FINAL STATE OF PLAY: Democrats Eye Huge Gains In Governors’ Mansions

MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - NOVEMBER 01: Florida Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum speaks to people as he stumps for votes on November 1, 2018 in Miami Gardens, Florida. Mr. Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee... MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - NOVEMBER 01: Florida Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum speaks to people as he stumps for votes on November 1, 2018 in Miami Gardens, Florida. Mr. Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, is facing off in a close election against Republican candidate Ron DeSantis. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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November 5, 2018 6:00 a.m.
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After eight years of GOP dominance in governors’ mansions, Democrats are on the verge of winning back many seats and regaining substantial power across the nation. The only question is how big a night it turns out to be for the party.

Democrats are all but certain to flip governorships across the map, including in a number of swing states, and have a chance of picking up more than a dozen governor’s mansions if every close race breaks their way on Tuesday. That would be a major shift that could have huge policy ramifications for much of the country, as Republicans currently hold 33 governorships to just 16 for Democrats.

Michigan is the biggest prize Democrats are confident they’ll win. Former state Sen. Gretchen Whitmer (D) is clobbering state Attorney General Bill Schuette (R) in the purple state. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) also trails businessman J.B. Pritzker (D) by a wide margin, and New Mexico’s governorship is likely to flip as well.

Democrats are also feeling more confident than Republicans about a pair of small swing states with big presidential implications. Early voting in Nevada appears to be very strong for businessman Steve Sisolak (D) in his race against Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R). In Iowa, while public and private polls have found a close race between Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) and businessman Fred Hubbell (D), Hubbell has held an edge in more of them.

There are more than a half-dozen other races that appear to be pure tossups, including the two most closely watched battles in the country.

In Florida, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (D) has held a smaller lead in private polling against Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) than some public polls have suggested, and early voting trends suggest a very close contest in the state.

ATLANTA, GEORGIA  - Former President Barack Obama speaks to a crowd of thousands at Morehouse College as he campaigns for Democratic nominee for Georgia Governor Stacey Abrams in Atlanta, Georgia Friday November 2, 2018. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
ATLANTA, GEORGIA – Former President Barack Obama speaks to a crowd of thousands at Morehouse College as he campaigns for Democratic nominee for Georgia Governor Stacey Abrams in Atlanta, Georgia Friday November 2, 2018. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

In Georgia, former state Senate Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D) and state Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R) have been within the margin of error in every public and private poll since shortly Kemp won his primary. If neither hits 50 percent of the vote the race will head to an early December runoff, a result that seems at least as likely as either one pulling off an outright win on Tuesday.

Other marquee coin-flip races include in Wisconsin, where Gov. Scott Walker (R) is fighting for a third term against state schools head Tony Evers (D); in Ohio, where state Attorney General Mike DeWine (R) and former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau head Richard Cordray (D) are neck-and-neck; and in Kansas, where polarizing Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) and state Sen. Laura Kelly (D) are in a dead heat.

Alaska’s gubernatorial race is suddenly close as well after Gov. Bill Walker (I) dropped out and endorsed former Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) against state Sen. Mike Dunleavy (R). Walker and Begich had been dividing the left-leaning vote, but polls show a much closer race now. Maine also looks like a tossup.

There are also some local peculiarities. In spite of a strong national climate for Democrats, Republican governors in Vermont, Massachusetts and Maryland are skating to reelection. Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) is in a shockingly close race with state Senate Minority Leader (and former rodeo star) Billie Sutton (D) that strategists say could go either way. Oklahoma’s gubernatorial race has been competitive as well, though Republicans are feeling better about that contest in the race’s closing weeks.

The only states where Democrats are seriously playing defense are Connecticut and Oregon. They think they’ll win both races, though Republicans still think they have a shot in the latter state.

In some other normally competitive states, Democrats are cruising. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) is romping to reelection, and Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN) has a big lead in his gubernatorial race as well.

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