The second-term midterm is notorious for causing trouble for the party in the White House. As election coverage continues on Election Day, the term “within the margin of error” is being heard more in reference to last minute polls. Congressional elections may determine the future balance of power for lawmakers, but gubernatorial races may prove to be more competitive.
Some battleground states with competitive Senate races also share tight elections for state executives. It is not surprising that the lawmakers and soon-to-be ones in both races are targeting independent voters. This has become a trend tracked in recent polls.
1. Kansas – Gov. Sam Brownback (R) vs. Paul Davis (D)
The longer this trend continues, the more influential independents will become. It is not inconceivable that Greg Orman will soon join the ranks of independent Senators Bernie Sanders (Vermont) and Angus King (Maine). The key to victory is increasing voter turnout.
Could Democrat Paul Davis benefit from the support Orman is receiving from independents and other voters outside the Republican Party? According to a Monmouth University poll, independents support Davis and Orman 62 percent and 60 percent, respectively. Meanwhile roughly 30 percent support their GOP opponents.
2. Colorado – Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) vs. Bob Beauprez (R)
If Kansas, which hasn’t elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since George McGill in the 1930s, was not enough to make this midterm election more interesting, take a look at Colorado.
Colorado has been very helpful by supporting Barack Obama both times, but it is still a swing state. Senator Mark Udall and Gov. John Hickenlooper, both Democrats, are in trouble of losing re-election.
A September poll had GOP gubernatorial contender Bob Beauprez up by 10 points, but a more recent Quinnipiac Poll found Hickenlooper trailing by 2 points. The race is tightening as the incumbent is gaining traction among independent voters, a 41 percent to 36 percent split.
The important numbers to watch at the end of the night will be voter turnout.
3. Florida – Gov. Rick Scott (R) vs. Charlie Crist (D) vs. Adrian Whyllie (L)
Florida may not have a Senate race this cycle, but it does have a governor’s race between a Republican incumbent, Rick Scott, and the person who held that seat before him, Charlie Crist (D). Adding to that drama is the fact that the former governor was a Republican who turned Independent and is now running again as a Democrat.
Combine a Libertarian, who is polling relatively high in the single digits, and this becomes an even more fascinating election to watch.
The bottom line is that the winner of this race will be thanking independent voters. According to a Quinnipiac poll, Crist is carrying 47% support from independents, compared to Scott’s 29%. Libertarian Adrian Wyllie has 16 percent support from independents.
4. Michigan – Gov. Rick Snyder (R) vs. Mark Schauer (D)polls even after being outraised and outspent by his opponent, Terri Lynn Land. The real political news story in Michigan is incumbent Republican Governor Rick Snyder facing off against former U.S. Rep. Mark Schauer (D).
For historical context, no Republican governor has lost re-election in Michigan since 1948 and that was when the terms were 2 years. Now, Snyder is doing his best to win independents and prove that Michigan is the economic “comeback state.” Over the summer, a poll showed him having an 11-point edge among independents, but with 25 percent undecided.
Snyder has several moderate positions that will likely assure independent support. He is not a firebrand among GOP governors and has still accomplished a lot for Michigan, such as creating jobs, expanding Medicaid, and supporting Common Core education. Some of these are anathema to the Republican Party’s conservative wing, but Snyder has a track record to campaign on.
5. Pennsylvania – Gov. Tom Corbett (R) vs. Tom Wolf (D)
If there was one Republican governor in danger of losing re-election, it would be Pennsylvania’s Tom Corbett. The Keystone State may do more than tilt Democrat.
Gov. Corbett’s campaign has been on shaky ground even before he officially launched his re-election efforts. His opponent, Tom Wolf, has a 25 point lead among women, 9 point lead among men, and a 9 point edge with independent voters, 49 percent to 40 percent. The vast majority of likely voters have already made up their minds and this race could be a bright spot for Democrats in an otherwise gloomy midterm election.
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