With no less than 36 gubernatorial races in 2010, Democrats would have a difficult time maintaining all their seats even under normal circumstances. Heavy losses could be in store for them in 2010, however, if for no other reason than that they've failed to live up to the high expectations they set for themselves in 2008. Expect the unrest from the stubbornly stagnant economy to bleed over into gubernatorial races as well, where Democratic incumbents and challengers will pay the penalty for their colleagues' inaction on Capitol Hill.
After Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano vacated her position to become Homeland Security secretary, Republican Secretary of State Jan Brewer succeeded her. In November 2009, Brewer announced she would seek a full term, and was locked in battle with tough primary opponents. With the signing of a controversial anti-illegal immigration law, however, Brewer surged to victory over her primary opponents and by September was leading her Democratic challenger, Attorney General Terry Goddard, by more than 20 points. Even after a debate performance that can only be described as terrible, Brewer continued to impress Arizona voters with her defense of SB 1070. If anything, her stumble has only proven she's going to be very difficult to beat on Nov. 2.
With Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger stepping down after two terms as state law requires, former eBay CEO and Republican nominee Meg Whitman has proven she can stay competitive in a neck-and-neck race with Democratic nominee and former California Gov. Jerry Brown. Although Brown had an early lead in public opinion polls that featured a hypothetical match-up between him and Whitman, it was Whitman who took command of the polls during the debate over ObamaCare and its subsequent passage. In September, Whitman and Brown traded leads from poll to poll, making this race one of the hottest in the country. The final outcome may simply come down to who happened to be out front at that particular moment.
The saga of disgraced former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich severely tarnished the image of the state's Democratic Party, a situation aggravated by Blagojevich's sustained media blitz throughout the midterm campaign. The battle between Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn and state Sen. Bill Brady was considered a tossup early in the process, but with Blagojevich serving as an ever-present reminder of the state's sordid past, Brady was leading comfortably by September. By Nov. 2, the biggest story in this campaign may very well be the close margin of victory eked out by Brady over his primary opponents in February. Quinn's candidacy was further damaged by supporters siphoned off by Green Party candidate Rich Whitney.
In New York, Gov. David T. Paterson's mishandling of the state deficit, the bumbling manner in which he appointed former Sen. Hillary Clinton's replacement and a rash of scandals forced him from the race in February 2010. Democratic Attorney General Andrew Cuomo stepped uncontested into the silent void, setting up a race between him and the man many people expected to win the Republican nomination, former Congressman Rick Lazio. Lazio suffered a stunning upset, however, to Tea Party candidate Carl Paladino. Vowing initially to run on the Conservative Party ticket, Lazio stepped out of the race in late September acknowlding Paladino's shocking gains on Cuomo in the highly liberal state of New York and giving the GOP its best chance to win.
Since Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm must step down at the end of 2010 according to Michigan law, the race for governor was initially wide open. With the economy so thoroughly decimated in the Great Lake State, voters appear ready to switch to Republican leadership. Both sides of the aisle underwent bruising primary campaigns, with businessman Rick Snyder winning the GOP nod and Lansing mayor Virg Bernaro winning the Democratic primary. Once considered a tossup, Snyder has emerged in firm control of the campaign, garnering 50 percent or better in every poll taken since August. Barring a truly horrible performance in televised debate on Oct. 10, Snyder should be cautiously optimistic about his chances of victory on Nov. 2.
In Pennsylvania, Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell has served two full terms, and must now step down. Every eight years, Pennsylvania voters seem to alternate parties in and out of the governor's office, and if the past is any indication, it is time for the balance of power to shift once again to Republicans. Add in a voter pool still stinging from a Democratic-driven budget stalemate that took the state nearly five months past its deadline and a GOP victory is all but assured. Republican Attorney General Tom Corbett is facing Democratic Allegheny County executive Dan Onorato in November. Heading in to their Sept. 27 debate, Corbett was holding a commanding double-digit lead over Onorato and looks to become the Keystone State's next governor.