These governorships' final electoral bonus could come in presidential elections. Having successful statewide organizations in place delivers big dividends in presidential politics.
How much of an electoral impact could these states have? Only 270 electoral votes are needed to win the presidency. Obama won with a 365-173 landslide in 2008. Republicans need 97 electoral votes to reverse that outcome. The six Midwestern states, whose governorships Republicans could potentially capture, hold 96 electoral votes – 106 if Minnesota is retained.
And just as governors make very attractive Senate candidates, they also make attractive presidential candidates. Four of the previous five presidents were governors.
Governors’ impact is not all political either. Governors' most important contribution may be policy. Washington rarely reinvents itself; states are the nation’s policy incubators. Governors are its policy innovators.
Like Reagan in 1980, presidents bring policy changes with them to Washington. Some of this is already happening in Republican ranks – Mitch Daniels in Indiana and Chris Christie in New Jersey are already successfully addressing problems very similar to Washington's.
Republicans need a policy infusion as much as a political one. New Midwestern governors, tackling high unemployment and shrinking manufacturing bases in their states, could prove very attractive nationally. And at the same time, diversify the party geographically.
The 2010 elections certainly portend a big and immediate impact on Washington. However, there is likely to be a profound impact beyond the Beltway too. In governorships, that big impact could be long-lasting. Most incredibly, it would be taking place in states Republicans seemed almost resigned to abandoning not two years ago.