (plus an understandable, but somewhat embarrassing, loss to Rand Paul in 2010).  The leading Republican candidate is Ag. Secretary James Comer, but he has to get past former state Supreme Court Justice Will Scott and self-funding former Louisville Metro Councilman Hal Heiner in the primary.  Put that all together with some early polling showing Conway up, and you get a Tossup.

(1/16/15) OK, maybe Conway won't have the primary to himself.  State House Speaker Greg Stumbo is also thinking of running.

(1/20/15) And Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes may run as well.

(1/26/15) Grimes out.

(1/27/15) And the GOP primary just got a lot messier with the almost-literally last-minute entry of Matt Bevin.  He should be a serious candidate based on name recognition and his record in the 2014 primary (though some significant part of that was, of course, simply because he was running against Mitch McConnell).

(1/29/15) And we have our first poll of the GOP primary, from Remington.  It's pretty open, with Comer, Bevin, and Heiner all close to each other with 22%, 19%, and 18%, respectively, with Scott lagging behind with 5%.  There are similar results for name recognition, with Comer, Bevin, and Heiner at 40-50% and Scott well behind with 23%.

(1/29/15) I should also mention that Conway got the primary (mostly) to himself - his only opponent is an economist named Geoff Young.

(2/2/15) Another poll out - this time from Harper.  They have Conway leading Young 59-13 in the Democratic primary.  Their Republican primary results are similar to Remington's: Comer narrowly leading with 25%, Heiner and Bevin slightly behind with 19% and 18%, and Scott in the back with 9%.

(3/18/15) The Bluegrass Poll results are in.  Conway leads the Democratic primary with almost 50 points, while the Republican primary is still a tossup.  Heiner leads now with 28%, while Comer and Bevin are tied for second with 20% apiece and Scott's still well behind with 8%.  In the general, Conway starts out with fairly small leads over the Republicans - 2 points against Comer, 3 against Heiner, 6 against Bevin, and 10 against Scott.

(5/7/15) Comer is now facing allegations of domestic abuse from his time in college.

Louisiana (2015) Safe R Incumbent Bobby Jindal (R) (Term-limited)

This state is by now deep red, but Democrats have a popular potential candidate in the form of Mitch Landrieu, the Mayor of New Orleans with a magic family name previously twice elected as the state's Lieutenant Governor.  On the Republican side, Senator David Vitter might run, along with Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne (if he does not run for Senate), retired general Russel HonorĂ©, state Treasurer John Neely Kennedy, and Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain.  State House Minority Leader John Bel Edwards has already declared as a Democrat.

(3/15/13) Dardenne is not, in fact, running for Senate.  Presumably this means he has the governorship in mind.  He'll be a solid candidate.

(4/4/13) According to this site, Dardenne is running for Governor.

(5/23/13) Vitter's recent fundraising activities have raised expectations that he will run.

(8/8/13) Another possible candidate is Rep. and soon-to-be state Director of Veterans Affairs Rodney Alexander.

(8/20/13) Landrieu is pretty popular statwide - his net favorability is a very solid +20.  He now leads Dardenne by 10 and Vitter by 3, though his consistent 45% of the vote may suggest a ceiling.  Vitter is stronger initially, but Dardenne has more room to grow, having much lower name recognition but significantly higher net favorability.  In a Harper poll, Landrieu's and Vitter's net favorabilities are similar, and Vitter leads by 2, though Louisianans say by 17 points he shouldn't run for Governor.

(12/3/13) Vitter says he'll decide in January.

(1/21/14) Vitter in.  With him and Dardenne both running, this could end up going to a Republican v. Republican runoff if Landrieu doesn't run.

(2/18/14) New PPP results out.  In a runoff, Vitter beats Landrieu by 13 points, and Dardenne beats him by 10.  Vitter and Dardenne both beat Bel Edwards by 21, and Vitter beats Dardenne by 12.

(6/4/14) Alexander's out of Veteran's Affairs to become a lobbyist, and probably out of the race as well.

(7/2/14) PPP has Vitter beating Bel Edwards by 22, Landrieu by 4, and Dardenne by 6, while Dardenne beats Bel Edwards by 23 and ties Landrieu.

(9/30/14) PPP has Vitter up 18 against Bel Edwards, 9 against Landrieu, and 7 against Dardenne, and Dardenne up 14 against Bel Edwards and 4 against Landrieu.

(11/17/14) Gravis has Vitter up 18 over Landrieu and up 14 over Dardenne.

(12/11/14) Another potential Republican: Louisiana state penitentiary warden Burl Cain.

(1/10/14) This races so far contains three major Republicans - Senator David Vitter, LG Jay Dardenne, and Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle - and one Democrat: state House Minority Leader John Bel Edwards.  This is rated Leans R largely because of the (diminishing) possibility of Democratic Mayor of New Orleans Mitch Landrieu running.  Even with Democrats' recent troubles here, Landrieu might still have enough residual popularity to come out on top in an off-year election, particularly in the event of a divisive Republican primary.  Should Landrieu decline to run, the rating would shift to Safe R, and the questions shifts from whether Bel Edwards can win to whether he can even get a spot in the runoff.

(1/14/15) The Republicans should be well-provisioned in money.  Vitter's raised $4 million for himself and another $4 million for his SuperPAC last year, while Angelle raised $1.5 million in about a quarter of the time.  By contrast, Bel Edwards has only raised $1 million over two years.

(1/24/15) An internal poll for state Treasurer John Kennedy (who may run) has Vitter with 24%, Bel Edwards with 20%, 13% for Kennedy, 10% for Dardenne, and 2% for Angelle.  If Kennedy does get in it becomes considerably more likely Bel Edwards can secure a spot in the runoff.

(4/21/15) Vitter's campaign and his supporting super-PAC together have almost $8 million cash-on-hand.

(4/30/15) Landrieu out.  This moves to Safe R, and the question for Democrats becomes whether they can even make the runoff.

Mississippi (2015) Safe R Incumbent Phil Bryant (R)

Unlike in Kentucky and Louisiana, the Democrats don't really have a bench to speak of.

(7/9/14) Particularly after this year's hyper-nasty Senate primary fight, the Tea Party isn't all that happy with Bryant.  He could face a serious primary challenge, from State Sen. Michael Watson or even 2014 Senate candidate Chris McDaniel.

(7/18/14) It doesn't seem like bad feelings over the Senate primary have rubbed off on Bryant too much.  His approval among Republicans and conservatives in the latest PPP poll is a lot closer to 'typical Republican' than Cochran's.  This doesn't mean a primary - especially from a well-known figure like McDaniel - wouldn't be a threat, but he seems to be in a decent position.  That's the best I can say without some primary head-to-head matchups.  He seems pretty safe in a general too.

(11/12/14) One potential Democratic candidate to watch is Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley.

(1/10/15) Democrats may not even get a serious candidate here.  All the action should be in GOP primary, where Tea Partiers still furious about the 2014 Senate primary try to take out largely pro-Cochran statewide elected officials.  Notable potential primary challengers for Bryant include state Sens. Michael Watson and Chris McDaniel.

Missouri Leans R Incumbent Jay Nixon (R) (Term-limited)

With the popular Nixon being forced out by term limits, the Republican Party has a good chance here.  The frontrunner is probably 3-term Lieutenant Governor and one-time 2012 candidate Peter Kinder, the only Republican elected statewide in 2012.  Other possibilities are state Auditor Tom Schweich and 2012 nominee Dave Spence, who ended the campaign with good favorability numbers (Nixon's were even better).  Democrats hold the offices of Attorney General, Treasurer, and Secretary of State; one of those will probably run.

(10/3/13) Roll Call suggests Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer and former state House Speaker Catherine Hanaway as potential candidates.  Meanwhile, Kinder's decision to explore a 2014 run for the House suggests he probably won't be running.

(4/24/14) Some in the state house are trying to impeach Nixon.  I'm skeptical it will happen (it's a very difficult process), but if it does, Kinder will become Governor.

(5/8/14) Well, that ended quickly.  Impeachment won't go forward.

(5/21/14) Hanaway is running, and Luetkemeyer, Schweich, and 2012 Senate candidate John Brunner are interested.

(9/1/14) Another possible Democratic candidate: Sen. Claire McCaskill, who's run before and may soon be serving in a minority in the Senate.

(10/30/14) The New York Times alleges Koster's office as Attorney General went light on companies in return for campaign cash.

(11/24/14) Schweich is considering a run.

(1/11/15) The leading Republican candidate appears to be state Auditor Tom Schweich.  Former state House Speaker Catherine Hanaway is also running, and Rep. Blaine Luetkmeyer and businessman John Brunner may as well.  The two major possible Democratic candidates are AG Chris Koster and Senator Claire McCaskill.  The tentative Leans R rating reflects the state's increasing Republican lean.

(2/2/15) Luetkmeyer doesn't seem interested.

(1/12/15) McCaskill out.

(1/14/15) Well, this shakes things up a bit: conservative businessman Les Turilli is running as an Independent, and will probably draw disproportionately from the Republican nominee.

(1/16/15) Both Hanaway and Schweich have over $1 million on hand.

(1/29/15) Schweich in.

(2/11/15) Former state Rep. Randy Asbury is also in on the Republican side.

(2/26/15) Schweich has died of a "self-inflicted gunshot wound".

(3/23/15) Schweich's death has sort of thrown things into chaos on the Republican side, possibly prompting new candidates - former Navy SEAL Eric Greitens, State Sens. Mike Parson and Mike Kehoe - to enter.

(4/3/15) Businessman and 2012 Senate candidate John Brunner has formed an exploratory committee.

(4/9/15) Brunner's raised $140,000 since forming the committee.  Seems like he's in.

(4/16/15) Greitens also looks like he's in - he's raised almost $500,000 in the month since forming his exploratory committee.

(4/19/15) Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder is also considering a run.

Montana Tossup Incumbent Steve Bullock (D)

Bullock was elected in a squeaker last year.  Montana's a Republican state, but it has little aversion to voting for Democrats (It has not elected a Republican Governor or Senator since the Clinton administration).  Bullock's enjoying a solid honeymoon now, but most of that will probably pass.  A good Republican should at least make this competitive.

(6/28/13) 7 months out, Bullock's popularity is holding up pretty well.

(1/11/15) Bullock seems to be the sort of Democrat who can win in Montana, but the state's Republican lean should at least keep this competitive.  Businessman and activist Greg Gianforte is currently Republicans' most prominent potential candidate.

(2/3/15) Republicans have their first candidate: antiques seller Mark Perea.

(4/14/15) Gianforte looks like he's in.  On the plus side, he has hundreds of millions of his own money he could put towards his campaign.  On the other hand, he has a long record of social conservatism that might be controversial even in a state like Montana.

New Hampshire Leans D Incumbent Maggie Hassan (D)

(2/5/15) Democrats should start out with an advantage here, as New Hampshire, though quite swingy, leans Democratic, particularly in presidential years.  Hassan survived 2014 with only some difficulty, so she should be relatively safe if she runs again (in that case I would probably upgrade this to Likely D).  Hassan might run for the Senate, however, and the Leans D rating reflects the more competitive nature of an open seat race.  If Hassan doesn't run for reelection, Democrats might nominate Executive Councilor Colin van Ostern or state Sen. Donna Soucy.  On the Republican side, both retiring Nashau mayor Donnalee Lozeau and Executive Councilor Chris Sununu are potential candidates.

(4/21/15) PPP has a new poll out.  They have Hassan safe if she decides to run for reelection, with majorities against all three Republicans and her smallest lead being 17 points.  If she doesn't run, things are looking up for Republicans, with the race appearing to be a Tossup.

North Carolina Tossup Incumbent Pat McCrory (R)

Like Montana, this is a bit of a wait-and-see scenario.  I don't have much to say on it at this point.

(5/23/13) Because they're based in Raleigh, PPP does a monthly poll of North Carolina.  These put McCrory off to a fairly good start and show he appears to have avoided the nasty slide of his unfortunate predecessor, Beverly Perdue, who had hit 25% approval (total, not net), by July of her first year.  McCrory's numbers have slipped considerably (all separate links) from his honeymoon +26 in January to +14 in February, but remained fairly steady since then - he is now at +10. It's also worth noting that many of the Republican proposals are unpopular, though Democrats retaking the legislature in 2014 would remove this.

(7/16/13) McCrory's taken some significant hits recently, and his net approval is now -9.  There are two comparisons one could make with McCrory's current situation.  The first is that of his unfortunate predecessor, Bev Perdue, who never recovered from the bottom falling out early.  The other is Ohio Governor John Kasich, who did a lot of unpopular things early, took hits, then sat back and waited for people to get over it, apparently successfully (see Ohio Governor 2014).  Currently, I lean more towards the Kasich model, as McCrory's problems seem mostly to derive from unpopular bills.

(8/14/13) McCrory's now down to -12 net approval.

(8/26/13) McCrory's only about 1/6th of the way through his term as Governor, and he's already got a challenger - Kenneth Spaulding, a lawyer and businessman who's served on the state Board of Transportation and in the State House.  Meanwhile, state AG Roy Cooper is also reportedly looking at a run.

(10/3/13) Cooper and McCrory are feuding over McCrory's decision to hire an outside attorney to defend the new voting law.

(8/20/14) McCrory's approval has inched back up to almost even - PPP has it at -2 net right now.

(11/7/14) Cooper looks like a candidate.

(11/18/14) High Point University also has McCrory's approval on its way back up.

(12/10/14) PPP has McCrory with some fairly large leads over potential challengers - 7 points over Cooper, 11 points over state Treasurer Janet Cowell, and 14 points over US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.  Still, he's not all that popular (-5 net approval) and soon-to-be former Senator Kay Hagan had similar leads through much of 2013, and we know how well that turned out for her.  Still Tossup.

(1/15/14) This governor's race will probably be the biggest and most contentious governor's race this year.  The candidates already seem set: incumbent PatMcCrory for Republicans, and longtime AG Roy Cooper for Democrats.  North Carolina's natural closeness and McCrory's rather divisive term as Governor should make this very competitive.

(2/2/15) Both McCrory and Cooper have about $1.5 million cash on hand, though McCrory raised more last quarter.

(2/5/15) PPP has McCrory leading Cooper by 5, but with only 44%.

(4/8/15) McCrory's still at 44%, but only leading Cooper by 3, in PPP's new poll.

North Dakota Safe R Incumbent Jack Dalrymple (R)

It's North Dakota.

(1/15/15) Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, recognizing the difficulties of being a federal-level Democrat in a red state, may attempt a run for Governor, and may have a fighting chance of winning if she does.  If she doesn't, Dalrymple or whoever runs in his place should be pretty safe.

Utah Safe R Incumbent Gary Herbert (R)


(12/18/13) Retiring Democrat Rep. Jim Matheson is leaving this race open as a possibility.  He's the only Democrat who could make this competitive.

(1/15/15) Much like North Dakota above, this race has one Democrat who could liven up an otherwise boringly Republican campaign.  In this case, it's former Rep. Jim Matheson, who's popular enough to have a chance.  Absent him, this is one of the safest Republican seats in the country.

(1/20/15) Matheson departs from consideration, and with him goes any chance Democrats had of winning here.

(3/3/15) It looks like Herbert will have a primary challenge from businessman Jonathan Johnson.

Washington Leans D Incumbent Jay Inslee (D)

Washington has had the longest dry spell of Republican control of any state, but the elections have been quite close in the last decade.  A lot will depend on how Inslee's first term shakes out.  If things go badly, Inslee's still-quite-popular 2012 opponent former AG Rob McKenna might run again; Rep. Dave Reichert is another possibility.

(6/4/13) McKenna won't run for Governor again.

(7/16/13) Inslee isn't doing too well first few months.

(8/9/13) Rep. Dave Reichert is considering a possible run.  He'd be a solid potential candidate, having been easily reelected five times in a district that leans slightly Democratic.

(1/26/15) The recent trend in Washington gubernatorial races has been narrow Democratic wins, and thus far, it looks like that will hold this time around.  Republicans' strongest candidate is probably Rep. Dave Reichert, with Seattle Port Commissioner Bill Bryant as another solid possibility.

West Virginia Tossup Incumbent Earl Ray Tomblin (D) (Term-limited)

Once a Democratic stronghold on the state level, West Virginia's been sliding rapidly towards the Republicans during the Obama era, and voters dispensed with the usual landslide to give Tomblin two narrow, contentious victories of 2 and 5 points, respectively.  That historic Democratic affiliation isn't gone, however, even if it is greatly diminished, and the Democrats will be helped by having a vastly wider bench than the Republicans.  Potential Republicans are Rep. David McKinley, AG Patrick Morissey, former Sec. of State Betty Ireland, and two-time candidate Bill Maloney.  The Democratic list is huge and includes basically every statewide office holder, with Sec. of State Natalie Tennant the possible frontrunner.  Tossup mainly because it's hard to predict what will happen at this point.

(5/5/14) Well, Joe Manchin may want his old job back.  He says he'll decide by the end of 2014.  If he does run, he should clear the Democratic field.  We'll see how far Republican West Virginia's gone by 2016, but for now he should also be pretty safe in the general.

(3/19/15) 2014 has come and gone without a decision from Manchin, but state Senate Minority Leader (Democrat) Jeff Kessler is in.

(4/14/15) Harper finds a tossup without Manchin in the race, and an easy Democratic keep with him.

(4/19/15) Manchin out, so this remains a Tossup.

1 comment:

  1. Manchin could surpass Arch Moore as West Virginia's longest-serving Governor with 13 years in office IF he wins his old job back in 2016 and again in 2020.