J. T. Young

The most overlooked outcome in November’s elections is the potential partisan switch in governorships. As in Congress, Republicans look to add several states, especially in the Midwest. If realized, these gubernatorial changes will have both near- and long-term implications. Unexpectedly, this prize may well turn out to be not only this November’s biggest but a gift that keeps on giving.

All eyes have been concentrated on this November's congressional impact. With control of Congress on the line, who can blame political observers? However, it is worth taking a broader look at other potential outcomes. None has greater political potential than the 37 contested governorships.

As in Congress, Republicans appear likely to make gubernatorial gains. The most important and most unexpected block of these is in the nation’s Midwest.

Two years ago, the Midwest seemed closed to Republicans. It was thought years of work would be needed to recoup ranks there. Suddenly, years appear to have shrunk to months. Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin, all could be Republican pickups, joining already-held Indiana and possibly Minnesota (which Republican Tim Pawlenty is vacating).

More broadly, Republicans are even more likely to hold Kansas, Nebraska, North and South Dakota. Only Missouri, which is not electing a governor this year, would have a Democratic governor in the nation's midsection.

Such an outcome offers enormous political potential.

These 13 states hold 119 House seats–over a quarter of the entire House of Representatives. Governors' races at the top of these tickets will certainly affect down-ballot races.

Further impact could come in 2012, following redistricting. The region will lose House seats and, even without losses, population shifts always make redistricting a prime political opportunity. Republicans, who easily could have lacked a seat at this political feast, could find themselves sitting at the heads of the table. And the opportunity is very real – Republicans currently trail Democrats 52-67 in these states' House seats.

The Senate impact is less direct but still important. Strong governor candidates will again aid in this year’s races. In future years, governors also make prime Senate candidates themselves. In states where Republicans might have been looking for candidates, an entirely new crop of top-tier recruits could be growing.

And again, there is a real Republican potential here. Republicans currently trail Democrats 8-18 in these 13 states’ Senate seats. Ten seats is big – coincidentally being the number separating the two parties in today’s Senate.


J. T. Young

J.T. Young was Communications Director in Office of Management and Budget (2003-2004) and Deputy Assistant for Tax and Budget Policy at the Department of Treasury (2001-2003) in the Bush Administration.