In the respected Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a project of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, Managing editor Kyle Kondik looked at the Democrats’ chances of taking a majority of governorships next year. Republicans are at a disadvantage next year because of the number of incumbent governors and open seats they will have to defend (26 of 36), and the presidential mid-term effect.
But Republicans may have some built-in advantages in this election cycle, according to Crystal Ball:
One is the financial might of the Republican Governors Association. In the first half of 2017, the RGA raised $36 million to the Democratic Governors Association’s $21 million, and the RGA has long held a money edge over its Democratic counterpart. The DGA’s disadvantage may be blunted a little bit by the efforts of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, a new group backed by former President Barack Obama and former Attorney General Eric Holder that raised close to $11 million in the first half of this year. Some of that money will presumably go into gubernatorial races given the importance of this cycle’s gubernatorial races to decennial redistricting after the 2020 census (many of the governors elected next year will have a role in that process in 2021 and 2022). But still, if Republicans have a poor gubernatorial cycle, it won’t be because their candidates did not have the money to compete.
In addition, in many states, Republicans may have the more seasoned candidates. The Democratic bench of potential candidates was hollowed out in many states due to the party’s poor performances down the ballot in the Obama years. That’s common for the president’s party, though it was particularly pronounced for Democrats over the past eight years. So in many states, particularly in the Midwest, the Republican gubernatorial nominees are likely to be more proven electoral performers than the Democratic ones, although that of course is no guarantee of victory.
If Democrats see a path to a majority to governorships, it probably isn’t through Wisconsin. Crystal Ball currently ranks Wisconsin as “leans Republican.”
In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker (R) benefits from what is probably the strongest swing state GOP organization in the country, and while he’s probably never going to have outstanding approval numbers because of his divisive record, his approval is good enough to win a third term. Businessman Andy Gronik is a possible Democratic torch-bearer, as are state Rep. Dana Wachs, state Schools Superintendent Tony Evers, and state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout. It’s unclear if any of them have what it takes to beat Walker, who has won three close but clear victories in recent years.