In our previous article about the Senate, we noted that GOP gains were respectable, but were hardly overwhelming, since there were multiple missed opportunities, in addition to the fact that many Senate races were held in unfavorable terrain. These and other factors prevented the GOP from recapturing the Senate – for now.
Similarly, with the governor’s races, Republican gains were respectable, but not overwhelming. So far, the GOP has netted a gain of five statehouses, leaving them with at least 29 governors. Currently, there are two Republican held seats (Connecticut and Minnesota) where the outcome has not been decided, but in both cases, Democrats are in the lead.
Why did the GOP fail to make stronger gains in a “wave election” like this one ? There were several factors that limited GOP gains: (1) Just like the Senate races, Governor’s races were held in 37 states, quite a few of which were in Democratic territory; (2) The 24 open Governor’s races (split evenly between Democrats and Republicans) created opportunities for pickups on both sides of the aisle – Republicans captured 9/12 of the open Democratic seats, but Democrats captured at least 3/12 of the open Republican seats; (3) Republicans faced the nearly impossible task of defending open seats in heavily Democratic territory like California, Hawaii, and Vermont; (4) Republicans were only able to unseat the Democratic incumbents in Iowa and Ohio; (5) third party candidacies prevented Republicans from making much headway in Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Rhode Island; (6) Republicans nominated controversial candidates with ethical questions in Florida and Georgia – in any other year, they would likely have lost; (7) just like the Senate races, the Republican wave was virtually non-existent along the Pacific coast and in most of the northeast and New England.
Beneath the surface, however, the Republicans did very well in the legislative races, gaining about 700 legislative seats across the country and ending up in a favorable position they have not had since 1928. Furthermore, the GOP has taken control of legislatures in states like Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, which when combined with legislative control they already had in places like Florida and Texas, puts them in a commanding position for Congressional/legislative redistricting that will be underway starting next year. This partisan advantage can easily be worth 10-20 seats in the 2012 cycle.
In conclusion, we are attaching (1) a map of the Governor’s races won by the Republicans and the Democrats, and (2) a “report card” showing how good our predictions were – in this case, we correctly called 32/37 (or 86%) of the Governor’s races.